Winners and Losers at the Malaysian Grand Prix

Winners and Losers at the Malaysian Grand Prix

31 March 2014 – The Malaysian Grand Prix saw Mercedes record its first one-two finish since 1955, with Lewis Hamilton getting his title challenge well and truly underway. GPUpdate.net presents its winners and losers from Sepang.

Winners

Mercedes was expected to lead the way in 2014 and after two races they've certainly lived up to pre-season predictions. Lewis Hamilton's performance at the Malaysian Grand Prix was as comfortable as Formula 1 victories get as he cruised to his first win of the year, while team-mate Nico Rosberg survived an early Red Bull onslaught to collect a measured second place. It was Mercedes's first 1-2 since 1955 and one achieved with ease. Hamilton was 17 seconds ahead of Rosberg, with Vettel a further seven seconds behind. The only other drivers to get within 80 seconds of Hamilton at the finish were Fernando Alonso and Nico Hülkenberg. It's also highly unlikely that the race winner was pushing to the maximum throughout the 56 lap encounter. Mercedes already has a 25 point lead over McLaren in the Constructors' Championship, but perhaps more crucially its buffer to Red Bull is already 53 points after just two rounds. The most interesting part of Mercedes's win was that it came courtesy of Hamilton, whereas Rosberg triumphed in Australia after Hamilton's premature retirement. Rosberg leads the way by 18 points, but the Brit's dominance at Sepang will pose questions to his team-mate.

The intra-team battle at Force India is swinging firmly in Nico Hülkenberg's favour during the early phase of the season after the German collected a fine fifth place at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Hülkenberg built on a strong result in Australia by progressing through to Q3 in difficult conditions, where he set the seventh quickest time. He stayed out of trouble at the start, moving a place when Kimi Räikkönen slipped back with a puncture and consequently embarking on a race long tactical battle with Alonso. Hülkenberg opted for a two stop strategy and stretched his Medium tyres for longer – which briefly elevated him to the lead – but on used Hard tyres he was ultimately helpless to prevent Alonso from gaining a position. Nonetheless, he put up a fight and didn’t make it a free DRS pass for the Spaniard. Daniel Ricciardo's late demise elevated Hülkenberg to fifth and means that he already has 18 points on the board in 2014. Somewhat satisfyingly, not having sufficient financial backing has meant that a seemingly missed opportunity to drive for a 'top' team has worked out in his favour so far and his talent has shone through.

Yes, the team that finished with both cars a lap down and outside of the points really are winners this weekend. Because in Formula 1, perception is key. Not meeting high expectations will be deemed as a failure, while exceeding low expectations merits praise. Caterham endured a torrid time in Australia and free practice for Kamui Kobayashi in Malaysia was almost a non-event. Then in qualifying, Marcus Ericsson dipped a wheel on the white line and a one way ticket to the barriers (an excusable excursion considering it was his first wet experience in Formula 1, period). But in the race Kobayashi shone as he made his tyres last and battled with some of the midfield runners, before he slowed the pace for a long stint on the Hard compound during the final segment of the race. Ericsson meanwhile was no pushover as he defended aggressively against one of the Toro Rosso drivers and didn’t let Räikkönen straight through. 13th and 14th elevates Caterham above Marussia in the championship. With Renault expected to make gains across the season and with the CT05 yet to complete a proper race weekend in terms of reliable running, a point will surely come for the team in 2014.

Losers

Formula 1 knows when to kick a man when he's down and the object of misfortune this weekend was Daniel Ricciardo. After his exclusion from the Australian Grand Prix, Ricciardo put in a composed, if unspectacular, performance during qualifying to line up in fifth place, a second down on team-mate Sebastian Vettel. There was then the unusual sight on Sunday of an Australian in a Red Bull not tumbling down the order when the lights went out as Ricciardo muscled his way past Alonso and took advantage of Vettel into Turn 4 to move up to third place. He slipped behind the German but maintained a two second gap until his final pit-stop, where a sequence of horrendously unfortunate events began. His right front wheel was not affixed properly and consequently he had to be stopped and wheeled back to the pit box where the issue was resolved. But the force of lifting up the car by the jack man is thought to have contributed to his front wing becoming loose, which resulted in another stop. He pulled the car into retire soon after but the unsafe release had already triggered the FIA's automatic 10 place grid drop for the next race. Plus Red Bull was reprimanded for a team member not wearing protective head gear at the pit stop. All in all, an episode in how not to do pit-stops. But the 'honey badger' will return stronger.

In a season where team-mate Hülkenberg has already aptly displayed his ability, Sergio Pérez is firmly on the back foot after a couple of dismal races. In Australia it was an errant Esteban Gutiérrez who compromised his race but in Malaysia a technical issue left him stranded even before the race began. Pérez was initially unable to leave the pit lane on his way to the grid and once he got going, his Force India kept going into neutral as he attempted to shift down through the gears. He crawled back to the pits but the team was not able to find a solution. He was already several rows behind team-mate Hülkenberg after rear brake instability during qualifying left him with a lack of confidence, but the failure pre-race left him unable to mount a fight back. He's already 18-1 down to Hülkenberg in terms of points, so he needs a couple of strong races in the near future. Somewhat surprisingly, it was the first time Pérez has not been classified in a race since the end of 2012.

The stewards seemed to be in a harsh mood all weekend as both Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen were awarded penalty points for very minor misdemeanours. But Jules Bianchi was also slapped with two penalty points for causing a collision on the first lap of the race down into turn four. Penalising Bianchi for the minor collision with Pastor Maldonado appeared harsh initially, as the Venezuelan swept across from the outside without consideration for his rivals. But Bianchi had sustained a puncture seconds beforehand when he was clipped by Jean-Éric Vergne, meaning that Bianchi was trying to stop a hobbled car when the collision occurred. It was another example of draconian measures from the stewards, especially as both drivers retired soon after with mechanical problems not caused by the accident. Bianchi still has 10 points worth of breathing space before he is banned, but that's not the issue. Drivers need punishing if they are a consistent liability and present a danger to their peers and trackside workers but the desire to hand out sanctions to extremely minor events is getting out of control. No-one wants to see drivers being stupid out on track, but is there really a need for every little incident to warrant a penalty?

Phillip Horton
Twitter: @PHortonF1

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Friday 24 October 2014

  2. F3 champion Ocon completes Lotus test 07:28

    F3 champion Ocon completes Lotus test

    Formula 3 champion Esteban Ocon has completed his maiden Formula 1 test with Lotus after receiving two days of running in...

    F1
  3. Video of the Day: Pedrosa's Sepang highlight 05:03

    Video of the Day: Pedrosa's Sepang highlight

    Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa picks his fondest Malaysian Grand Prix memory ahead of this year's event.

    MotoGP
  4. Nissany hails 'amazing' F1 test debut 04:16

    Nissany hails 'amazing' F1 test debut

    Roy Nissany described his first experience of Formula 1 machinery as "amazing" after enjoying a day of testing with the...

    F1
  5. Thursday 23 October 2014

  6. Caterham buyer refutes Fernandes claims 19:39

    Caterham buyer refutes Fernandes claims

    Caterham buyer Engavest "strongly refutes allegations" made by Tony Fernandes and Caterham Group CEO Graham Macdonald,...

    F1
  7. Fernandes blames Caterham F1 buyer 15:58

    Fernandes blames Caterham F1 buyer

    Tony Fernandes says the Caterham F1 team's buyer is fully responsible for the ongoing problems at Leafield, claiming that it...

    F1
  8. Ramon Aurin to be Pedrosa's new crew chief 15:00

    Ramon Aurin to be Pedrosa's new crew chief

    Ramon Aurin will replace Mike Leitner as Dani Pedrosa's Race Engineer next season. The Repsol Honda rider confirmed...

    MotoGP
  9. Buyer says Fernandes still owns Caterham F1 13:21

    Buyer says Fernandes still owns Caterham F1

    The consortium that purchased Caterham F1 at the end of June has insisted that Tony Fernandes did not transfer the relevant...

    F1
  10. Caterham F1 staff locked out of factory 11:54

    Caterham F1 staff locked out of factory

    Further doubt has been cast over Caterham's ability to contest the remainder of the 2014 Formula 1 season after staff...

    F1
  11. MotoGP reveals 25-bike entry list for 2015 10:55

    MotoGP reveals 25-bike entry list for 2015

    The International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) has published a provisional entry list for the 2015 MotoGP season, with the...

    MotoGP
  12. Fong completes first F1 test in Valencia 10:13

    Fong completes first F1 test in Valencia

    Adderly Fong completed his maiden Formula 1 test on Wednesday, getting behind the wheel of Sauber's two-year-old C31 in...

    F1
  13. Massa on Austin Fans' Forum line-up 09:43

    Massa on Austin Fans' Forum line-up

    Felipe Massa, Sergio Pérez and Esteban Gutiérrez have been confirmed on the line-up for the upcoming Austin Fans' F...

    F1
  14. Video of the Day: Racing without a driver 05:08

    Video of the Day: Racing without a driver

    A driverless Audi RS 7 was recently sent out to tackle the Hockenheim circuit. Find out how it fared.

    Misc
  15. Félix da Costa to make FE debut in Malaysia 04:47

    Félix da Costa to make FE debut in Malaysia

    Amlin Aguri has confirmed that António Félix da Costa will partner Katherine Legge for the second round of the Formula E s...

    Formula E
  16. Wednesday 22 October 2014

  17. Caterham F1 bosses threaten to quit 19:37

    Caterham F1 bosses threaten to quit

    Caterham's new bosses have warned that they could be forced to step away from the F1 team, claiming that Tony Fernandes...

    F1
  18. Haas: First five years revolve around survival 17:06

    Haas: First five years revolve around survival

    Gene Haas is under no illusions about the task his Formula 1 team faces when it joins the grid, stating that he will be...

    F1
  19. Background: The Toro Rosso candidates 15:57

    Background: The Toro Rosso candidates

    New Toro Rosso recruit Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver in F1 history when he takes to the grid aged 17 next...

    F1
  20. Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation 15:12

    Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation

    Mercedes-Benz will stage the once annual 'Stars & Cars' event at its Stuttgart museum on November 29. Lewis Hamilton, who...

    F1
  21. Sam Michael set to leave McLaren 13:15

    Sam Michael set to leave McLaren

    McLaren Sporting Director Sam Michael is to leave the team at the end of the season. A McLaren spokesperson has confirmed...

    F1
  22. Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015 11:12

    Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015

    Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez says he expects to retain Romain Grosjean for the 2015 season, despite admitting that the...

    F1
  23. 09:43

    Photos: Márquez, Pedrosa visit Indonesia

    MotoGP
  24. Pérez on brink of new Force India deal 09:34

    Pérez on brink of new Force India deal

    Sergio Pérez says he is likely to sign a fresh Force India deal "in the next week", a move that would complete the outfit's...

    F1
  25. Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success 05:15

    Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff discusses the brand's maiden Formula 1 Constructors' success.

    F1
  26. Tuesday 21 October 2014

  27. 16:03

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  28. Silverstone senior executives suspended 13:55

    Silverstone senior executives suspended

    The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has taken "a closer role" in the day-to-day running of Silverstone following the...

    F1
  29. Caterham insists team not threatened 12:25

    Caterham insists team not threatened

    Caterham has dismissed media reports suggesting that Caterham Sports Limited (CSL) being placed into administration will...

    F1
  30. Lotus mourns death of Total chief 11:08

    Lotus mourns death of Total chief

    Lotus says it has been left "shocked" and "deeply saddened" by the death of Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and CEO of team...

    F1
  31. Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name 09:50

    Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name

    The Spa-Francorchamps circuit says it will contest an application from car manufacturer Nissan to trademark "Eau...

    F1
  32. Video: Miami welcomes Formula E 09:30

    Video: Miami welcomes Formula E

    Watch as the track layout for the Miami ePrix, scheduled to take place on March 14 next year, is revealed.

    Formula E
  33. Miami reveals Formula E circuit layout 09:22

    Miami reveals Formula E circuit layout

    Miami has become the latest Formula E host to reveal its track layout for the electric championship. Produced by track...

    Formula E
  34. Pons retains Tunjo for 2015 FR3.5 season 09:07

    Pons retains Tunjo for 2015 FR3.5 season

    Pons Racing has confirmed that Óscar Tunjo will remain with the team in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series next year. The...

    FR 3.5
  35. Video of the Day: Nasr samples FW08C 05:11

    Video of the Day: Nasr samples FW08C

    Williams reserve Felipe Nasr sampled Keke Rosberg's 1983 FW08C at the team's Partner Day at Silverstone.

    F1
  36. Monday 20 October 2014

  37. Brawn, Domenicali on new Accident Panel 17:54

    Brawn, Domenicali on new Accident Panel

    Former Formula 1 team bosses Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali have joined the FIA's new Accident Panel, which has been put...

    F1
  38. Moscow Raceway earns licence for F1 races 17:14

    Moscow Raceway earns licence for F1 races

    Moscow Raceway has been granted an FIA Grade 1 licence, allowing it to stage Formula 1 races. The track, located some...

    Misc
  39. Wolff confirmed for Race Of Champions 15:04

    Wolff confirmed for Race Of Champions

    Susie Wolff will become the first female driver to compete at the Race Of Champions after signing up for this year's event...

    F1
  40. De Vries gets FR3.5 seat with DAMS 14:43

    De Vries gets FR3.5 seat with DAMS

    McLaren junior Nyck de Vries will compete in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series with reigning champion team DAMS next...

    FR 3.5
  41. Lotus to trial new nose design at Austin 13:58

    Lotus to trial new nose design at Austin

    Lotus will test a new nose during practice for the United States Grand Prix, as the team looks to finalise its design for...

    F1
  42. Rossi says tyre choice crucial to victory 13:23

    Rossi says tyre choice crucial to victory

    Valentino Rossi says choosing the extra-soft Bridgestone front tyre was crucial to his second victory of the season at...

    MotoGP
  43. Force India retains Hülkenberg for 2015 10:08

    Force India retains Hülkenberg for 2015

    Force India has confirmed that Nico Hülkenberg will continue to race for the team next season. Hülkenberg, 27, returned t...

    F1
  44. Silverstone, Le Mans back on FR3.5 calendar 09:19

    Silverstone, Le Mans back on FR3.5 calendar

    The World Series by Renault package, which includes Formula Renault 3.5, will return to Silverstone and Le Mans next...

    FR 3.5
  45. Sainz Jr. elated by championship success 07:22

    Sainz Jr. elated by championship success

    Red Bull youngster Carlos Sainz Jr. hailed his "incredible" season after he succeeded Kevin Magnussen as Formula Renault 3.5...

    FR 3.5
more news