The Sepang International Circuit near Kualalumpur in Malaysia hosted the second race of the 2014 Formula 1 season. The race concluded on Sunday March 30, with Mercedes coming on top yet again with a 1-2 finish for Lewis Hamilton and his team mate Nico Rosberg. A fortnight ago, Rosberg had snatched the pole position from Hamilton on his way to winning the Australian Grand Prix. The third spot on the podium at the Malaysian GP was taken by Sabastian Vettel. After nearly 60 years, Mercedes has repeated its 1-2 finish, first secured at the Italian GP in 1955 by Manuel Fangio and Piero Taruffi. But more importantly, they have begun the 2014 season on a highly encouraging note. For Hamilton it was the second win driving a Mercedes and the 23rd F1 victory of his career. The Sepang finish was most creditable for Hamilton as he ended with an emphatic lead of 17 seconds over Nico Rosberg.
While the Mercedes guys celebrated, Red Bull Driver Daniel Ricciardo’s bad luck continued to chase him. While in the Australian GP, he was disqualified, 5 hours after he celebrated as the third-placed driver on the podium, at Sepang Red Bull technicians created an unnecessary mess at his tyre stops. While Ricciardo’s car was pushed back down the pit lane into the box, he was slapped a 10-second stop-go penalty for unsafe release by FIA race stewards. The highly promising Ricciardo really had a bad day, when within 3 laps, he had two pit-stops and a broken front wing. From P4, he slipped to P16 before eventually retiring. When the race was over, Ricciardo was slapped with another 10-place grid penalty for season’s third F1 Grand Prix, beginning at Bahrain next week.
There were more mishaps at Sepang. Kimi Raikkonnen had rear-right tyre problem after he came too close with Kevin Magnussen and Kimi returned to the pits by lap 3. As for Magnussen, the collision shattered his car’s left-side front-wing end-plate. He lost the down-force and not only dropped behind Button but he struggled to keep the two Williams drivers at bay. Magnussen then stopped for fresh tyres on the 9th lap and also got a new nose-box fitted to his car. But very soon he earned a 5-second stop-go penalty for the clash with Kimi Raikkonen. But to Magnussen’s credit, he still finished no. 9 as he kept pushing hard until the end. Then in lap 5, a crash took place between Pastor Maldonaldo and Jules Bianchi resulting into a 5-second penalty for Bianchi and retirement of Maldonaldo due to engine problems.
World champion Sebastian Vettel had a much better time in Sepang after his disastrous run at Melbourne. He tried to make a push for the second place as he approached the opening corner but Nico Rosberg didn’t allow that. Vettel didn’t give up and during the middle laps he excelled. However, having lost the ground early, he couldn’t come too close to Rosberg, as the Mercedes driver held his own and finished second behind Hamilton at the end. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg produced another creditable performance after Melbourne and at one stage Hulkenberg seriously challenged Fernando Alonso for the fourth spot in the race.
It was an incredibly hot day at Sepang but the drivers were not bothered. At the end of the race, Ferrari’s Alonso was placed fourth ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. The sixth spot was taken by Jenson Button for McLaren and Williams’ Felipe Massa was seventh. The eighth place went to Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and the ever improving Kevin Magnussen ended at ninth. The tenth place went to Daniil Kvyat. It must be very creditable for the 10th placed Russian driver Kvyat, since he had made his F1 debut only two weeks ago at Melbourne. He was drafted by Toro Rosso for the 2014 season to drive a Renault. His team managers must be very proud of Kvyat, who will celebrate his 20th birthday in April 2014.
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