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 March 2017

  2. Sainz Jr stresses Toro Rosso cannot relax 10:14

    Sainz Jr stresses Toro Rosso cannot relax

    Carlos Sainz Jr. has stressed that Toro Rosso cannot afford to relax, following an encouraging day for the team during practice…

    F1
  3. Wolff: Hamilton 'in a league of his own' 09:40

    Wolff: Hamilton 'in a league of his own'

    Mercedes chief Toto Wolff described Lewis Hamilton as being "in a league of his own" at the Australian Grand Prix after the…

    F1
  4. Williams pins Massa stoppage on electrics 09:18

    Williams pins Massa stoppage on electrics

    Williams has confirmed that an electrical issue was the cause of Felipe Massa's stoppage during second practice for the…

    F1
  5. 08:38

    Latest F1 photos: Friday in Melbourne

    F1
  6. Magnussen rues 'frustrating' opening day 08:33

    Magnussen rues 'frustrating' opening day

    Kevin Magnussen labelled his first official running with Haas as "frustrating" after a couple of issues hindered his progress…

    F1
  7. Bottas sure of step forward overnight 08:03

    Bottas sure of step forward overnight

    Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas believes he can still make a step forward in Australia after placing third overall during Friday…

    F1
  8. Vettel confident despite half-second gap 07:44

    Vettel confident despite half-second gap

    Sebastian Vettel is confident that Ferrari "can do something" to challenge Mercedes at the Australian Grand Prix, despite a…

    F1
  9. Hamilton feeling '99 per cent' after first day 07:43

    Hamilton feeling '99 per cent' after first day

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton described his Friday preparation for the Australian Grand Prix as "99 per cent perfect" as he…

    F1
  10. Verstappen concedes Red Bull 'a bit too slow' 07:09

    Verstappen concedes Red Bull 'a bit too slow'

    Max Verstappen has conceded that Red Bull is "a bit too slow" following Friday's pair of practice sessions for the…

    F1
  11. 06:35

    Australian Grand Prix: Full Practice 2 results

    F1
  12. Hamilton keeps advantage in second practice 06:33

    Hamilton keeps advantage in second practice

    Lewis Hamilton retained a sizeable advantage over the rest of the F1 field during Friday's second practice session for the…

    F1
  13. 04:46

    Follow second practice for the Australian GP!

    F1
  14. Video: CNN's Formula 1 2017 preview 03:20

    Video: CNN's Formula 1 2017 preview

    CNN looks ahead to the 2017 F1 season, featuring interviews with Valtteri Bottas and Stoffel Vandoorne.

    F1
  15. Pérez lands first fine of 2017 for speeding 03:14

    Pérez lands first fine of 2017 for speeding

    Sergio Pérez has been hit with the first fine of 2017 after he was caught speeding in the pit lane during Friday's opening…

    F1
  16. 02:36

    Australian Grand Prix: Full Practice 1 results

    F1
  17. Hamilton fastest as 2017 season begins 02:35

    Hamilton fastest as 2017 season begins

    Lewis Hamilton comfortably topped Friday's first practice session for the Australian Grand Prix, finishing over half a second…

    F1
  18. 00:42

    Follow first practice for the Australian GP!

    F1
  19. 'Confident' Viñales eyes race pace focus 00:22

    'Confident' Viñales eyes race pace focus

    Early Qatar Grand Prix pace-setter Maverick Viñales says he will focus on long-run speed after he bolted to the top of the…

    MotoGP
  20. Video of the Day: Ricciardo on Australia 00:12

    Video of the Day: Ricciardo on Australia

    Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo looks ahead to the Australian Grand Prix, his home event.

    F1
  21. Thursday 23 March 2017

  22. 18:14

    Latest MotoGP photos: Thursday at Losail

    MotoGP
  23. 18:12

    Qatar Grand Prix: Full first practice results

    MotoGP
  24. Viñales comfortably clear in first practice 17:54

    Viñales comfortably clear in first practice

    Yamaha's new recruit Maverick Viñales built on his pre-season form as he romped clear of his rivals during the opening practice…

    MotoGP
  25. Video: Dan Fallows on Red Bull's RB13 16:06

    Video: Dan Fallows on Red Bull's RB13

    Red Bull Racing's Chief Aero Engineer Dan Fallows discusses Formula 1's 2017 regulation changes, which include wider tyres…

    F1
  26. Lowe: Williams can win as customer team 14:32

    Lowe: Williams can win as customer team

    Paddy Lowe, newly-signed Chief Technical Officer at Williams, is adamant that the team can win races and titles as a customer…

    F1
  27. Hamilton plays down Rosberg absence 12:22

    Hamilton plays down Rosberg absence

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton says the absence of reigning World Champion and former team-mate Nico Rosberg on the grid this…

    F1
  28. Background: FIA drops 'Verstappen rule' 11:16

    Background: FIA drops 'Verstappen rule'

    FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has outlined why Formula 1's so-called 'Verstappen rule', regarding moving under braking, has…

    F1
  29. FIA confident of protest-free season-opener 11:02

    FIA confident of protest-free season-opener

    Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, is confident that the Australian Grand Prix will not involve any protests over suspension…

    F1
  30. Lorenzo: Initial struggles were a 'shock' 10:42

    Lorenzo: Initial struggles were a 'shock'

    Jorge Lorenzo says his initial lack of pace upon his switch to Ducati came as a "shock", but is confident that he can continue…

    MotoGP
  31. 10:02

    Latest F1 photos: Thursday in Melbourne

    F1
  32. Force India's new livery breaks cover 09:49

    Force India's new livery breaks cover

    Force India's all-new matte pink livery has broken cover ahead of this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix in…

    F1
  33. Video: Toro Rosso drivers in Casio time trial 08:02

    Video: Toro Rosso drivers in Casio time trial

    Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat take part in a time trial with partner Casio at St. Kilda.

    F1
  34. GPUpdate readers back Vettel for victory 07:09

    GPUpdate readers back Vettel for victory

    GPUpdate.net readers have narrowly backed Sebastian Vettel to claim victory at this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand…

    F1
  35. Register for GPUpdate Manager 2017! 07:02

    Register for GPUpdate Manager 2017!

    Have you ever dreamed of owning a Formula 1 team with your ideal driver pairing and engine? GPUpdate.net readers can now sign up…

    F1
  36. Hamilton: Ferrari the favourite for 2017 05:13

    Hamilton: Ferrari the favourite for 2017

    Lewis Hamilton has reiterated his belief that Ferrari will be a genuine threat to Mercedes in 2017, going as far as to state…

    F1
  37. Pérez reveals post-Barcelona weight loss 04:43

    Pérez reveals post-Barcelona weight loss

    Sergio Pérez has revealed that he has lost around two to three kilos since the pre-season testing period in Barcelona, where…

    F1
  38. Nissany moves to RP Motorsport in 3.5 04:32

    Nissany moves to RP Motorsport in 3.5

    Roy Nissany has switched to RP Motorsport in World Series Formula V8 3.5, with Damiano Fioravanti in turn joining Barone…

    World Series
  39. Whiting: Cockpit protection call next month 03:41

    Whiting: Cockpit protection call next month

    F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting says a decision over whether extra cockpit protection – such as the halo – will be…

    F1
  40. Wehrlein officially cleared to race in Australia 03:23

    Wehrlein officially cleared to race in Australia

    Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein has been officially cleared to take part in this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, following…

    F1
  41. Video of the Day: Australian GP track guide 03:12

    Video of the Day: Australian GP track guide

    Force India's Sergio Pérez talks you through a lap of Albert Park, home to the Australian Grand Prix.

    F1
  42. Wednesday 22 March 2017

  43. Video: Rossi visor cam footage at Barber 19:02

    Video: Rossi visor cam footage at Barber

    Ride onboard with Andretti Herta Autosport driver Alexander Rossi at Barber Motorsports Park.

    Indy
more news