Lewis Hamilton made up for the ground lost last time out in Australia, dominating the Malaysian Grand Prix from lights to flag, heading a Mercedes one-two with Nico Rosberg in second and Sebastian Vettel in third.
It was the first Mercedes 1-2 of the modern F1 era.
It is his first win in Malaysia and the 23rd win of Hamilton’s career, joining Nelson Piquet with the eleventh most victories in Formula One.
And after claiming pole position only for his Mercedes car to suffer engine issues and a subsequent retirement in Melbourne, there were no such troubles today with the Briton establishing a ten second lead in the opening stint of the race and from there controlling his pace. He gave a brief reminder of Mercedes’ single-lap superiority to post the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap using the hard tyre.
“I’m incredibly happy today,” said Hamilton. “This is my first win in Malaysia after eight attempts and to do it. The race was tougher than it perhaps looked today and the conditions here always make it a great challenge. But I was able to look after the car, the tyres and the fuel and still keep a bit of pace in hand which made my job that little bit easier.
“This is an important result for us. One-two finishes don’t happen very often and this is a real achievement for the team.
With tyre degradation on the high side and therefore three-stops turning out to be the order of the day, the leading three cars left the switch to the hard compound until the final laps, partly due to the speed difference between the two compounds and also due to the threat of rain that pesters the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Rosberg had a closer race than his team-mate. Having used the power of his Mercedes power-unit to take second place from Vettel in to the first corner on lap one, Rosberg had a snap of oversteer at turn three and was under pressure from the Red Bull pair, now headed by Daniel Ricciardo who had overtaken Vettel around the outside of turn two.
Blocking up the hill to turn four Rosberg was able to hold second place and open up a gap to the following cars prior to the first set of pit stops.
As Vettel pitted a lap earlier and with use of the fresher medium tyres he was able to close on Rosberg but not pressure his countryman. However, during the second phase of stops Vettel posted the fastest lap of the race to put himself within the DRS-zone of the car ahead. A lap of close following for Vettel was the only chance he had as Rosberg quickly stretched out the gap between the two, putting eight seconds between them in the next fifteen laps and giving Mercedes their first one-two since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix.
The sister Red Bull of Ricciardo was having another strong performance at the wheel of the RB 10, initially taking third from Vettel only for DRS to allow the German back through. He sat comfortably in fourth place until his final pit-stop, in which he left the pit-box without his front-left wheel fully attached and was forced to stop in the pit-lane.
After being rolled back and having all necessary nuts tightened the Australian made his way back out on track, only for his front-wing to dismantle over a kerb and necessitate a further pit-stop. A ten-second stop/go penalty would follow following the safe release with a loose wheel and the team eventually retired the race in the closing laps. He was also penalised 10 grid places for the next race in Bahrain.
That gave Nico Hulkenberg fourth place, in the short-term at least. The Force India driver was running on old, hard Pirelli tyres and had a closing Ferrari of Fernando Alonso in his wing mirrors. With a high speed differential between the two, as Alonso had recently switched to the medium tyre, there was little struggle from Hulkenberg when Alonso challenged with three laps remaining.
Hulkenberg had, however, opened up a fourty-five second gap to the cars behind, completing another stellar drive for Force India. His distant pursuers were headed by Jenson Button, the McLaren driver holding off a late charge for a Williams duo that between them could have lost their team points.
Felipe Massa was told to let Valtteri Bottas past as the Finn had stronger pace and could challenge Button. But Massa has been subject to such demands before and opted to hold ground this time, keeping Bottas at bay with the two coming close numerous times in the final two laps. Williams were unhappy with the driver, as he had been told his engine was running hot, hence the need to ease off and let Bottas past. In ignoring that, the suggestion is that he may have damaged it. With only 5 engines for the season, that could prove a problem.
The second McLaren of Kevin Magnussen took ninth place after a collision with Kimi Riakkonen required a front-wing change and a five second stop/go penalty. The Dane headed Danii Kvyat, who maintains his 100% record of points finishes in Formula One for Toro Rosso.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang, Race, 56 Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m40m25.974s
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +17.313s
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +24.534s
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +35.992s
5. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +47.199s
6. Jenson Button McLaren +1m23.691s
7. Felipe Massa Williams +1m25.076s
8. Valtteri Bottas Williams +1m25.537s
9. Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1 lap
10. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1 lap
11. Romain Grosjean Lotus +1 lap
12. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1 lap
13. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +1 lap
14. Marcus Ericsson Caterham +2 laps
15. Max Chilton Marussia +2 laps