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 signicant 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, conrmed 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.”

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