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Hamilton goes wire-to-wire to win first Malaysian GP

Mar 30, 2014, 5:46 AM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Race Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has won the Malaysian Grand Prix for the first time with a faultless performance at the Sepang International Circuit today.

The British driver went wire-to-wire on Sunday afternoon as he eased his car home by 17 seconds ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg, marking Mercedes’ first one-two finish since returning to the sport as a works team back in 2010. Sebastian Vettel claimed Red Bull’s first points of the season in third place, but teammate Daniel Ricciardo endured a luckless race as a pit stop error and front wing failure denied him a near-certain fourth place finish.

The start of the race saw Nico Rosberg make a good start to get past Sebastian Vettel and up into second place behind his teammate, who held onto the lead from the line. Daniel Ricciardo also made a good start to pass both Ferraris and move up into third place ahead of Vettel. Both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen struggled at first as they lost positions to Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen respectively, but Raikkonen soon hit trouble as a puncture forced him to crawl back to the pits and make an unscheduled stop. Jean-Eric Vergne and Jules Bianchi also had to pit early on due to problems, but Felipe Massa – searching for his first points of the season – was looking quick as he fought for position with rookie Kevin Magnussen.

Not wishing to be upstaged by his new teammate, Vettel soon found a way past Ricciardo to move up into third place. However, at the front, Hamilton had already forged a five second lead ahead of Rosberg, suggesting that Red Bull could face an uphill struggle to wrestle the race away from Mercedes.

Lotus’ poor start to the season continued as Pastor Maldonado was forced to retire his car after just seven laps, whilst Valtteri Bottas began to complain over the radio that Williams teammate Massa was too slow behind Magnussen. The McLaren driver was forced to pit due to front wing damage, but the stewards lay blame with him for causing Raikkonen’s puncture, and handed him a five second stop/go penalty.

With most drivers set to utilize a three-stop strategy, the majority of drivers made their first stop between lap ten and fifteen. Alonso – after re-passing Hulkenberg – was the first front-runner to take on fresh tires, with Ricciardo following the Spaniard’s example just one lap later. The two drivers were side by side at pit exit, and fought cleanly for position through the first few corners until Alonso was finally forced to yield and back off. This brief battle gave Vettel more breathing space in the fight for third position, and all three managed to find a way past Bottas who was going further into the race before stopping. Both Hamilton and Rosberg pitted without losing net position, but Nico Hulkenberg – by pitting later – managed to take the lead of the race for half a lap before the Briton easily passed the Force India.

After the first round of stops, Hamilton still enjoyed a healthy lead, but Rosberg began to struggle with his new set of tires, allowing Vettel and Ricciardo to close. The German driver was given the call to increase his pace and widen the gap to Vettel, and Ricciardo was keeping his teammate in sight to try and get in the running for a podium finish. Bottas rekindled his form from Australia as he fought his way up into the top ten after starting 18th, but Vergne’s day came to an early end when he was forced to retire on lap 19.

Hamilton’s lead was so great that – even before half distance – the team was able to turn down his engine and simply monitor his lead. After being told to push, Rosberg dropped Vettel to enjoy a three second lead over the Red Bull, but the champion team did report that there had been a fuel sensor failure on Ricciardo’s car. Further back, Kamui Kobayashi was running well for Caterham to battle his way into the top ten after some of his rivals stopped for fresh tires, but he was soon pushed out of the points by rookie Daniil Kvyat. However, he refused to keel over, and entered a spirited battle with Romain Grosjean for position

Once again, Alonso was the first of the front-runners to pit for fresh tires, and he was soon joined in the pits by Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver took on the harder tire in an attempt to shake-up his strategy and try to catch his teammate, who moved onto the softs. Rosberg pitted one lap later, but the gap to Vettel had shrunk to just 1.2 seconds. Hamilton had no such problems though, pitting for a new set of mediums and coming back out still in the lead.

Adrian Sutil’s race came to an early end when his Sauber C33 stopped on the inside of turn 17, but it did not require a safety car to be recovered. Teammate Esteban Gutierrez lasted just three laps longer as the Mexican driver came into the pits and was parked up. Mercedes informed its drivers that rain was falling not too far from the circuit and could hit towards the end of the race, whilst Raikkonen also reported a bit of light rain at the back of the circuit.

Daniel Ricciardo’s superb race weekend took a turn for the worse when, after making his third and final stop, his car came to a stop just outside of his pit box. Red Bull’s mechanics managed to wheel him back to his box and correct the error on his front-left tire that had not been fitted properly. The team did get him back out on track, albeit having lost a lap and way down the order in 14th place. One lap later, his day got even worse as his front wing failed and began to rub along the ground, forcing him to pit yet again for repairs. He was then made to return to the pits for a stop/go penalty due to the unsafe release in the pit stop. Red Bull eventually retired the car with five laps to go.

In the battle for sixth place, Massa began to catch Button on fresher tires, and the two veterans entered a spirited battle for position. The Brazilian driver could not find a way past though, and was eventually given the call to let his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, past as he was faster, rekindling memories of Ferrari’s pit call at the 2010 German Grand Prix. However, Massa ignored team orders and eventually finished the race in seventh place.

Nico Hulkenberg – on a two-stop strategy – found himself being caught by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the dying stages of the race, and ultimately lost out to the Spanish driver.

In order to use both sets of tires and adhere to the regulations, Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel pitted for the hard compound Pirellis with just a handful of laps to go. None of the front three encountered any problems in the pits, though, and managed to hold their podium positions.

Come the end of the race, there was no stopping Lewis Hamilton. The British driver claimed his first career ‘grand slam’ – pole position, fastest lap, race win and lead every lap – to win the Malaysian Grand Prix for the first time. With Rosberg in second place, it also marked Mercedes’ first one-two finish since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix, and put the team into the lead of the constructors’ championship. In third place, Sebastian Vettel picked up Red Bull’s first points of the season, and marked the team’s return to form after a difficult winter.

  1. markdartj - Mar 30, 2014 at 6:03 AM

    I thought Hulkenberg lead after the first cycle of stops, so how could Lewis “lead every lap”?

  2. markdartj - Mar 30, 2014 at 6:05 AM

    Let me correct myself: Hulk was left in the lead after Hamilton pitted. He had yet to pit, but he still lead…

    • etchedchaos - Mar 30, 2014 at 7:33 AM

      Hamilton led as he passed the Start/Finish line, Hulk then took the lead and Hamilton took it back before the lap had finished. To count you must lead the field as you finish a lap, not during a lap.

  3. worknman24hours - Mar 30, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    A big congratulations to the Mercedes Formula One team and to Mercedes itself for it’s best combined results in Formula One since the 1950’s!

    Lewis took the race at the start and never looked back and Nico took after him and made it clear nobody could touch either of them today.

    A very MERCEDES day indeed.

    Two big thumbs up!

  4. testover6370 - Mar 30, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    So who will come out on top at the end of the season, Rosberg or Hamilton?

    • worknman24hours - Mar 30, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      That’s a great question because in pure speed it should be Hamilton but Nico is so smooth that should Hamilton have anything untoward happen due to him over pushing his racing situations Nico would be right there.

      It’s up in the air right now-four more races will decide.

      Right now, it’s just a lot of great days at Mercedes and much validation for Lewis for having the courage to step away from a legendary team in Formula One to go to a legendary name in automobile manufacturing to take a chance on getting another world championship.

      Nico can smile because look who is the World Driving points Champion leader right now.

      But Nico cannot let Lewis be ahead every race.

      Nico knows that and will drive accordingly.

      It will be tough because Lewis is fast as hell too.

      I just hope Mercedes lets them both race it out.

      No one will be able to touch either of them this year if Mercedes does that.

      • crunge4461 - Mar 30, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        I think Hamilton will ultimately prevail this season, but if it were Nico it would not be surprising he is very fast. I am hoping very hard that we will a teammate coming together and see a little rivalry to make this year interesting in the same way that Senna-Prost, Mansell-Piquet, Hamilton-Alonso were interesting. It appears that Mercedes has the edge and I am for nome gnashing of teeth between teammates to make this thing a bit more interesting. Oh and hopefully, Red Bull struggles and Vettel doesn’t win, I have seen enough Red Bull celebrations for at least a year.

      • lewymp4 - Mar 30, 2014 at 5:56 PM

        Lewis beat Nico by 17 seconds today, that’s a huge gap for someone in the same car to overcome. Rosberg admitted that he couldn’t do nothing with Lewis today. If Hamilton doesn’t have numerous mechanical issues, or pit mishaps, it looks good for Lewis to secure his second WDC.

  5. bikingscr016 - Mar 30, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    I think the better question is if one driver may be in a position to secure a championship (while the other is close behind), does Mercedes give orders to the 2nd man to back down? Very optimistic outlook that both guys will be close towards the end for a championship, but the team dynamic will be very interesting

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