2016 Malaysian Grand Prix Review: Up In Smoke

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DRIVER OF THE DAY

Nico Rosberg (P3)

A superb comeback after having been tapped around at Turn 1 on the first lap by Sebastian Vettel, thus being dropped to 21st. He may have been lucky in regards to Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure, which extended his championship lead to 23 points, but his tenacious overtakes were a sight to behold. His final pass of the race on Kimi Raikkonen was awe-inspiring in its execution, which was greeted by tumultuous approval from spectators. The stewards strangely decided to punished him with ten seconds added to his race time, but this was rendered academic by the German’s finishing margin of 13 seconds over the Finn. It was a performance of an increasingly probable world champion.

REJECT OF THE DAY

Lewis Hamilton (Ret, Engine)

Someone doesn’t want me to win this year but I won’t give up.

We have so many engines, but mine are the only ones failing. Someone needs to give me some answers.

A plethora of conspiracy theorists returned when the Briton appeared to insinuate accusations of sabotage within his Mercedes team. Hamilton is once again playing the victim card in the vein of his idol Ayrton Senna, leaving neutrals perturbed. The race result leaves the Briton requiring him to win all five remaining Grands Prix in order to win the WDC as a minimum requirement, barring any misfortunes for his embittered team-mate.

THE REST OF THE FIELD

Red Bull secured their first 1-2 since 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, with a thrilling tussle through turns 5-8 on lap 39, but the Virtual Safety Car summoned on lap 41 due to Hamilton’s engine denotation saw team orders enforce a processional finish. Daniel Ricciardo took a well-deserved first victory since 2014, whilst Max Verstappen was content with a strong display. Kimi Raikkonen had an average race with P4, whilst Valtteri Bottas brought cheer to his beleaguered Williams team, finishing P5 after starting P11. Sergio Perez again toppled team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, as the Force India achieved P6 and P8, which consolidated P4 in the constructors’ standings and stretched their lead over Williams by three points. McLaren highlighted their immerse progress once again, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button securing P7 and P9. Button’s qualifying lap of 1:34.518 was a staggering seven seconds faster than his 2015 qualifying lap at Sepang of 1:41.636. Alonso started P22 thanks to an egregious 45-place grid penalty, but pounced at the chaos at turn 1 in order to elevate himself to P12 when the Virtual Safety Car was enforced on lap 1. Jolyon Palmer finally scored his first ever point in F1, which atoned for his lamentable spin in Hungary where he had been running P10 likewise. The lack of horsepower of 2015-spec Ferrari engines proved a major nuisance for Toro Rosso, whose drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat coasted home in P11 and P14. Marcus Ericsson drove a composed race to P12 for Sauber, but Felipe Massa suffered a hellish race, where his car’s throttle failed temporarily on the parade laps and his race was littered by tyre punctures and various maladies, finishing P13. The Manors of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon had a feisty dice throughout the race, finishing P15 and P16, last of the classified finishers. Haas had a calamitous day, with Romain Grosjean’s brakes failing on lap 8 whilst running P10 and Esteban Gutierrez forced to park up after his insufficiently secured wheel came loose on lap 40. Sebastian Vettel was eliminated with his overzealous lunge on Verstappen at turn 1, where contact with Rosberg wedged his front-left wheel askewed. The stewards punished the 29 year old German with a three grid penalty retrospectively for the next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Nasr were the two other retirees, with power loss and brake failures respectively.

DOFD

Grosjean (2) Rosberg (3) Magnussen (1) Verstappen (3) Ricciardo (2) Bottas (1) Perez (1) Raikkonen (1) Alonso (1) Vettel (1)

ROFD

F1 Authorities X2 Williams X1 Vettel X1 Kvyat X1  Rosberg X2 Hamilton X3 Hulkenberg X1 Gutierrez X1 Palmer X1 Verstappen X2 Nasr X2 Ericsson X1

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2010-15 Malaysian GP Form Book

2010

Pole: Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault)

Qualifying was a wet and wild affair, with the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa and the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton placing outside the top 15 due to their bizarre decision to remain in their garages until rain arrived. The top five consisted of Webber, Nico Rosberg, Vettel, Adrian Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg.

Vettel rocketed past Webber and Rosberg at the start and led all but two of 56 laps of the race distance. Fernando Alonso suffered a malfunctioning gear linkage issues, forcing him to manually operate the clutch. Whilst battling Button for eighth, the Spaniard’s engine blew up, leaving him two points behind team-mate Massa, who inherited the championship lead after finishing P7. Vettel’s first victory of the season also left him two points behind Massa, whilst Button’s P8 and Rosberg’s P3 left them four points adrift behind the Brazilian.

2011

Pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault)

Vettel made it two out of two in a season where he would run away with eleven race victories. The then-24 year old repeated his previous year’s dominant performance by leading all but two laps again. Jenson Button finished P2, leaving him P2 in the championship standings albeit an already mammoth 24 points adrift. Nick Heidfeld drove out of his skin to finish P3 in his Renault, whilst Webber and Massa placed P4 and P5. Alonso and Hamilton were both penalised 20 seconds for their late race encounter, dropping the Briton to P8, although the Spaniard retained P6. Kamui Kobayashi and Michael Schumacher scored their first points of the season in P7 and P9, whilst rookie Paul di Resta continued his strong start to his F1 career with a second consecutive P10.

2012

Pole: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) Winner: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

Qualifying saw the McLarens lock out the front row, with Schumacher elevating his Mercedes to a surprise P3.

Race day saw torrential conditions ten minutes before the start, which saw the race suspended after seven laps. The incalculable conditions and altercations with Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT led to frontrunners Button and Vettel languishing outside the top ten, paving the way for Alonso and Sergio Perez’s Sauber to fight for the victory. In a feisty, tense battle, the young Mexican proceeded to slice Alonso’s lead, but alleged team orders and an off at turn 14 on lap 50 gifted an unexpected 25 points to the Spaniard, who had low expectations due to poor testing performances of his recalcitrant F2012.

2013

Pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault)

This race was notorious for Webber’s “Multi-21” post-race comment, after Vettel disobeyed team orders. The result gifted Vettel P1 in the drivers’ standings with 40 points, placing nine points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and fourteen points above his entrenched rival Webber.

2014

Pole: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

After Hamilton retired early with engine failure in the season’s opener in Melbourne, the Briton promptly achieved a Grand Chelem- win, pole, fastest lap and every lap lead. It left him eighteen points behind Rosberg, who lead the drivers’ standings after finishing P2. Reigning four-time WDC Vettel finished P3 in his first points finish of 2014, whilst Alonso elevated himself into P3 in the drivers’ standings with a P4 race finish.

2015

Pole: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)

Vettel took a sensational first victory for his new Ferrari team, a much-needed resurgence after both suffered agonising winless seasons during 2014. The Silver Arrows struggled profusely with tyre degradation in the humid conditions, leaving both Hamilton and Rosberg requiring three pit stops, whilst Vettel only needed two. This result left Hamilton leading the WDC with 43 points, three ahead of Vettel and ten ahead of Rosberg.

FORM BOOK (2010-2015)

Bold (pole) italics (fastest lap)

Lewis Hamilton (6th / 8th / 3rd/ 3rd / 1st 2nd)

Nico Rosberg (3rd / 12th / 13th / 4th / 2nd / 3rd)

Sebastian Vettel (1st / 1st / 11th / 1st / 3rd / 1st)

Kimi Raikkonen (– / — / 5th / 7th / 12th / 4th)

Daniel Ricciardo (– / — / 12th / 18th / Ret / 10th)

Max Verstappen (– / — / — / — / — / 7th)

Felipe Massa (7th / 5th / 15th / 5th / 7th / 6th)

Valtteri Bottas (–/ — / TD / 11th / 8th / 5th)

Sergio Perez (– / Ret / 2nd / 9th / DNS / 13th)

Nico Hulkenberg (10th / TD / 9th / 8th / 5th / 14th)

Daniil Kvyat (– / — / — / — / 10th / 9th)

Carlos Sainz (– / — / — / — / — / 8th)

Kevin Magnussen (– / — / — / — / 9th / –)

Jolyon Palmer (N/A)

Marcus Ericsson (– / — / — / — / 14th / Ret)

Felipe Nasr (– / — / — / — / — / 12th)

Fernando Alonso (13th / 6th / 1st / Ret / 4th / Ret)

Jenson Button (8th / 2nd/ 14th / 17th / 6th / Ret)

Pascal Wehrlein (N/A)

Esteban Ocon (N/A)

Romain Grosjean (– / — / Ret / 6th / 11th / 11th)

Esteban Gutierrez (– / — / — / 12th / Ret / –)