Tag Archives: Malaysian Grand Prix

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Results & aftermath

Red Bull 1-2 in Malaysia — Ricciardo wins & Verstappen places; Hamilton undone by late engine failure, Rosberg fights back for P3

After a string of poor results things finally seemed to be going all Lewis Hamilton’s way this race weekend at the Sepang Circuit in Kuala Lumpur. The Mercedes’ driver was the fastest in two out of three practice sessions and then set a blistering lap for pole in Saturday qualifying. Hamilton even made a clean getaway with no hint of the clutch-bite problems that have plagued his starts recently. Better yet, his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was tagged by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel early in the opening lap, spinning the German points leader and dropping him down through the field. After that Hamilton sped away and controlled the race from the front with only the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen & Daniel Ricciardo giving even token pursuit. He appeared on his way to a sure victory.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

But on Lap 41 Hamilton’s luck ran out. Out of nowhere his nearly new Mercedes engine gave up the ghost, coughing out flame and fluid and bringing his usually impervious Silver Arrow to an abrupt stop. As the Englishman held his head in disbelief, his mechanical misfortune gifted the race lead to the twin Red Bulls, with Ricciardo having assumed the dominant position after a side-by-side dice with his precocious junior teammate, Verstappen. Meanwhile, Rosberg’s chassis had survived not only the opening lap belt by Vettel but also a rash challenge into the side of the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, earning Rosberg a 10-second time penalty for avoidable contact. Nonetheless, through dint of good fortune and persistence, Rosberg not only fought his way through the field lap after lap at this most sweltering of tracks but pushed clear enough of Raikkonen at the death to negate his penalty. In the end, it was Ricciardo’s victory, the affable Aussie’s first in two years, with Verstappen falling in line after the earlier challenges for an obedient P2. Rosberg came home a remarkable and oh-so-valuable P3 after what could only be described as a Hamilton-esque drive back from adversity. Meanwhile, the man himself could only rue his ill fortune and vent his spleen at such a flukey mechanical failure. Hamilton scored zero points with his DNF after looking like a sure winner and saw his deficit to Rosberg balloon to 23 points. With only 5 contests left in 2016, Hamilton’s task is daunting but not impossible. He can only be hoping that the reliability gods switch sides and bite Rosberg next time.

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All credit to Red Bull despite the somewhat gift-like nature of the win. Since about the first quarter of the season the team have made tremendous improvements to the car and bringing Verstappen over from the junior Toro Rosso team now looks like a stroke of genius. Verstappen’s unbridled ferocity and ambition have pushed Ricciardo to up his game and after coming up just short in Singapore two weeks ago, the talented Australian is showing once again why he is so highly regarded in the paddock. The 1-2 in Malaysia was Red Bull’s first in three years, the amazing Vettel-Mark Webber salad days, and the massive points haul put them 46 points up on Ferrari for second in the all-important Constructors’ standings. With a lot of hard work and clever in-season development, as well as wringing ever more power out of the much-maligned Renault engine, it is Red Bull that have put themselves firmly in position to capitalize on days when things go wrong for Mercedes.

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And that has been at the expense of Ferrari. It was another disastrous day for the Scuderia and another early lap exit for their putative team leader Vettel, as the damage on the front suspension after his first lap clout into Rosberg was instantly terminal. That left it once again in the hands of Raikkonen to fly the colors for Ferrari and the veteran Finn did the best he could to come home P4. Ever since he re-signed with the team, Raikkonen has driven steadily and with poise, salvaging good points and keeping the car out of trouble while his much vaunted teammate has frankly had an erratic campaign. Perhaps the pressure from Maranello has gotten into Vettel’s head somewhat because he has not always been the icy cold killer that he was when he was winning four consecutive titles. On the contrary, the German has often been impetuous and sometimes unlucky, getting caught up in shunts on track that are sometimes his fault and sometimes not. It all points to overdriving a car that has not developed as Ferrari had hoped and has waned as Red Bull has waxed ascendent. While Raikkonen seems to drive within himself, fighting when necessary but bringing the car home safely and in the points, Vettel seems to be trying to manufacture performance from the SF16-H that simply isn’t there. At this late date in the season Ferrari just look like the third best team in F1 and sometimes one has to accept the results. Obviously the team will keep fighting until the end but there’s a fine line between valiant and desperate and Vettel appears to be on the wrong side of that line all too often this year.

Williams got a decent and much-needed result when Valtteri Bottas drove very well to take P5. But after being shutout in Singapore all was still not terrific for the team. Felipe Massa had a disastrous day when his car wouldn’t fire on the reconnaissance lap and then suffered further misfortune after starting from the pits with an early puncture. Needless to say Massa did not finish in the points so Williams’ disappointing season continues. On the flip side, Force India continued to impress with Sergio Perez coming home P6 and Nico Hulkenberg P8, a strong points haul that kept the little team just ahead of mighty Williams for fourth in the Constructors’. Adding further cause for optimism, Force India announced that it had re-signed Sergio Perez for next year, adding welcome stability to the team by holding on to the talented Mexican driver alongside the very good German ace Hulkenberg for much-needed consistency in their driver line-up.

McLaren also had an encouraging day with Fernando Alonso good enough for P7 and Jenson Button finishing P9 in his 300th Fomrula 1 start. That puts Button third all-time amongst divers and sets the Honda-powered team up nicely for next weekend in Japan at the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit. You know McLaren will be wanting a strong showing there at their engine suppliers’ home court, as will Button at what looks to be his final Japanese GP. And after an up and down weekend Jolyon Palmer had a wonderful end to it all with a surprise P10 for beleaguered team Renault. Utilizing a bold one-stop strategy, Palmer drove beautifully, managing his tires until the end and taking the last points-paying position. After suffering a fuel fire on the sister car in Friday practice the team did yeoman’s work to get that Kevin Magnusson chassis ready for quali. And while Magnusson did not finish on Sunday, Palmer’s point seems a just reward for the entirety of the Renault team’s hard efforts this weekend, so kudos to them.

Top 10 finishers in Malaysia:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 1:37:12.776 25
2 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 56 +2.443s 18
3 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 56 +25.516s 15
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 56 +28.785s 12
5 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 56 +61.582s 10
6 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 56 +63.794s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 56 +65.205s 6
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 56 +74.062s 4
9 22 Jenson Button MCLAREN HONDA 56 +81.816s 2
10 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 56 +95.466s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race is but a week away from the storied Suzuka course in Japan. Can Hamilton get back on track and cut Rosberg’s lead back down to a manageable size? Will Red Bull continue to thrive on Mercedes’ misfortune? Hope to see you then to find out!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Qualifying results

Hamilton lays down blistering lap in Malaysia for pole, Rosberg salvages P2 at last moment; Verstappen P3 for Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton responded to the loss of his championship points lead two weeks ago in Singapore with a blindingly fast lap for pole at the newly re-surfaced Sepang circuit in Malaysia. Hamilton was the only driver to break into the the 1:32s with a stunning 1:32.850, over half a second ahead of his teammate and closest pursuer, Nico Rosberg. That puts Hamilton in prime position to get back on the front foot in tomorrow’s race and try to overhaul Rosberg one again for the Driver’s Championship lead after a string of excellent post-summer break results from his German archival . To his credit, however, Rosberg was able to vault himself up to P2 from deep in the pack with a solid run after the checkered flag had fallen in Q3, ensuring the first-ever Mercedes’ team front row lockout in Malaysia. Victory could come down to the start of the race for both drivers and lately Hamilton has had crucial difficulties getting away cleanly when the lights go out, costing him valuable finishing spots and championship points.

The two Red Bulls proved once again that they are Mercedes’ nearest competitors this year, continuing to show marked improvement from the beginning of the season and rewarding the big team’s decision to promote wunderkind Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso, their B-squad. Verstappen showed outstanding pace yet again, with the now 19-year-old taking P3 and his more senior teammate Daniel Ricciardo slotting into P4. So once again Ferrari find their aspirations impeded by Red Bull, with Sebastian Vettel only good enough for P5 and Kimi Raikkonen P6. The fabled Sucderia has got to be praying for rain to shake up the field come Sunday but in truth that could help Red Bull’s supremely balanced RB12 chassis more than Ferrari’s faltering SF-16H.

Force India continued their strong showings of late and saw Sergio Perez grab P7 and Nico Hulkenberg fast enough for P8. Jenson Button was impressive for a man who is not going to race in F1 next year, putting up a P9 time in his McLaren. And Felipe Massa came home P10 in his Williams. His teammate Valtteri Bottas was only good enough for P11, however, and the team desperately need a strong result tomorrow after scoring zero points at the last race in Singapore.

Top 10 qualifiers in Malaysia:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:34.444 1:33.046 1:32.850 11
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:34.460 1:33.609 1:33.264 12
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:35.443 1:33.775 1:33.420 15
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:35.079 1:33.888 1:33.467 12
5 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:34.557 1:33.972 1:33.584 17
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:34.556 1:33.903 1:33.632 16
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:35.068 1:34.538 1:34.319 17
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.827 1:34.441 1:34.489 15
9 22 Jenson Button MCLAREN HONDA 1:35.267 1:34.431 1:34.518 17
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.267 1:34.422 1:34.671 13

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live at the ungodly hour of 3AM Eastern here in the States on NBC Sports Network. Either brew a lot of coffee or set your DVR and hope to see you then!

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Results & aftermath

Vettel roars back to the top step for Ferrari stunning Mercedes; Hamilton a disgruntled 2nd, Rosberg 3rd

Sebastian Vettel stormed to his maiden win with Ferrari at the sultry Sepang circuit on Sunday, earning the first victory for the fabled Scuderia in well over a year. It was also the 4-time former World Champion’s first win since 2013. Using excellent tire strategy calls and the improved Ferrari powerplant, Vettel stunned the heavily favored Mercedes Silver Arrows. Wisely staying out while the Mercedes duo pitted during an early safety car period, the German ace was able to gain both track position and maximum use out of the fast but fragile softer tires, thus enabling him to execute a 2-stop strategy and run the more durable compound effectively to the end of the race.

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

Pictures via GrandPrix247.com

Converesely, the Silver Arrows were done no favors by their race engineers with a 3-stop strategy that wound up splitting them. Despite the extra stop, the were unable to match Vettel’s ferocious pace at the end of the race. An audibly peeved Hamilton was overtaken for the lead while in the pits by Vettel’s charging Ferrari and had to settle for 2nd over 8.5 seconds back. Rosberg ended up 12.3 seconds adrift in 3rd after an earlier delay in the pits when he was stuck behind his teammate in the queue for service. Ferrari’s surprising ascendency after a dreadful year last season and Vettel’s seeming ability to get the most out of the new chassis from the get go is just what Formula 1 needed to spice up what was predicted to be another championship processional for Mercedes and Hamilton. Now it’s game on and, as the old saying goes, that’s why you run the races.

Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, despite a disappointing Q2 exit in Saturday qulaifying and a first lap puncture in the race, nevertheless picked up valuable points with a gritty 4th place finish. Seeing both Ferraris run so well despite some adversity strongly indicates that this year’s model is a serious challenger and at minimum a major threat to Williams’ and Red Bulls’ hopes for 2nd overall in the Constructors’ Championship. Speaking of Williams, they had a relatively poor weekend with mistakes in strategy and tire selection that could well have cost them a better finish. Valtteri Bottas, returning from injury, was able to make an oustanding and gutsy outside pass on his teammate Felipe Massa late in the race and they finished P5 and 6 respectively. Rookies Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz were again impressive for a very competive Torro Rosso, finishing P7 and P8. That was ahead of the senior Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, whose Renault-powered chassis were again down on power and also struggled with brake overheating issues on the tropical circuit. No doubt Red Bull team manager Christian Horner’s head is about explode seeing his former championship driver back in winning form with another team and, adding insult to injury, getting outperformed by the kids at Torro Rosso .

Of course, all headaches are relative. McLaren had another migraine type of weekend and were forced to retire both cars before the checkered flag with various engine ailments, spoiling Fernando Alonso’s debut with the team and return from concussion after a testing accident. On the plus side, McLaren did seem genuinely faster than they had been in Australia so perhaps all is not lost for 2015… if they can somehow improve the reliability of the Honda powerplants. Also in the glass half-full category, Manor (formerly Marussia) actually managed to start one of their cars on Sunday, proving once again that in motorsport there are many different kinds of victories, some small and some large. But for Vettel and Ferrari, Sunday’s magnificent win in Malaysia was nothing short of massive.

Top 10 finishers for the Malaysian Grand Prix:

Pos Driver                  Car                          Gap
1     Sebastian Vettel  Ferrari                     1h41m05.793s
2     Lewis Hamilton   Mercedes                 8.569s
3     Nico Rosberg     Mercedes                 12.310s
4     Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari                       53.822s
5     Valtteri Bottas     Williams/Mercedes   1m10.409s
6     Felipe Massa      Williams/Mercedes   1m13.586s
7     Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Renault  1m37.762s
8     Carlos Sainz       Toro Rosso/Renault  1 Lap
9     Daniil Kvyat         Red Bull/Renault      1 Lap
10   Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault       1 Lap

Complete results available at Autosport.com.

The next race weekend is on April 10 – 12 in Shanghai, China — hope to see you then.

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2015 F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia — Qualifying results

Hamilton back on pole in Malaysia but Vettel’s Ferrari splits the Mercedes after downpour, Rosberg 3rd fastest

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes was fastest again in Saturday qualifying after a typical Sepang circuit downpour and delay. But the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel also showed surprising speed on Intermediate tires, trailing the favored English World Champion by less than a tenth. That meant the Scuderia’s new prize driver split the Silver Arrows and will start Sunday’s second 2015 race side-by-side with Hamilton on the front row and ahead of Nico Rosberg, who claimed P3 on the grid. If the conditions are similar on race day look for Vettel, a top perforemer in the wet, to challenge for the win and the fans loyal to the Prancing Horse to go completely bonkers.

Red Bull were also much improved in the tricky wet conditions, with Daniel Ricciardo P4 and Daniil Kvyat fifth fastest. The youngest F1 driver ever, Max Verstappen, continued to impress and managed a solid P6 for Torro Rosso. Williams gambled and lost on tire selection and Felipe Massa could do no better than 7th with teammate Valtteri Bottas, returning from a back injury that forced he and his car to miss the Autralian Grand Prix two weeks ago, having only the 9th fatsest time. Lotus again looked good on Saturday and although Sunday will be the true test Romain Grosjean drove to a solid P8 (later dropped 2 spots for a pit lane passing infraction). Marcus Ericsson had a solid run for greatly improved Sauber to capture 10th position, the Swede’s own personal best qualifying effort.

Fernado Alonso returned from his enforced time off due to concussion, which saw him miss race 1 in Australia, but McLaren were still woeful. The proud two-time World Champion was the slowest of the runners in 18th with teammate Jenson Button barely better in 17th. Safe to say it’s going to be a long year for the storied team from Woking!

Top 10 Qualifiers:

P No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.269 1:41.517 1:49.834 13
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:39.814 1:39.632 1:49.908 13
3 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:39.374 1:39.377 1:50.299 13
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:40.504 1:41.085 1:51.541 16
5 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:40.546 1:41.665 1:51.951 16
6 33 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:40.793 1:41.430 1:51.981 16
7 19 Felipe Massa Williams 1:40.543 1:41.230 1:52.473 17
8 8 Romain Grosjean* Lotus 1:40.303 1:41.209 1:52.981 18
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:40.249 1:40.650 1:53.179 14
10 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:40.340 1:41.748 1:53.261 18

*Penalized 2 grid positions for illegal pass in pit lane

Full updated results at Autosport.com.

Sunday’s race airs live on NBC Sports at 3AM Eastern. Unless you’ve got a lot left in the tank after clubbing until then I’d recommend DVRing it and watching once you’ve had brunch.