Tag: Malaysian Grand Prix

F1: Vettel beats Mercedes for first Ferrari win

Sebastian Vettel took his first Ferrari victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix and the first for the team in 35 races after beating Mercedes in a battle of tyre degradation and strategy in the heat of Sepang.

Just two weeks after Mercedes dominated the Australian Grand Prix, Vettel made use of two-stop strategy to beat both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in a straight fight. The heat and a well-timed safety car played their part, but it should take nothing away from the drive from Vettel or the new-found performance of the Ferrari.

Kimi Raikkonen underlined Ferrari’s impressive pace by taking fourth despite a puncture on the first lap and fighting back through the field. Williams, meanwhile, struggled in the heat as Valtteri Bottas marked his return from a back injury with a fifth place after passing team-mate Felipe Massa on the penultimate lap. Renault-powered cars rounded out the top ten, although it was Toro Rossos ahead of Red Bulls as Sepang succeeded in throwing up yet another surprise in form.

Hamilton led Vettel away from the start as expected but the race was blown wide open by Marucus Ericsson, who spun on lap four. The resulting safety car opened up strategy options and effectively split the field into two separate races, which would eventually converge in the final stint.

Option one was to pit under the safety car, a strategy adopted by Hamilton and Rosberg, who had to stack in the Mercedes pit box as they came in at the same time. It put them on a three stop strategy, but also delivered them into the middle of the pack for the safety car restart. Vettel and Ferrari went a different way, opting to stay out and make the most of clear air at the front of the field before adopting a two-stop strategy.

Key to Vettel’s approach was being able to look after the tyres, but the Ferrari was capable of the task and Vettel built his lead when racing resumed. By the time Hamilton had emerged from the traffic into second on the road, his hard compound tyres were a little worse for wear and the gap to Vettel was 9.9s. Rosberg was in an even worse position behind as he had to pass both Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo, who were on similar strategies but had got the jump on him in the pits stops under the safety car.

Vettel made his first stop on lap 17 and took on another set of medium compound tyres, which had worked so well for him in the first stint. The stop put him behind the two Mercedes, but he was able to use the pace advantage of his fresher and softer tyres to rein in both Mercedes and pass them on track. As Vettel got past Hamilton into the final corner on lap 24, the Mercedes dived into the pits, although by now it was clear there was a race on as both Mercedes were effectively a pit stop down on the Ferrari and behind it on track.

Now it was Hamilton’s turn to go at a quicker pace than the Ferrari, but to stand a chance of winning he would have to maintain it over the course of the stint and the Mercedes’ hunger for tyres was not willing to allow that. Vettel continued to log consistent times and on lap 37 pitted for the second and final time. He exited the pits behind Hamilton and just ahead of Rosberg, but crucially still had a pit stop in hand over both Mercedes.

Hamilton’s only hope was to be quick on his final set of tyres and haul in the Ferrari. It was a surprise, therefore, that at his final stop he took on the slower hard compound rather than the mediums. On his outlap he radioed to say “Wrong tyre, man”, but the decision dated back to Q1 in qualifying when Mercedes opted to send both cars out on mediums in the first session in order to save hard tyres for the race, presumably in the belief the mediums would degrade too quickly in the heat and the hard would be the tyre of choice. But as Vettel proved, that was not the case on Sunday and so Hamilton had to try to haul in a 15-second deficit to Vettel using the same tyres.

In the end it proved too big a deficit and Hamilton finished the race 8.5s behind Vettel. It remains to be seen whether it was a one-off in the heat of Malaysia or a true reflection of Ferrari’s improvement over the winter.

As an aside, 2014 Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso observed the victory from the pit wall after his first race with McLaren-Honda ended with a technical issue on lap 21. Team-mate Jenson Button retired 20 laps later from 14th position, emphasising the task ahead of the team before it joins the fun at the front.

Read more at ESPN

F1: Hamilton beats Vettel to pole in the wet

Lewis Hamilton¬†just held onto pole position ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 0.074s at the Malaysian Grand Prix as rain played a factor in a tense qualifying session in Sepang.

Nico Rosberg had to settle for third, 0.465s off Hamilton and 0.391s off Vettel, after failing to improve on either of his two final runs. The wet track opened up a slither of hope for Ferrari and Vettel nearly capitalised on it as the Mercedes got in each other’s way on their second runs.

Hamilton was the first to make the most of fresh intermediate rubber and his initial attempt on a new set of tyres stood as the pole position time by the end of the session. Rosberg’s first attempt was not so good and his second lap was then hampered as a Williams exited the pits in front of him at Turn 1. That caused Rosberg to abandon his lap, but in doing so he hampered Hamilton, who was on an even quicker lap behind him.

For Hamilton it made no difference as his first lap was quick enough for pole, but Rosberg dropped to third behind Vettel, who improved late in the session. Daniel Ricciardo managed to take fourth for Red Bull ahead of team-mate Daniil Kvyat and the Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen, as three of the four Renaultp-powered cars took advantage of the conditions. Williams lost out in the conditions after initially going out on full wet tyres before pitting twice again for intermediates. Felipe Massa was left seventh ahead of Romain Grosjean, who also went out on full wets initially, and Valtteri Bottas. Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten as he continued to show impressive pace in the Sauber this weekend.

There was only enough time for one slick tyre run in Q2 before the rain came, meaning it was all about positioning at the pit lane exit to get a clean run and qualify for Q3. Vettel enjoyed a clear track at the front of the queue, but his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen did not and was knocked out after losing time in the final corner behind the Sauber of Ericsson. Pastor Maldonado was also knocked out along with the two Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz, which had looked capable of a better performance based on practice times.

Felipe Nasr dropped out in a dry Q1 in the second Sauber along with the two McLarens and two Manors. Jenson Button managed to beat McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, but despite positive signs through the weekend the disadvantage of the detuned Honda power unit left him 0.3s shy of Nasr’s Sauber.

Roberto Mehri was the only one of the two Manors to set a time, but it was 0.4s shy of 107% of the fastest time by Lewis Hamilton, meaning his participation will be left down to the discretion of the stewards. Will Stevens, meanwhile, failed to clock a lap due to a fuel pressure problem, but his FP2 time on Friday would have been quick enough to get within 107% and therefore he is likely to be allowed to race.

Read more at ESPN

MotoGP: Marquez roars to record-equalling 12th win

Reigning world champion Marc Marquez won a season record-equalling 12th MotoGP race with victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Honda-riding Spaniard, who sealed his title defence in Japan two weeks ago, had a poor start on pole but clawed his way back to the front to finish nearly three seconds ahead of runner-up Valentino Rossi.

Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo briefly held the lead early but was reeled in to finish third, while Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was forced to retire after crashing twice in his eight laps.

Marquez’s win brought him equal with Australian Mick Doohan’s 12 race wins from 1997 and the 21-year-old has a chance to own the record with victory in the final race at Valencia.

The win also sealed the constructor’s title for Honda, their 21st in premier class racing.

Marquez will head to Valencia on 337 points, carrying a 62-point lead over Yamaha’s Italian great Rossi. Lorenzo remains third in the championship on 263 points ahead of Pedrosa.

German Stefan Bradl was fourth on a Honda, with Yamaha’s Briton Bradley Smith fifth.