Formula 1 Malaysia: From Wet To Dry To A Mercedes 1-2 Win

The weather in Malaysia is unpredictable and prone to torrential rain at the most inopportune time. So, naturally the floodgates chose to...

The weather in Malaysia is unpredictable and prone to torrential rain at the most inopportune time. So, naturally the floodgates chose to open and send forth a deluge just before the Formula 1 Malaysia qualifying rounds were to begin last Saturday at the Sepang circuit. After a 50-minute delay, Q1 was allowed to begin but with the cautious anticipation that more rain would come.

Despite the dangerous conditions, Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, managed to overcome the slick track and limited visibility to clinch the pole position for the second time this season and his teammate, Nico Rosberg, secured the third place. During the post-qualifying interview, Hamilton revealed that it was not an easy triumph at all:

“The lap (Q3 - 1:59.431) was far from being my optimum: I should have been able to eke out a little more time but thankfully it wasn't needed. Conditions were incredibly difficult and it would have been so easy to get it wrong today. At times towards the end it was almost impossible to see if anyone was behind me.”

For other drivers, the qualifying sessions were rife with more challenges, mostly due to the unpredictable spasmodic rain. McLaren’s Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen had had issues during the morning’s Practice Three round, and opted for wet tyres which turned out to be a bad decision that sent them rushing back to the pit to change to intermediate tyres; Button continued on intermediates until Q3, a mistake that he later admitted to. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel experienced a setback during Q1 when he suffered issues with his vehicle's electronic power control unit; a quick restart solved the problem and the four-time champion continued on to clinch the second place, narrowly missing out the pole by a mere 0.055 seconds.

The Sepang circuit
Drivers of course have to contend with possibly the most significant amendments of regulation this season. The one that possibly has caused the most displeasure amongst fans is the new 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engine that replaced the 2.4-litre V8. A new fuel limit of 100kg was imposed, which is about 30% less than the 150kg typically used when there was no rule governing fuel usage. The difference is supposed to be compensated by the energy recovery system that harnesses kinetic energy and heat. But what most fans are lamenting about is the reduction in heart-pumping, eardrums-exploding decibels as the racecars stream pass them. In the early 2000s, the engines were V10s and in time, fans had learnt to savour the quieter sounds of the replacement V8s; so, in the same way, they will eventually get used to the V6s. If it makes anyone feel better, Formula 1 races will still be raucous compared to the upcoming Formula E, like a lion’s roar to a bee’s buzz.

The dry track on Sunday was a welcome sight. Hamilton, in pole position, pulled away from the pack from the start, was two seconds ahead by the second lap and was never in danger of losing his coveted position throughout the rest of the race. Meanwhile, at the first corner, Rosberg overtook Vettel and, for one heart-skipping moment, it seemed like Rosberg would hit the wall but managed to squeeze pass. He later said, “…Sebastian (Vettel), I thought he was going to put me right into the wall, but he stopped just before - so thank you for that!”

Vettel, who was focusing on catching up Hamilton, was taken by surprise. He commented, "I thought I had a good start but then I focused on getting in the tow of Hamilton to maybe attack him going into the first corner. Then Rosberg was there on the right.”

Still, Rosberg failed to catch up with his teammate, partially as he was struggling with his rear tyres. “I had a bit of a moment in Turn Three, a bit of a tail, tank-slapper and that allowed them all to get another run on me, but it all worked out. And then I was just trying to chase Lewis but he was a bit too quick today,” he said.

Vettel, who had been overtaken by his Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, used the Drag Reduction System (DRS) in the fourth lap to regain and finally win the third position.

British racer, Lewis Hamilton,
wins the Malaysian GP after his
eighth time racing at the Sepang circuit
Rosberg, who won the season opener in Australia two weeks ago, settled for second, clocking 1:40:43.287. Hamilton clocked 1:40:25.974 to claim his 23rd career victory and first Malaysian GP title, making this the first one-two win for Mercedes since 1955.

Hamilton was quick to remember the tragedy that had so recently thrust Malaysia into the global spotlight. He said, “I just feel so grateful, particularly after such tragedy as the MH370 three weeks ago. I'd really like to dedicate this win to the people and their families."

images: formula1.com, bbc.com


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