Sky F1's Martin Brundle on Hamilton's dominant win, Red Bull's development race, another impressive outing from Hulkenberg and team-orders at Williams
Tuesday 7 April 2015 13:55, UK
Lewis Hamilton finally got to finish his first race distance in a 2014 F1 car including at any point in during testing. He said at the Skypad that he was looking forward to experiencing the various phases of the race with the new technology, and he's clearly a very fast learner.
It was the perfect weekend in just about every respect; pole, easy win, fastest lap. He was in full command wet or dry, and every time we cut to his onboard camera in the race he was doing a very good impression of Alain Prost; a calm, measured, almost serene driving style which belied the speed he was carrying.
The Mark One Lewis from 2007 was all about acrobatic driving with the car on a knife edge, extracting all possible performance, demanding and expecting everything from the car. Mark Two Lewis initially struggled to cope with the degrading Pirellis when they refused to live with his unrelenting demands and technique, and his frustration showed, especially when he was greedy with the short lived satisfaction of new tyres temporarily giving him the grip he relished.
Eventually he adapted, but how would Mark Three Lewis cope with new technology with its own complex instruction manual, lift and coast fuel saving, and different phases of the race demanding everything from maximum attack to the restraint and patience of a saint? Many wondered if he would have the mentality and application required, and Malaysia answered every one of those questions.
Nico Rosberg leads the World Championship and did another fine job to secure Mercedes a first works one-two since 1955, but in post-race analysis he will be rather alarmed at Hamilton's metronomic and ultimate pace. He will however be pleased that his team have a very clear advantage over all the rivals even if Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull kept his attention.
A good friend of mine who is closely involved in F1 freight said he doubted there could be any parts left in any F1 factory given the movements since Melbourne. Added to that, at Heathrow I saw many Red Bull personnel for example checking in with a trailer load of boxes in tow. Their improved performance is no accident and out on track they appear to have the best chassis. It's simply that the Mercedes car and power unit are so well integrated and driveable which must help the tyres significantly too at the high degradation circuits which Sepang clearly was judging by lap times and discarded marbles.
Ferrari increased their record to 69 consecutive points-scoring finishes but will take little solace as their pace is not great despite Fernando Alonso's best efforts. Kimi Raikkonen's day was wrecked by a cut tyre and at least he looked much more in charge of the car than in Melbourne. Work to do all round.
Nico Hulkenberg became the only non-Mercedes works driver to lead a lap, albeit in the pit-stop phase, and he was outstanding again. I can't wait to see him in a championship contending car - he may be heavier than other drivers but it doesn't appear to slow him down.
Poor old Daniel Ricciardo, he's inherited Mark Webber's bad luck. Disqualified from the podium in Oz, subject to appeal, and after a blistering start and a solid race he then had a pit stop issue through no fault of his own. He might have stopped a little earlier in the pitlane with a loose front wheel but his race was wrecked with the subsequent broken front wing, puncture, and drive through penalty. And now he has a 10-place grid drop for Bahrain too.
The brutal new penalties are to dissuade the teams from taking risks with ever faster pit stops but they'll still have to max out the stops and risk the penalties for best race results because others will. That's how F1 works.
The good news for Ricciardo is that he appears to lack nothing in taking the fight to team mate Vettel even if he's pointless at the moment.
Each time I head out on the track I get a little more used to the subdued if throaty engine note. It will never be a positive, it's just becoming less of a negative. I'm trying my best, I really am, and at least when I get home I can thrash the life out of my 'straight 6' bike with twin Akra' exhausts, and my E type with straight through pipes for a fix.
Thank goodness the throttle pedal on the new cars appears to be directly connected to some kind of magic rear steering device and the drivers really do have to drive the cars again. That will be tamed to an extent by better control systems and more downforce as races pass, but they should always have more power than grip.
What we need now is for Renault and Ferrari to catch Mercedes in the motor and energy recovery stakes and the racing should be good at the front as well as the hugely enjoyable side by side midfield battles we have seen. It's all rather spread out at the moment but at least reliability is much better than expected.
Finally, I can fully understand why Williams wanted to let have Valtteri Bottas have a run at passing Jenson Button, but I'm so pleased Felipe Massa didn't yield to team instructions, it would have destroyed the man and he's too good and too nice for that. And full apologies for escorting him to a minute's silence at the front of the grid during my gridwalk he didn't need to be at...