Winners and Losers: Malaysian GP

Sunday 30-March-2014 21:45

Daniel Ricciardo knew deep down he should never have taken that lucky rabbit's foot from Mark Webber....

Star of the Race

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st
Lewis was in a class of his own today. Before the season started there was the prediction that Lewis would be the out-and-out gung-ho racer and that he wouldn't be as smooth as Rosberg, or manage the tyres as well as his team-mate under the new technical rules. He'd be great over a single lap and get pole positions while the Mercedes W05 dominated, but in the races, the 'thinking driver', Rosberg, would prevail. This irritated Lewis a lot. Today, unless Nico had a problem we weren't told about, Lewis managed everything to perfection. He was well inside his fuel target and he looked after his tyres marginally better than Nico. And of course, he'd already qualified on pole.

What is worrying for the rest of the opposition is that the Mercedes was being stroked around at 95% and that Lewis's engineers were already looking to limit the stress on his engine from Lap 22 to keep it in shape for Shanghai and Bahrain.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 1: Daniel Ricciardo on Sebastian Vettel, both Red Bull
In Melbourne he started from P3 and was P2 at the end of the opening lap. In Sepang he started from P5 and was P3 by the end of the opening lap. This is the new Daniel Ricciardo. He was strong away from the line and got up the inside of Vettel between Turns 3 and Turns 4 and Vettel could do nothing about it. What's more, he did it with minimal risk to his World Champion team-mate.

Later in the race he delivered what is surely a T-shirt slogan of the future. Kimi had his "Leave me alone I know what I'm doing" that was emblazoned on T-shirts and sweatshirts around the world. In the race, when told he should drop back from Vettel (who was challenging Rosberg) Daniel gave us, "If something's going on - I want to be part of it."

The unsafe release was a calamity, brought on by the BBC commentary team saying, "there have been so few fudged pit-stops this year". After the Aussie GP, when Vettel retired with software issues, we thought that the God of F1 had relented in his sole persecution of the Australian half of the Red Bull garage. Daniel suffered a catalogue in Malaysia.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 2nd
Rosberg looked incredibly relaxed after a race in which he never looked like threatening his team-mate. His only real danger came in the run down to the first corner when Sebastian Vettel crowded him against the pitwall. Indeed Lewis Hamilton was 3.2 seconds up on Lap 2. The Malaysian podium may take on a familiar look this year.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 3rd
Vettel came within a gnat's of pulling off an unlikely pole position on Saturday and on Lap 34 had Rosberg in his DRS sights... except the DRS was disabled because Adrian Sutil had abandoned his Sauber just beyond the final turn.

Rosberg decided he could do without the attention, switched on the after-burners and disappeared up the road, but it was a hell of a turn-round for Vettel from Melbourne. It's a tribute to the engineering skills of the Red Bull team to be still challenging Mercedes over hallway through a race having struggled to complete a race distance, the equivalent of two races ago.

It's also a demonstration of F1's immense engineering resources that the teams can take on a whole new raft of technical changes and get 15 cars to the flag in Melbourne and 15 today, and this grand prix under some of the most extreme temperature ranges they will face all year.

As Mercedes' Paddy Lowe said: "Formula 1 gets more complicated every year - that's the beauty of it."

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 4th
There's no competition for who would be the Driver of the Day from Saturday as Fernando Alonso produced an epic qualifying performance to make it onto the second row of the grid. After the damage that Kvyat inflicted on his steering he reported that he could make right-handers with one finger, but left-handers needed all the force he could muster with two-hands.

In the race, the Ferrari F14T didn't look like catching the Red Bulls, but it was hardly the "nightmare" he called it afterwards. On Lap 47, with the hammer down in pursuit of Hulkenberg, he put in a 1:44.165 Fastest Lap. This was only bettered on Lap 53 by an unleashed Lewis Hamilton on new tyres with a 1:43.066.

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 5th
"I had a bit of a lonely race," said a reflective Nico Hulkenberg afterwards. Which probably explains the reason why when he finally got someone to play with at the end of the race - a fast-closing Alonso - he didn't want to let him go too quickly.

To finish the race 36 seconds in front of a similarly-engined McLaren was no mean feat.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 6th
Jenson made a very skilled defence of P6 at the end, because as Massa and Bottas closed in at half a second a lap, and with two very generous DRS zones, it looked like he was there for the taking. On Lap 47 he jousted with Massa through Turns, 1, 2, 3 and 4 and very skilfully emerged in front. Had Massa then handed over to Bottas to attack him, we might have had a different result, but as we saw, he didn't.

Ron Dennis has made a clear error of judgement by pre-announcing that McLaren would be 0.5 seconds a lap quicker in Malaysia, when if anything, they've gone backwards.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 8th
It was more radio message T-shirt slogans. This time showing the steely side to the otherwise mildly spoken Finn. Valtteri got the message over team radio: "Wait for Massa to get through before attacking" to which he replied, "Tell him to get through, I have more pace."

After the grand prix he was given the opportunity by TV interviewers to be critical of his team-mate and chose careful introspection over the easy remark. Valtteri insisted he'd have to go back and look over the data with the team and sounded nothing like the bullish character on team radio.

Still, two races, two grid penalties, two great starts and two points finishes, it's going to be a much better 2014.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 9th
Daniil Kvyat, 10th
Both rookies scored points again and both made rookie mistakes over the course of the weekend. Neither were on the grand scale of a Grosjean or a Kobayashi, but both had a significant impact on Ferrari drivers. Kvyat's was a simple misunderstanding with Alonso as he misinterpreted Alonso's exaggerated wide line as 'I'm letting you though'. Magnussen's was an unlikely overtaking move that didn't look like coming off and didn't. He got the delay of a new front wing, a five-second penalty and points on his licence. It was a small mistake for which he paid a high price, but ultimately not as high as the driver he collided with.

Kvyat put in another strong performance, all the more impressive for the fact that he's built like a basketball player and folding him into an F1 car is difficult. More reasons for Helmut to be cheerful. The memories of Jaime Alguersuari are receding.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 11th
It's good to see a resurgence from the Lotus team. Although Romain could only keep Kimi at bay at the end of the race because Raikkonen had a damaged floor, his qualifying performance was good and the car lasted a whole race.

Caterham, 13th and 14th
Kobayashi equalled Marussia's P13 of Melbourne, and Caterham got two cars to the finish. What's more, they had the ability to get a bit racy with a Ferrari.

Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie has done at least one good thing this year by asking Benedict (Sherlock Holmes) Cumberpatch to go up on the podium and ask the questions after the race. That's a particularly ballsy thing to do 'live' in front of half a billion people when it's the first F1 race you've ever been to see.

After the race it was interesting to listen to him on the BBC Forum talking about the experiences of his first race. He thought it was exciting and didn't really know why people were going on about the noise. Interestingly this race, you could hear the fans' reaction as their favourite cars arrived on the grid. The new F1 is like a smoker who's given up cigarettes. All of a sudden there are new tastes that have been masked by the old habbit. The new F1 is a non-smoker.

Felipe Massa, Williams, 7th
Presumably whoever needs to tell Felipe that his team-mate is faster than him, needs to do it in a Teesside accent (Rod Smedley), otherwise the message doesn't get through. You can understand why Felipe Massa wasn't in the frame-of-mind to give way to his team-mate, but ultimately the team asked him to do something and he didn't do it. And it's only the second race.

Williams' Rod Nelson explained afterwards that if Bottas had been unable to get past Button then they would have reverted to their original positions, with the Finn dropping behind the Brazilian. And you've got to imagine that Valtteri would have done that. But Massa's refusal ruined that plan.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 12th
His race was ended by the puncture courtesy of Magnussen and even more by the position he got it. Not even Kimi could fight his way back from that.

Not so good to have two DNFs, although curiously Adrian Sutil had just set a Personal Best in the middle sector before his Sauber lost drive.

Media watch
The BBC coverage in 2014 is a bit like Top Gear.There's the tall one; Jeremy Clarkson/David Coulthard, the small one with vaguely terrified eyes that looks like Richard Hammond; Richard Hammond/Allan McNish, and the one with long hair; James May/Suzy Perry.

Three Times Le Mans Winner Allan McNish has been drafted in in the place of technical expert Gary Anderson and has given the BBC a bit of a dilemma. Because inherent in the BBC's charter is the goal of producing broadcasts of a distinctive nature. They can't be seen to be echoing commercial broadcasters, such as Sky. Sky have a presenter, Simon Lazenby, and two former F1 drivers, Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert.

The BBC have Suzy Perry, and two former F1 drivers DC and McNish. They used to have Eddie Jordan and Gary Anderson, but EJ won't be onscreen till Barcelona, so they are now mirroring the Sky line-up for the first four races.

David Coulthard showed that he's well in touch with British culture commenting on Benedict Cumberpatch's surprise at being filmed, "I wonder what happens when he's watching himself on Dr. Who at home..."
Ben Edwards, who doesn't live in a tax haven, let him know.

Andrew Davies

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