Race report by: Road & Race, written by Mark Batchelder.


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F. I. A. Formula 1 World Championship – Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix Race Report.

The Sepang Circuit is one of the newer (in F1 terms) circuits on the F. I. A. Formula 1 Calendar; it was designed by Herman Tilke (who also designed the Shanghai, Bahrain and Turkey F1 circuits) and officially opened on 7th March 1999. The circuit is located near the international airport, 60km’s away from the city of Kuala Lumpur. It is a clockwise circuit with the start/finish straight running on an East/West axis. The title sponsor for this prestigious event is the oil company PETRONAS.

The main grand stand, situated at Turn 15, is a striking architectural feature of the track, an image that is instantly synonymous with the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix.


The Sepang Circuit is a fast track, characterised by fast straights and sweeping corners. There are two DRS (drag reduction system) zones for this race: located on the 2 long straights. The track is fairly wide in parts, which means that there are plenty of good overtaking opportunities. There is a very tight chicane off the main straight (Turns 1 &2), bringing with it a high chance of first corner incidents. It is also a track that is known for high tyre degradation, factors influencing this being: fast straights, fast corners, abrasive surface of the track, track temperature – always hot and humid; add to this concoction the possibility of rain and you will realise that the team engineers will have their work cut out for them this weekend.

This circuit is a very technically demanding track. The teams will be using the medium “option” (white writing) and hard (orange writing) compound Pirelli tyres. Softer compounds simply would not last long enough on this fast and abrasive track. There is also a good chance that the intermediate and full wet tyres will be used.

It is a fast track for the drivers, picture this sequence: though Turns 11 – 14, the speed varies from 170km/h – 225km/h; with an average G-force (the force of gravity that is exerted on the body of the driver) of between 2,5 – 3,5 “G’s” during this section. One should note that after this section, the drivers enter the back straight – one of the fastest sections of the course – before rapidly reducing speed to 75km/h for Turn 15 (a mere 1 “G” in comparison). The above should give you a clear indication of exactly why Formula 1 drivers are some of the fittest men on the planet. Under these hot and humid race conditions, they will lose a few kilograms in body weight through perspiration alone.


Length: 5,543km’s
Turns: 15
Race Distance: 310,408km
Current Lap Record: Juan-Pablo Montoya – Williams-BMW 1:34:223 (2004)
2014 Winner: Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes


Lap 1
It’s a beautiful, hot and humid day at the Selangor circuit.
In contrast to the season opener in Melbourne (15 cars started), 19 cars have made it to the grid for this race. Will Stevens (Manor-Marussia team), will not start after experiencing technical difficulties with a fuel pump on his car.

There is a large crowd in attendance: motorsport is well-liked and supported in Malaysia. The track and surrounding facilities are in pristine condition; the relevant authorities have really worked hard to accommodate this F1 showpiece.

In seemingly effortless c-ordination, the mechanics are making last-minute adjustments: a bit of dry ice here and there, checking car settings, asking the drivers if they’re satisfied etc. The top 10 drivers have all elected to start the race on the medium compound (“option”) tyre.

The installation lap has been completed, and the cars are back in their grid positions. A solitary red light signals the start of the warm-up lap...

5 Red lights are on – engines revolutions are high – steady – go!
We are racing in Selangor!

It is a good clean start with no major incidents. Hamilton gets away well and leads into Turn 1. Behind him, Vettel has a slowish start and moves across to cover the threat from Rosberg, just edging out the Mercedes driver into Turn 1. Bottas has a poor start and loses several positions.

Further back the cars pouring into the tight chicane that is Turn 1 cause slight contacts: Maldonado suffers a right rear puncture after being hit from behind. Raikkonen has a left rear puncture after Nasr clips the rear of the Ferrari.

There is extremely close racing throughout the field as drivers try to establish an advantage in these crucial opening corners of the first few laps. DRS is not yet enabled, yet there is no need as the fast-paced action is cut and thrust.

The Order on Lap 1 is as follows:
Hamilton leads, followed by Vettel, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Massa, Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Verstappen and Grosjean.

Maldonado pits – to replace the punctured right rear tyre.

Lap 2

Still close racing!

Lap 3
Hamilton sets the fastest lap: 1:46:505

Nasr pits – for a new nose cone.

Raikkonen pits – from 18th.
(Pit Lane time: 27,285s. Pit-stop time: 4,8s).

Lap 4
Ericsson is off! After a good overtaking manoeuvre a short while back, he gets over excited going into Turn 1, leaves the track and beaches the car in the gravel trap. He is unable to recover the car.

The Safety Car is deployed.

Lap 5
Numerous cars attempt to take advantage of the Safety Car period and dive into the pits:

Hamilton pits – from 1st – re-joins 6th.

Rosberg pits – from 3rd – re-joins 9th.
Slick work from the Mercedes mechanics as they pit both their cars on the same lap.

Massa pits – from 5th – re-joins 8th.

Kvyat pits – from 6th – re-joins 11th.

Alonso pits –re-joins 14th.

Bottas pits –re-joins 12th.
A slow stop as there is a problem with the wheels.

Lap 6

The Safety Car is still out, but will be in this lap.

Lap 7
We are racing again!

A great start from Vettel as he gets the jump on the field.

Rosberg is battling Massa.

Hamilton takes Perez for 5th position.

Ricciardo takes Perez for 6th position.

Massa takes Perez for 7th position.

There is plenty of good racing action throughout the field.

Lap 8
Vettel sets the fastest lap: 1:46:037

Verstappen takes Kvyat for 9th position – good move from the young Dutch driver.

Lap 10
Rosberg takes Massa for 7th position – good move.

Hamilton takes Sainz for 4th position.

The Order on Lap 10 is as follows:
Vettel leads, followed by Hulkenberg (@6,315s), Grosjean (@6,836s), Hamilton (@8,556s), Sainz (@9,234), Ricciardo (@9,225s), Rosberg (@10,001s), Massa (@10,24s), Verstappen (@11,754s) and Kvyat (@12,798s).

At this stage, the top 10 is not a true reflection of the race, as there are a number of cars that are yet to pit.

Hamilton takes Grosjean for 3rd position – Grosjean’s tyres are getting tired…
Hamilton knows he has to push hard to try to close the gap to Vettel.

Lap 11
The Vettel / Hamilton gap is now @10,0s.
Vettel has yet to pit.

Bottas takes Verstappen for 9th position.

Grosjean goes wide in Turn 14 – his tyres are really letting go now.

Lap 12
Ricciardo makes a mistake and goes wide into Turn 1! He is racing with Sainz; his mistake means he loses a position to Rosberg.

Vettel’s Ferrari is showing good race pace.

Lap 13
Rosberg takes Sainz for 5th position.

Raikkonen is charging through the field from the back.

Rosberg takes Grosjean for 4th position – as Grosjean locks his brakes under pressure – good move.

Lap 14
There is some great close racing going on – such a pleasure to watch!

Rosberg takes Hulkenberg for 3rd position.

Massa is closing in on Ricciardo – and takes him for 7th position.

Lap 15
Massa is lining up Sainz next.

Sainz pits – from 6th – re-joins 16th.

Raikkonen pits – re-joins 17th.

The Vettel / Hamilton gap is holding steady @9,228s.

Lap 16
Maldonado incurs a 10 second penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

Grosjean pits – re-joins 17th.
(Pit Lane time: 24,322s. Pit-stop time: 2,7s).

Hulkenberg pits – from 9th - re-joins 16th.
(Pit Lane time: 24,527s. Pit-stop time: 4,3s).

Lap 17
There is some close racing going on out there.

Button takes Perez for 10th position – Perez promptly retakes the position.

Raikkonen takes Maldonado.

Raikkonen sets the fastest lap: 1:45:956

Nasr is putting pressure on Perez.

Vettel pits – from 1st - re-joins 3rd.
(Pit Lane time: 23,996s. Pit-stop time: 2,4s).

Lap 18
Kvyat takes Ricciardo for 7th position - a great scrap between these teammates.

Raikkonen sets the fastest lap: 1:45:372
The Iceman’s Ferrari is showing great pace.

Lap 19
Ricciardo pits – from 8th - re-joins 15th.
(Pit Lane time: 25,604s. Pit-stop time: 3,5s).

Maldonado pits.

Lap 20
Vettel sets the fastest lap: 1:44:452
Team Mercedes is watching the timing screens and thinking: “Where did this pace come from? This was not in the script.”

Raikkonen takes Alonso for 8th position – the Finn is flying.

The Order on Lap 20 is as follows:
Hamilton leads, followed by Rosberg (@7,415s), Vettel (@8,271s), Massa (@20,338s), Bottas (@22,913s), Verstappen (@28,721s), Kvyat (@31,739s), Raikkonen (@34,729), Alonso (@35,217s) and Sainz (@41,464s).

Lap 21
Verstappen pits – from 6th - re-joins 14th.

Lap 22
Vettel takes Rosberg for 2nd position – an awesome move in the DRS zone!

The Hamilton / Vettel gap is now @7,1s.

Kvyat pits –re-joins 12th.
(Pit Lane time: 24,781s. Pit-stop time: 3,1s).

Button pits – re-joins 15th.

Alonso pits – and retires the car.

Lap 23
Hamilton’s rear tyres are dropping off (degradation).

Verstappen takes Ricciardo for 10th position – another good move!

The Red Bulls are struggling with their brakes: the brakes are close to overheating, and plumes of brake dust are visible in certain corners.

Button is also suffering from high tyre degradation.

Lap 24
The Hamilton / Vettel gap has shrunk to @1,6s.
Vettel is hunting down the race leader.

Verstappen takes Hulkenberg for 9th position.

Hamilton pits – from 1st - re-joins 3rd.
(Pit Lane time: 24,595s. Pit-stop time: 3,1s).

After starting near the back of the grid, Raikkonen has now moved up to 6th position.

Lap 25
Hulkenberg is coming under pressure from the Red Bull duo of Ricciardo and Kvyat.

Lap 26
Bottas pits – from 4th - re-joins 9th.

Ricciardo is ordered by his team to let Kvyat pass him, and he duly obliges.

Hulkenberg hits Kvyat, as the the latter attempts to pass him – resulting in a spin.

Lap 27

Rosberg pits – from 3rd - re-joins 4th.
(Pit Lane time: 24,574s. Pit-stop time: 3,0s).

Hamilton sets the fastest lap: 1:44:017

Lap 28
Ricciardo is racing with Hulkenberg – and takes him for 9th position.

Lap 29
Rosberg is catching Raikkonen – the Ferrari’s tyres are worn.

Hamilton sets the fastest lap: 1:43:976

The incident between Hulkenberg and Kvyat is under investigation by the race stewards.

Rosberg takes Raikkonen for 3rd position.

Massa takes Sainz for 5th position.

Lap 30
Verstappen takes Sainz for 6th position.

The Order on Lap 30 is as follows:
Vettel leads, followed by Hamilton (@20,315s), Rosberg (@36,891s), Raikkonen (@33,758s), Massa (@55,405s), Verstappen (@53,179s), Sainz (@56,155s), Bottas (@56,694s), Ricciardo (68,349s) and Hulkenberg (@72,685s).

Hulkenberg, in 10th position, is holding up a long train of cars behind him.

Lap 31
Hulkenberg and Perez are having a great scrap!

Grosjean and Perez make contact and Grosjean spins off the track – he recovers the car, and the venerable Frenchman mutters his displeasure over the team radio – as only he can.

Lap 32
Nasr pits.

At this stage of the race, the race leaders will need to pit again.

The Grosjean / Perez incident is under investigation by the race stewards: causing a collision.

Lap 33
The Vettel / Hamilton gap is now @16,8s.

Sainz pits – from 8th - re-joins 13th.
(Pit Lane time: 25,165s. Pit-stop time: 3,7s).

Hulkenberg is given a 10 second penalty for causing a collision.
In my opinion it was a racing incident, and he should not have been penalised.

Lap 34
Perez is given a 10 second penalty for causing a collision.

Bottas takes Verstappen for 6th position – a great duel between these two young guns.

Lap 35
Raikkonen pits – from 4th - re-joins 7th.
(Pit Lane time: 24,653s. Pit-stop time: 2,5s).

Ricciardo pits – from 9th - re-joins 12th.
(Pit Lane time: 25,393s. Pit-stop time: 3,8s).

Lap 36
Grosjean pits.

Button pits – from 11th - re-joins 14th.
(Pit Lane time: 25,846s. Pit-stop time: 4,0s).

Perez pits– from 10th - re-joins 16th.
A slow stationary time of @13,8s as he serves his 10 second penalty.

Lap 37
Raikkonen takes Verstappen for 6th position – great move!

Vettel pits – from 1st - re-joins 2nd.
(Pit Lane time: 25,092s. Pit-stop time: 3,0s).

Lap 38
Hamilton pits – from 1st - re-joins 3rd.
(Pit Lane time: 24,179s. Pit-stop time: 2,7s).

Lap 39
Massa pits – from 4th - re-joins 7th.
(Pit Lane time: 26,971s. Pit-stop time: 5,2s).
A slow time as the mechanics battle with one of the rear tyres.

Lap 40
The Order on Lap 40 is as follows:
Vettel leads, followed by Rosberg (@4,220s), Hamilton (@9,549s), Bottas (@24,252s), Raikkonen (@2,263s), Verstappen (@11,581s), Massa (@6,023s), Sainz (@15,489s), Ricciardo (2,129s) and Kvyat (@10,089s).

Vettel sets the fastest lap: 1:43:732
Vettel has his sights set on victory.

Lap 41
Hamilton sets the fastest lap: 1:43:161
He has to try to close the gap to Vettel in this crucial period of the race.

Bottas pits – from 4th - re-joins 6th.

Verstappen pits – from 6th - re-joins 8th.
He has a very bad pit entry as he loses the car and skips over the grass.

Lap 42
Rosberg pits – from 2nd - re-joins 3rd.
(Pit Lane time: 24,336s. Pit-stop time: 2,8s).

Button is cruising: he appears to have some mechanical issue with his car.

Lap 43
Vettel is in charge, Hamilton is battling his tyres and things are not going his way. He tells his team over the radio: “Don’t talk to me during the corners! I almost lost it!” The pressure is telling.

Button pits – and retires his car.

Lap 44
Grosjean and Hulkenberg are having a great scrap!

Rosberg sets the fastest lap: 1:42:062

Lap 45
Nasr pits.

The Vettel / Hamilton gap is now @11,535s.

Hulkenberg pits.

Lap 47
Vettel is looking good for the win.

Lap 48
All cars have completed their 2 stops, some of them 3 stops.

Lap 49
Verstappen takes Sainz for 7th position – neat move.

Maldonado pits – and retires his car.

Lap 50
The Order on Lap 50 is as follows:
Vettel leads, followed by Hamilton (@10,087s), Rosberg (@17,427s), Raikkonen (@50,672s), Massa (@64,672s), Bottas (@66,259s), Verstappen (@91,416s), Sainz (@94,873s), Ricciardo (99,205s) and Kvyat (@100,697s).

Bottas is steadily catching Massa.

Lap 51
The Vettel / Hamilton gap is now @10,087s.
Despite his best efforts, Hamilton is unable to significantly close the gap.

Lap 53
Ricciardo and Kvyat are battling each other for 10th position.
The pair are lapped by Vettel, and for the second race in succession, Team Red Bull Racing suffers the ignominy of being lapped by the race leaders.

Bottas is edging closer to Massa.

Lap 54
There are still some tight duels being fought, despite the fact that the race is 2 laps away from completion.

Lap 55
The Vettel / Hamilton gap is now @9,757s.

Bottas and Massa make slight contact going into Turn 1!

Lap 56
Bottas takes Massa for 5th position – awesome move! He nailed his teammate on the last lap!

Vettel takes the win!
A simply sublime victory! Sensational. The prancing horse from Maranello is back on top!

2. Hamilton
3. Rosberg
4. Raikkonen
5. Bottas
6. Massa
7. Verstappen
8. Sainz
9. Kvyat
10. Ricciardo

Retired: 15/19 starters finished the race. Maldonado retired after an incident at the start. Ericsson crashed out. The McLaren-Honda duo of Alonso and Button retired their cars after mechanical issues.


Vettel is ecstatic over the team radio as he cruises home: congratulating the team in Italian. This is a massive victory for Ferrari. It has been 2 years since they last won a race. Vettel secured the victory in a time of 1hr 41mins 05,793secs, over a distance of 310,408km with an average speed of 184,224km/h.
In Parc Ferme the unbridled joy is evident as he exits the car. In the drivers’ room, before they begin the podium ceremony, Vettel looks tired but happy. It has been an exhausting race. By contrast Hamilton appears somewhat grumpy.

The podium ceremony is an extremely festive one! The Ferrari crew are overjoyed! If you ever doubted their commitment during their “lean patch”, you just had to see how emotional the entire Ferrari crew were during the podium ceremony. It means that much to them. Massive. The champagne flies as pure joy is in the air - this is Formula 1!

Eddie Jordan conducts the on-podium driver interviews. Vettel is still very emotional and looks as though he may burst into tears. Eddie asks Vettel about how he feels about Ferrari’s chances looking ahead this season. Vettel rounds his interview off by stating: “I don’t really care about the future right now; tonight I’m going to get pissed!” He is slightly admonished by Eddie for this last remark, but such is the moment that one can forgive his enthusiasm.

Hamilton appears somewhat subdued during his interview. I think he was still shell-shocked with the raw pace of the Ferrari. Team mate Rosberg is comical in parts. During the Melbourne interviews he mentioned something along the lines of that Ferrari should challenge for a victory (this remark was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Mercedes were in such a dominant position that they did not expect anybody to challenge them anytime soon). Be careful what you wish for…

There were rumours flying around during the testing season that Ferrari had upped their game. Rivals teams said that they had noticed an improvement. One never knows how much to read into these rumours, whether the teams are being patronising or genuine. During the Melbourne F1 GP this was not evident. Then again Melbourne is a street circuit, and traditionally Ferrari has never excelled at street circuits. Their cars prefer fast tracks, where they can utilise all that power.

Either way, it was a sensational victory for Ferrari. Completely unexpected. There was no luck or chance involved; they simply outclassed their rivals with pure pace. Vettel delivered a flawless performance, and one feels that had Raikkonen not started near the back of the grid – and suffered a puncture during that first corner incident – he may well have finished higher than 4th position. Nobody saw that one coming, least of all the Mercedes team. Hamilton and Rosberg both delivered solid performances, but had no answer to the race pace of the Ferrari. Hamilton also had only one unused set of the option tyres available for the race. This was a tactical blunder on the team’s behalf, they probably thought that they would not be pushed hard, and could therefore get away with it. One feels that their (Mercedes) swagger will be somewhat less at the next race. Today proved that they are not invincible, they are only human, and when put under pressure they can become panicky.

Williams had a steady if unspectacular race. A great move from Bottas to snatch 5th position from his teammate Barichello on the last lap!
Red Bull Racing had another dismal showing: not only were they lapped by the race leader (again), but both their cars were beaten by their sister team, Torro Rosso. It was another good performance from young Max Verstappen. He is living up to his billing as being a very good driver. His teammate Carlos Sainz also performed well, for the second race in succession.

Force-India was steady but off the pace: they seem to be going for reliability as opposed to a fast race strategy – keeping their cars out for longer between stops. This doesn’t really help when your drivers are battling to maintain their positions as their tyres are worn.

Lotus had another disappointing race. Maldonado had to retire after his car was damaged at the start. Grosjean battled gamely, but appeared off the pace and got involved in a few racing incidents.

McLaren-Honda, while they had to retire both cars with mechanical issues, keeps on improving. Their speed was better this race. They are still completely off the pace of the race leaders, but if they continue improving like this, then they should be able to challenge for positions in the mid-field soon. It is very pleasing to see that despite their current tribulations, Jenson Button maintains an upbeat and positive attitude.

This was a sensational race. There was action aplenty, some great overtaking manoeuvres. The circuit looked stunning, even the weather played ball: the threatened rain never materialised. Ferrari showed Mercedes that they will not have it all their own way this season. I expect Williams and one or two other teams to improve too. This all augurs well for F1: close, hotly contested racing is exactly what the millions of motorsport fans around the world want to see.

The next race is the Chinese Grand Prix, in Shanghai, on the 12th April 2015. The Shanghai track has a bit of everything: fast straights, fast corners, slower corners and combinations of corners; lots of fast acceleration coupled with heavy braking.
Hopefully by then, the Manor-Marussia team will have sorted out their issues, and we will see a full grid of 20 cars take to the start.

Written by Mark Batchelder, Road and Race’s F1 Connoisseur
Twitter: @MBLex

1. Lewis Hamilton 43
2. Sebastian Vettel 40
3. Nico Rosberg 33
4. Felipe Massa 20
5. Kimi Raikkonen 12
6. Felipe Nasr 10
7. Valteri Bottas 10
8. Daniel Ricciardo 9
9. Nico Hulkenberg 6
10. Max Verstappen 6

1. Mercedes 76
2. Ferrari 56
3. Williams-Mercedes 30
4. Sauber-Ferrari 14
5. Torro Rosso 12
6. RBR-Racing 11
7. Force India 7
8. McLaren-Honda 0
9. Lotus-Renault 0
10. Manor-Marussia 0


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