8 things we learnt from the Malaysian Grand Prix

Recap the Malaysian Grand Prix with eight talking points from Sepang.

Red Bull roared to success when Hamilton’s victory went up in flames. And with it, potentially his title hopes too as Rosberg resurged to third after a first corner collision with Vettel sent Nico spinning.

1) Ricciardo claims first win since 2014

It looked set in stone that Hamilton would win in Malaysia as Verstappen’s undercut did not present as lethal a threat as first thought. But on lap 41, Hamilton’s certain victory was not as first thought when flames poured from the back of his Mercedes.

With Hamilton now out of the picture, Red Bull was left running first and second with Ricciardo leading Verstappen.

Before Hamilton retired, there was a great wheel-to-wheel battle between the ‘Bulls as Verstappen sought to clear his team-mate. But great defending from the Australian saw Ricciardo stay in front before both pitted under the Virtual Safety Car when Hamilton parked at the first corner.

From that point on, both drivers were on equal tyres and the battle between the ‘Bulls calmed significantly. Seeing Ricciardo edge away to victory. Crossing the line 2.4 seconds ahead of his team-mate.

Victory in Malaysia comes as Daniel’s first win since Belgium, 2014. Where he won his third race of the year after success in Canada and Hungary.

Daniel also had the chance to win in Spain and Monaco this year. But strategy cost Ricciardo on both occasions – with Verstappen picking up his first Formula One win in Spain, while Hamilton won on the streets.

With Verstappen coming home in second, the result in Malaysia also marks Red Bull’s best result as a team since the hybrid power units came into F1. With the result their first one-two since Brazil 2013.

red-bullc-one-two-celebrations

Red Bull celebrate their first one-two finish since 2013. Copyright: Red Bull Racing F1

2) Rosberg’s title to lose?

With Hamilton failing to finish the race and losing out on the 25-points for victory, Rosberg was able to extend his title lead by 15 points to leave Sepang 23-points clear.

Now, with a 23-point lead over his team-mate, is the title Rosberg’s to lose?

Should the remaining five races finish one-two for Mercedes. Hamilton would have to beat Rosberg in at least four of those races. Anything less and the title is the German’s.

Of course, it is extremely unlikely that Mercedes will finish each of the remaining five races in first and second place. It has only happened on four occasions so far this year. And in those, Hamilton has only beaten his team-mate on one occasion.

Rosberg has had the better of his team-mate in Australia, Russia and Italy, while Hamilton has only bettered Rosberg in Hungary this year when the result has been first and second.

This bellow table shows what Rosberg’s championship lead over Hamilton would look like should Hamilton win any of the remaining races with Rosberg coming home in second.

Race: Malaysia Japan USA Mexico Brazil Abu Dhabi
Hamilton wins 5 23 16 9 2 -5 -12
Hamilton wins 4 23 16 9 2 -5 2
Hamilton wins 3 23 16 9 2 9 16
Hamilton wins 2 23 16 9 16 23 30
Hamilton wins 1 23 16 23 30 37 44
Hamilton wins 0 23 30 37 44 51 58
hamilton-walking-away-from-smoking-car-c-mercedes

Lewis Hamilton walks away from his smoking car. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

3) Hamilton’s title hopes go up in flames

Based on previous form at the remaining circuits, I would predict Rosberg as the eventual champion.

Winning at least in Brazil and Mexico – giving him title position. While I would predict Hamilton as winning the United States and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s. Japan, on the other hand, remains a tough call that edges in Lewis’ favour.

If the remaining races do fold out in this way (with the other coming home in second), Hamilton would lose the title by 16-points. Which, in essence, means the result in Malaysia did not decide the title, as he would still have lost by a single point.

The Malaysian Grand Prix result will have an effect on the remaining races, though. With Hamilton losing one of the new power units he banked back in Belgium.

As well as losing an engine, Hamilton lost out on the chance to take the championship lead. As with victory, Rosberg would have finished the race in fourth place – meaning a loss of 13-points to Hamilton. While the 25-points Hamilton would have claimed would have been enough to overhaul Rosberg’s eight to leave the circuit five-points ahead.

hamilton-squats-aside-the-track-c-mercedes

Hamilton squats aside the track

4) Controversial Hamilton wants answers

With victory snatched from his hands and a mountain to climb again, Hamilton left the circuit with some controversial words for fans to swallow.

Early in the season, when Hamilton suffered engine failures in qualifying, Hamilton’s fans called Mercedes into question for sabotaging his car in favour of Rosberg.

And now it seems Lewis is suggesting the same. Stating after the race: “Something or someone doesn’t’ want me to win this year.”

Speaking to the BBC, Hamilton ranted: “My questions are to Mercedes – we have lost so many engines.
“There are eight drivers and mine are the only ones who has failed.
“Someone has to give me some answers and it is not acceptable.
“It’s a brand new engine, I’ve done one race with it. I did P3 with it, qualifying, it’s a brand new engine from the three that I had.
“It’s just odd. There’s been like 43 engines from Mercedes and only mine have gone.”
“Right now, I don’t even know if my car is going to make it. These next five races, I know that I’ve got it in us, my engineers and my mechanics, I know we’ve got it in us.
“But who knows what those next engines that I have are going to do. So I’m just going to keep my head down and hope for the best.

Later on Sunday, Hamilton sought to calm the situation and clarify that he did not suggest Mercedes were sabotaging his car.

“Honestly, you have to understand from my point,” he explained to motorsport.com. “On one side, we have had the most incredible success in these two years for which I am so grateful. These guys [Mercedes] work so hard. We all feel the pain right now.
“When you get out of the car with the feeling you have, after leading the race, and the car fails, it is pretty hard to say positive things.”

 5) “Out of control” Vettel handed Japan penalty

As soon as the race started, there was impact from Ferrari. With Vettel darting down the inside of Verstappen and making contact with Rosberg ahead.

But while Vettel’s move on Verstappen was fine, the contact with Rosberg saw the Mercedes spin to the back of the field and Vettel find himself in trouble.

Stewards investigated the spin and considered Sebastian responsible, but with Vettel out of the race with suspension damage no in-race penalty could be applied.

Instead, Vettel was handed a three-place grid penalty for the following Japanese Grand Prix and handed two penalty points on his super licence.

Although Vettel claimed he had braked at the same point as Verstappen, who was forced to take avoiding action of the Ferrari and spinning Mercedes, Max labelled Vettel’s move as ridiculous.

Speaking to motorsport.com, Verstappen said: “He just dived up the inside, braked way too late, he just T-boned Nico. And I had to avoid the crash. It compromised my race as well.
“I could see him behind me. He wants to win the race in the first corner, which is, of course, ridiculous.
“I saw him in my mirrors, so I just braked late. I was closing up a bit on Nico, but he just dived up the inside.
“It was such a tight radius already, to try and turn and brake that late, of course you will lock up.”

While Rosberg agreed that he was T-boned by an “out of control” Vettel into the first corner.

rosberg-spun-c-mercedes

Nico Rosberg spun at the start of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

6) Rosberg penalised for Raikkonen contact

After contact with one Ferrari at the start, Rosberg fought back through the field to finish on the Malaysian podium after his team-mate retired.

But in his duel four fourth at the time with the other Ferrari, Rosberg barged his way ahead of Raikkonen at turn two.

The late lunge by the German left Kimi feeling Nico could have ended both their races there and then. While the stewards deemed the contact avoidable and handed Rosberg a 10-second penalty.

The 10-second penalty, however, turned out to be insignificant as Rosberg crossed the line 13-seconds clear of Raikkonen. Meaning the gap once the penalty was applied was three seconds – enough for Rosberg to still claim third.

ricciardo-leads-verstappen-c-rbr

Daniel Ricciardo leads Max Verstappen during the Malaysian Grand Prix. Copyright Red Bull Racing.

 7) No team orders for Red Bull

With the possibility of a one-two finish on the cards, Red Bull had the potential to enforce team orders on their drivers. Forcing Verstappen to come home behind Ricciardo and bring both cars home in first & second place.

Red Bull, however, did not issue the order to their drivers to continue in position – like in 2013 when Vettel was issued order “mutli-21” that would see car no.2 [Webber] finish ahead of car no.1 [Vettel], an order Vettel ignored to win.

Instead, Horner instructed both race engineers that the drivers were free to race for the win but to prioritise the 43-points.

“They did and I think from our perspective it was fine to allow them to do that,” explained Horner to motorsport.com. “They were both in the same engine modes, both in the same power state – so there was no real advantage one way or another.”

Team orders could also have been enforced earlier in the race, when Verstappen was gaining on Ricciardo with fresher tyres on a different strategy. But with Ricciardo feeling he could also go to the end of the race without another stop, they were then racing for position as Horner explained.

“What had basically happened at this point, it was clear that Max was going to go to the end of the race on the hard tyre.
“With Daniel we had stopped on lap 21/22 and we were having some discussion with him about whether he felt he could get to the end.
“His initial response, around six/seven laps in was ‘yes’, he thought he could. So at that point they are fighting each other for track position.
“That was why there was no interference and the instruction was you are racing each other, just respect each other.
“It is what we talked about in the morning – just give each other space. There was some great wheel-to-wheel racing between the two of them, but at all times they respected all the hundreds of employees they represent.”

Sergio Perez during the F1 drivers parade at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Copyright: Force India F1 Team

Sergio Perez during the F1 drivers parade at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Copyright: Force India F1 Team

8) Perez finally signs with Force India for 2017

After months of speculation over his already signed contract, Force India and Sergio Perez have finally confirmed that they will be staying together for 2017.

The contract for Perez to race again for Force India next year was originally signed several months ago. But the Mexican’s seat remained in doubt due to separate commercial deals with his Mexican backers.

Those commercial deals, though, have now been finalised and the outstanding salary payments cleared on Sunday. Allowing the Silverstone team and driver to confirm Perez will race alongside Nico Hulkenberg for a fourth straight year.