Lewis Hamilton keeps feet on the ground after his 2014 is given lift-off in Malaysia
World Championship favourite romps to dominant win at Sepang
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 31/03/14 7:54am
Endorsing his status as the pre-season title favourite, Hamilton bounced back from his early exit at the season-opening Australian GP two weeks ago in the best possible style at Sepang by leading every lap before crossing the line seventeen seconds clear of team-mate Nico Rosberg.
With Rosberg victorious in the relative cool of an autumnal Melbourne, and Hamilton securing pole position in a thundery downpour on Saturday before blitzing the field in sauna-like conditions 24 hours later, Mercedes appear to possess that most cherished of items in F1: a fast, reliable car that is capable of triumphing in all environments.
"We're in the most difficult of conditions and the car was fantastic," beamed an ecstatic Hamilton as he celebrated his first win at Sepang. "It's probably the best car I have ever driven.
"What is - and was - the most important thing is that I feel really comfortable in this car. Remember, last season I sometimes said that I felt uncomfortable in the car - but that is all history. Considering that I had one win and some good results in 2013 in a car that didn't suit me perfectly, I am very much looking forward to how this season progresses."
The tight and twisty Bahrain circuit, F1's next stop in a week's time, will pose a new range of problems for the field to combat, with fuel conservatism - in a change to the regulations, the cars can only carry 100kg of fuel this season - expected to feature prominently in proceedings. For an all-out racer such as Hamilton, such prosaic requirements run sharply against the grain, but it was noticeable throughout Sunday's race in Sepang that the 2008 World Champion had managed to keep far more fuel in hand than team-mate Rosberg and the chasing Vettel even while extending his lead and setting the day's fastest lap.
So in a car for all seasons, and with his credentials as a 'thinking driver' emphatically proved, could this finally be Hamilton's season six years after his one and - so far - only World Championship?
"There's such a long way to go. We've got a lot of competition out there so I'm sure everyone's going to be pushing and so we need to stay on it," Hamilton replied when the question was inevitably presented to him in the post-race press conference. "We've got to keep pushing."
In what appears to be a pre-agreed party line, members of the Mercedes fraternity repeatedly insisted through the course of the weekend that Red Bull remain the "benchmark" team in the sport. The ongoing dominance of the W05 argues trenchantly otherwise, although Hamilton was at pains on Sunday night to deny that his crushing victory had been straightforward - or, as he might have told Sherlock Holmes during the podium ceremony, elementary.
"I don't think any race is easy. Obviously there are opportunities that are presented in front of you and you have to take them with both hands and that's what I did but looking after the car, looking after fuel, not making any mistakes, it was a massive challenge in that sense," said Hamilton.
"The steps we've taken through the winter from the end of last year to this year, and now to have a one-two, is absolutely incredible. I've not had many one-twos in my career so that makes it even more special."