The 18th edition Malaysian GP that took place at the newly resurfaced and reprofiled Sepang Circuit was certainly one of the most astounding Grand Prix of the year. It marked the first race since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix that Red Bull (or any other team other than Mercedes) took a 1-2 finish. This was the consequences of Nico Rosberg’s clash with the pack in turn one at the opening lap and Lewis Hamilton’s explosive retirement from the race from a blown engine in lap 41.
Red Bull Racing
It had been two years since Daniel Ricciardo had won a Grand Prix. But despite missing out on two victories this year because of errors by his team, the Red Bull pair offered pure racing spectacle for the spectators, Ricciardo and Verstappen’s battle through Turns 5/6 was sensational, as two proper racers duelled side-by-side, showing each other respect while Beng separated only by inches.
After Hamilton’s heart breaking retirement from the race, with Daniel Ricciardo leading and Max Verstappen following, many started experiencing flash back from 2013’s Malaysian GP – The infamous Multi 21. But on this occasion Red Bull successfully channeled both of their drivers to a 1-2 finish.
After a brilliant performance in qualifying, Hamilton was upbeat for closing the gap between his team mate Nico Rosberg for drivers’ title at the Malaysian GP. Hamilton did however make a clean start and managed to build up a good lead from the rest of the field. Unlike others, Hamilton was running on a one pit stop strategy, looked set to record a crucial win, and retake the title lead, but his unbeatable engine eventually gave up later on in lap 41, prompting sighs of disbelief over the radio.
On the other hand, the Drivers’ Championship points leader Nico Rosberg didn’t enjoy a comfortable opening lap. Nico Rosberg was knocked at the rear by Vettel and that left him to a spin in turn 1 then sending him to the back of the pack. Since that incident Nico manged a great recovery and went on to finish 3rd even after being imposed with a 10sec time penalty for making contact with Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen.
The aftermath of the Malaysian GP saw Nico Rosberge stretching the lead in the Drivers’ Championship by 23 points from Lewis in P2.
The Maranello team arrived in Malaysia with a hope of repeating its 2015 results, but eventually did not go according to plan. Last year’s Malaysian GP winner Sebastien Vettel retired from the race with a broken front suspension after colliding with Nico Rosberg in the opening lap. To add salt to the wound, Vettel was slapped with a grid penalty for the upcoming Japanese GP.
The sole Scuderia Ferrari driver in the race, Kimi Raikkonen never looked poised for top 1-2 position. It looked like the team wanted to settle for the third spot of the podium. But that target was then snatched away after Nico Rosberg charged inside of T2, knocking Kimi Raikkonen to take the third spot. Although Nico Rosberg was handed a 10sec time penalty after the race, still Ferrari just couldn’t resnatch the third spot.
Later on after the race, the team claimed that Kimi Raikkonen was struggling with a rear wing technical issue and the touching with Nico Rosberg caused a damage in the floor which eventually resulted in losing 0.3s per lap. As a result, even the time penalty of Nico Rosberg, wouldn’t help Kimi make it onto podium and Ferrari losing further ground in the Constructor Championship for the 2nd place battle with Red Bull.
Fighting in the constructors’ championship for a 4th place with Force India, The British team remains in 5th spot after the Malaysian GP. Valtteri Bottas finished 5th and Felipe Massa 13th in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Felipe’s problems began with a throttle issue leaving him stranded on the grid as the formation lap started. The team were able to get the car going to enable him to start from the pitlane, before he made an early stop under the first virtual safety car. However, just a couple of laps later he picked up a slow puncture and had to pit again. Felipe was then down in P19 but drove a strong race to fight back to P13 at the finish.
Force India held on to fourth in the Constructors’ standings, as Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg came home in sixth and eighth respectively. Both the drivers had good start with Perez and was up to 3rd after turn one in the opening lap. However he couldn’t hold on to it since the cars behind him was faster. But nevertheless, Serigo Perez had a pretty solid race. On the other hand Hulkenberg achieved a reasonable result and finished 8th. With both the car scoring points, they have increased their advantage on Williams.
McLaren-Honda picked up eight points after getting both cars home inside the top 10. Fernando Alonso started last but was typically feisty on the first lap, displaying his nous with a sublime sequence of passes to emerge in 12th, and quickly found himself in the points. Alonso may have ‘only’ bagged seventh position but it was further testament to his skill, and a result which vaulted him into the top 10 of the standings for the first time in the McLaren-Honda era.
Jenson Button had a relatively faultless race, the only thing hindered was his luck with the timing of the Virtual Safety Car and his pit stop, which saw him finishing the race in 9th place.
Renault certainly felt the heat of Malaysia earlier than anyone on the grid at the Friday practice session. The first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix was brought to a halt after a major fire erupted on Kevin Magnussen’s Renault. Jolyon Palmer bagged his first ever championship point by finishing 10th from starting 19th on the grid, thanks to a one-stop tyre strategy. Team mate Kevin Magnussen had made contact with Daniil Kvyat and Esteban Gutierrez in turn one of the opening lap when everyone was trying to avoid Rosberg and troubled Ferrari of Vettel. As a result it damaged a brake cooling drum fence. Kevin’s brakes subsequently became unsustainably hot, which meant retirement from the race was the only option.
Carlos Sainz Jr. was the best from the junior Red Bull team finishing 11th. Carlos didn’t have a perfect start due to a technical glitch right before the lights went off, but somehow he did managed to get off and overtake 5 cars in the first corner. Toro Rosso opted for a different strategy and kept Carlos on track during the first Virtual Safety Car period when many others came to pit for tyre change. Before coming to his first pit stop, Carlos was running on 6th and kept this position for quite some time. In the final stages of the race they were simply too slow and ended up only eleventh.
Daniil Kvyat touched Magnussen’s Renault at the start, between the first and the second corner. As a result, he had to come in to change his nose and from then onwards his race was more in the phase of damage limitation and finished in 14th place.
The Swiss outfit is the only team yet to score a point this year, with Manor having managed to score one point in the Austrian Grand Prix to currently occupy the vital 10th place in F1’s constructors’ championship.
Marcus Ericsson finished 12th which wasn’t a chilling one for the Swedish, his drinking system stopped working after the first of 56 laps and cockpit temperatures shot up to 60 degrees. Great job on surviving the Malaysian Heat!
Felipe Nasr was running in 13th position when he had issues with the brake-by-wire system, which forced him to retire on lap 47.
Pascal Wehrlein, the only point scorer from the team in this season, managed to get a good start and quickly climbed up to 12th from 21st on the grid. Eventually he finished 15th on his first Malaysian GP. Esteban Ocon had a brilliant first stint on soft tyres, he was racing up to P7 by lap 10. Ocon was found speeding in the pit lane twice and in both the occasion FIA handed him five seconds time penalty, resulting in a 16th spot, the last running car of the race.
Haas’ season, which increasingly appears as if it is taking place the wrong way around, the American team had a frustrating outing at Sepang International Circuit with both the cars suffering DNF. Grosjean’s weekend was better than in Singapore, though there was only a fleeting moment of optimism, running in the top 10, before the brakes failed, giving him a one-way ticket to the gravel trap. Gutiérrez was whacked by Kevin Magnussen at Turn 1 and was circulating at the back when his front left tyre made a bid for freedom. An unusual failure where the wheel was fitted tightly without being firmly attached. Neither the team nor driver was aware but Haas was fined €5,000, adding salt to an increasingly gaping wound.
Image courtesy: formula1.com