Silver takes gold (and silver)
Lewis Hamilton led the first Mercedes one-two since 1955. And victories have seldom come easier
If this year’s drivers’ world championship is going to be a retelling of the fable of the tortoise and the hare, then the hare certainly made some signicant gains in the second race of the year, at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
Lewis Hamilton already had the measure of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg following qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix, where he took pole position to his team-mate’s third place, which, as it happened, turned out to be precisely the same line-up at Sepang. But his race in Melbourne was ruined by a hairline split in a £1 rubber tube that held his sparkplug in place, causing one of his six cylinders to fail.
It would be somewhat unfair to describe Rosberg as a ‘tortoise’, after his total domination of the Australian Grand Prix following Hamilton’s fall, and in Malaysia he was there to pick up another hatful of points for second place, leaving him secure, for the time being at least, at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Yet there was no doubt that Lewis was in complete control throughout the Sepang weekend. Proof of Hamilton’s pace advantage over Rosberg was offered through their fuel-consumption gures. Under the 2014 regulations, drivers must use a maximum of 100kg of fuel between lights out and ag-fall, and the intervening consumption gures can be measured in real time. By lap 24, Hamilton had used 39.54 per cent of his allocated 100kg of fuel, whereas Rosberg had used 40.74 per cent – and Lewis held a lead of 9.925 seconds.
Fifteen laps later, Hamilton had used up 64.84 per cent of his allocation and Rosberg had used 67.18 per cent. Meanwhile, the gap between them had increased to 11.276 seconds.
By lap 51, just before Hamilton’s nal pitstop to change to the hard-compound tyre (taken late on in the race because of the threat of rain), Lewis had used just 84.73 per cent of his fuel to his team-mate’s 88.08 per cent. The race lead was now 32.315 seconds.
The nal winning margin of 17.313 seconds was indicative only of just how greatly Hamilton had eased his pace to ensure that no undue strain was placed on his Mercedes power unit. His need for a big points score after that DNF in Melbourne was doubtless at the forefront of his mind at all times.
Hamilton’s race engineer, Pete Bonnington, conrmed the risk-averse strategy: “You are the fastest man on the track, but can we back the pace a little bit and look after the car? Take no risks,” he emphasised.
This one looked just about as easy as they come for Lewis Hamilton, despite the everoppressive elemental challenges of this tropical clime. But, as Lewis himself put it: “I don’t think any race is easy. Having to look after the car, the fuel, not making any mistakes – it was a massive challenge in that sense. I would hear that Nico had stepped up his pace, so reacting to that without damaging the tyres was without doubt a great challenge.”