Sunday, 30 March 2014

Malaysian Grand Prix: Deja vu in Sepang.

As I look back at the Malaysian Grand Prix, I have two thoughts. The first one is, at least the rain stayed away. The second is, haven't we seen this before? Over the winter break the F1 regulators have made massive changes to the rules, in a bid to mix the field up a bit, create a level playing field, and inject even more excitement in to the sport. So, how great to witness the result of those efforts, in the opening races of the season. Oh wait... Red Bull Racing and Mercedes at the front, Mercedes taking first and second, the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel taking third? That was all too reminiscent of the result here last season. I can hear the echoes of disgruntled F1 fans already, 'F1 is boring', 'Always the same teams winning'. It's only a matter of time.

The scary thing is the huge gulf between some of the teams. It was the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton that provided us with the best example of this. He left the pits, after his first stop, and steamed past Hulkenberg, in the Force India. We can only hope that the lagging teams can draw closer, in the wake of the technical developments that always come before the European stint of the season. Last season I championed the Force India team, however this season I have a new team to keep an eye on. We're only two races in, but it is clear that Caterham have come on in leaps and bounds. It was hugely impressive watching the Ferrari of Kimi Raikonnen struggling to overpower Ericsson's Caterham. Even the Caterham drivers must have been questioning their great pace, as the trackside marshals erroneously waved blue flags at them. I really hope they can keep the pressure on the teams in the middle of the field, in the coming races.

This week it was Ricciardo's turn to shoulder the weight of disappointment in the Red Bull team. He was looking strong, albeit behind his teammate Vettel, when a mistake during his pit stop left him sitting forlornly, waiting for the pit crew to roll him back to his pit box. It seemed that, after seating his left front wheel correctly and actually attaching it to his car, he might salvage something from the race. However, it wasn't to be, as he suffered a front wing failure, which resulted in him being more than a lap down on the rest of the field and destined to retire. It was unclear whether his retirement was down to a car issue or simply the total loss of motivation, but it really didn't matter to the fans.

McLaren were surprisingly far off the pace throughout the race. It's a little confusing when you consider that  they have the same engine as the Mercedes team. Much like monkeys with typewriters, McLaren just don't seem to know what to do with the Mercedes engine. Perhaps with an infinite number of staff McLaren could pull something off, but then they would need an infinite number engines and that just wouldn't be feasible for Mercedes.

In retrospect, the Malaysian Grand Prix wasn't much to write home about this year. I found myself praying for the Mercedes pit crew to make a mistake, during Lewis' pit stop. Unfortunately, it all went smoothly. There was talk of rain, as we approached the half way point. I prayed to the Gods for that to transpire, but the God's, it seems, are Mercedes fans and were happy for the Grand Prix to be a foregone conclusion. In all fairness, if it had rained, we'd all still be waiting for this race to start.

Check out The F1 Spectator Malaysian GP podcast and listen to The F1 Spectator himself.

The Result:
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes561:40:25.974125
26Nico RosbergMercedes56+17.3 secs318
31Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault56+24.5 secs215
414Fernando AlonsoFerrari56+35.9 secs412
527Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes56+47.1 secs710
622Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes56+83.6 secs108
719Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes56+85.0 secs136
877Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes56+85.5 secs184
920Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes55+1 Lap82
1026Daniil KvyatSTR-Renault55+1 Lap111
118Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault55+1 Lap15
127Kimi RäikkönenFerrari55+1 Lap6
1310Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault55+1 Lap20
149Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault54+2 Lap22
154Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari54+2 Lap21
Ret3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing-Renault49+7 Lap5
Ret21Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari35+21 Laps12
Ret99Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari32+24 Laps17
Ret25Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Renault18+38 Laps9
Ret17Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari8+48 Laps19
Ret13Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault7+49 Laps16
DNS11Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes0+56 Laps14

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