2014 Malaysia GP: Lewis Hamilton's frontrunning masterclass thrashes the field
Nico Rosberg second in Mercedes one-two; Sebastian Vettel third for improving Red Bull; Unlucky Daniel Ricciardo suffers day of disasters; Felipe Massa ignores order from Williams to let team-mate through
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 30/03/14 4:00pm
In a race short on drama but strong on declaration, the Mercedes driver delivered a supreme display of elegant frontrunning to beat team-mate Nico Rosberg and reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel with comfort - and plenty of fuel - to spare.
For Multi-21 in 2013, read Merc 1-2 in 2014 with the superiority of the W05 boasting an uncanny resemblance to that of the all-conquering RB9.
Who now doubts the wisdom of Hamilton's decision to leave McLaren 18 months ago?
By the time the chequered flag was unfurled, the faultless Hamilton was a distant speck on the horizon with his riposte to the sceptics who questioned his ability to master the multi-layered complexity of F1's brave new world delivered with emphatic intent.
For once, F1's most enigmatic figure made it look easy as he successfully juggled the demands of tyre, fuel and engine management all the while boasting a clear pace advantage over the rest of the field. Two seconds faster than Rosberg on the opening lap, Hamilton had the race won from start to finish.
"We're in the most difficult of conditions and the car was fantastic," said Hamilton as he celebrated his first win at Sepang. "It's probably the best car I have ever driven."
World Champions Red Bull enjoyed and endured a bittersweet day with Vettel's return to the podium offset by the bitter disappointment of Daniel Ricciardo as the Australian youngster, running in fourth, suffered a pit-stop calamity, a puncture and then a drive-through penalty in quick succession. If he thought things couldn't get any worse, Ricciardo then suffered yet more post-race pain when stewards came down hard on Red Bull and issued the driver with a ten-place grid penalty for next week's race in Bahrain.
There's a new Australian in the second Red Bull but Mark Webber's successor appears to have inherited his predecessor's bad luck.
"I'm really disappointed, but at the same time there's a little bit in me which is happy because I think I've come out the first two races how I wanted to, in a way," Ricciardo reflected. "I still want to improve, but we've started off on the right foot, so for that I'm pleased and with a little bit of luck we'll turn things around soon and I'll get some points."
Fernando Alonso, the cunning old fox of the field, took full advantage of Ricciardo's misfortune and an early stop for his final stint to snatch fourth out of the grasp of the ever-impressive Nico Hulkenberg. Yet with Alonso crossing the line over 30 seconds behind Hamilton, the scale of the Scuderia's speed deficiency is once again glaringly apparent.
Kimi Raikkonen fared even worse after suffering a puncture on the first lap of the race after being hit from behind by Kevin Magnussen, an offence that triggered a drive-through penalty for the McLaren rookie. Remarkably, Magnussen recovered to claim ninth, albeit three places behind team-mate Jenson Button and one ahead of fellow rookie Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso.
All of which left post-race intrigue focused on Williams after a grouchy Felipe Massa refused to obey instructions to let Valtteri Bottas through and opted to hang on to a rebellious seventh.
"I was there, I was fighting," said Massa. "He wasn't on a different strategy to me, he stopped just after me and his tyre was slightly better, but not enough to pass me. What I did was the right thing."
Poor Felipe. After four years of playing second fiddle to Alonso at Ferrari, unedifying echoes of 'Fernando is faster than you' have already followed him to Williams, with the Brazilian adamant afterwards that his refusal to comply was justified and Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams striving desperately to douse the flames of indignation on either side of the garage.
For the Mercedes' team bosses, meanwhile, the only problem at present appears to be champagne bills after the team's second dominant victory in as many races at the start of F1's new turbo era.
Try as Mercedes might to insist that the fast-improving Red Bull remain the benchmark team in F1, there can be no denying that the W05 is currently a class apart on the grid. Even after wringing every last smidgen of pace out of the RB10, Vettel was still over 20 seconds down on Hamilton at the race's conclusion. It's the sort of substantial margin of victory that the German has become accustomed to enjoying in recent years, but the tables at the front have been well and truly turned.
Six years after his solitary title in F1, Hamilton's time may be dawning again.