Things got hot at the Malaysia GP and I don’t mean the 59 degrees of track temperature. Lewis Hamilton seemed set to capitalise on an early clash between Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, which saw the former spun and resume at the back of the grid while the latter would retire from the race and receive a 3 place penalty.
Hamilton was on fire, literally, as he looked to take the victory ahead of the hard battling Red Bull duo behind him. His retirement made even worse as Rosberg battled though to the 3rd podium position. Not even a 10 second penalty for a collision with Kimi Raikonnen could blunt the Mercedes man’s impressive recovery drive. The drive of a Champion? It certainly had the look of it.
Red Bull looked on anxiously as the battle for 2nd turned into the battle for the lead, and thankfully there was no Multi 21 or 3/33 or anything this time. The 3 stopping Max looked to take advantage of his quicker rubber as he moved to the inside of Daniel and the pair slugged it out corner after corner, with only the smallest of space given, and needed. The Honey Badger came out on top, and in the process stamped his authority on the race. He would not be denied this time. Not after Spain. Not after Monaco. This time it was his.
When the final safety period came into play for Hamilton’s fiery Mercedes the Red Bull team would pit both cars together, with tiny margins available to avoid Max losing any time it was perfectly executed. Game over. The Honey Badger would rule at Malaysia GP. Time for peak Shoey as everyone on the podium got in on the act. When it was over Ricciardo paid tribute to his lost friend Jules Bianchi.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 2, 2016
For Lewis though it was as if the World was against him in the hunt for his 4th F1 Title.
Hamilton: “Only my engines have been going this year. Something doesn’t feel right”
Once again Mercedes had to come out publicly to tell Hamilton & his fans that there was no conspiracy theory.
— Mobil 1 The Grid (@Mobil1TheGrid) October 2, 2016
Special mention to Fernando Alonso as he came from the back of the grid to take 7th place. Not bad for a guy with 45 place grid penalty.
Two stops was the winning strategy as expected, but the tactics were influenced by three virtual safety car periods in the race – the second of which fell just within the pit window for a two-stop race.
Many drivers took advantage of this to switch to the hard tyre, which had to be used during the race because it was nominated twice as an obligatory available set. But Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was the only driver in the top four to move onto the soft tyres again during that period. This helped him undercut his direct rivals before emerging from his second stop in what became second overall after Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton retired from the lead with a mechanical problem – in what seemed set to be a one-stop strategy.
Ricciardo too may have adopted a one-stop strategy, but took advantage of the third virtual safety car period to make a final stop, which was the case for a number of other drivers as well, including Verstappen who finished behind his team mate to make a Red Bull one-two.
An alternative strategy was used by Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, who started from 11th on the grid with the medium tyre and finished fifth after one-stopping. Renault’s Jolyon Palmer tried something similar, starting from 19th on the grid with the hard tyre and then changing to the soft to finish 10th.
Fastest times of the day by compound
|First||HAM 1m38.595s||MAS 1m39.920s||ROS 1m36.424s|
|Second||ROS 1m38.757s||PER 1m41.040s||VES 1m37.376s|
|Third||VES 1m38.930s||HUL 1m41.342s||RIC 1m37.449s|
Longest stint of the race:
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It was very close as to whether or not a two-stopper would be quicker than the three-stop strategy we predicted as theoretically fastest, so we saw a fascinating tactical battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, with Red Bull splitting their strategies to try and beat Mercedes. In the end, it was the virtual safety cars that influenced the strategy. We also saw some different one-stop strategies all the way down the field, with some drivers starting on the hard and medium compound. This was all made possible by degradation being managed from start to finish despite the highest track temperatures we have seen all year”.
Truthometer: We predicted a winning strategy of three stops. In the end Daniel Ricciardo stopped twice, although his second stop was influenced by the appearance of the virtual safety car. The Australian started on the soft (like all but four of the drivers) then changed to hard on lap 21 and soft on lap 41.