Lewis Hamilton took his first victory of the season at the Malaysian Grand Prix in a dominating fashion, as he led home a Mercedes one-two – the team’s first since 1955.
Hamilton powered to a lights-to-flag victory for his 100th points finish in F1, capping off a perfect weekend in which he equalled Jim Clark’s record for most pole positions by a British driver (33).
The win never looked in doubt for the 2008 World Champion who underlined his speed with consistent fast pace throughout each of his three stints including the fastest lap of the race, as he controlled the race to take victory by a 17 second margin.
His team mate Nico Rosberg finished in second place following another impressive start, overtaking fellow countryman Sebastian Vettel off the line. Rosberg struggled in the initial phase of the race with overheating of the rear tyres but maintained position to take the second step on the podium.
Vettel claimed his first podium of the season with third place as Red Bull continue to show signs of recovery from their pre-season woes.
However his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo endured a catastrophic race. After a positive start in which he had initially overtook Vettel, disaster struck when Ricciardo came in for his second pit stop.
An error saw his front left wheel not attached properly, costing him time and track position as his mechanics frantically pushed the car back to the pit box. As a result he received a 10 second penalty for the unsafe release, before a nightmare afternoon culminated in a front wing failure which saw the the Aussie driver retire from the race.
Fernando Alonso finished in fourth place, overtaking the ever impressive Hulkenberg with just three laps to go following an entertaining fight with the Force India driver, who brought his car home in fifth.
McLaren’s Jenson Button continued the team’s positive start to the season with a sixth place finish, ahead of the battling Williams pair of Massa and Bottas in seventh and eighth respectively. Massa took the decision to ignore a team order to stay in front of the Finn, who later played down any inter-team tension.
Kevin Magnussen recovered well from a five second penalty received due to an early collision with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to finish in ninth as Daniil Kvyat continued to impress, collecting yet more points in 10th place and rounding off the last of the point’s scorers.
For Raikkonen, it was a disappointing race. The Finn suffered a left rear puncture in the contact with Magnussen, dropping him as low and 18th as he battled his way back through the field to 12th place.
Caterham had a much improved performance at their home race, with Kamui Kobayashi putting in a fine performance in 13th – spending much of the race fighting with the Sauber’s before they suffered a double retirement. Marcus Ericsson followed his Japanese team mate to a 14th place finish, with the Marussia of Chilton bringing up the rear in 15th.
Just like In Australia, only fifteen cars were classified as Maldonado, Bianchi and Vergne joined the likes of Ricciardo and both Sauber’s on the sidelines, with the second Force India of Perez failing to even start the Grand Prix after stopping on his way out of the pit lane.
So it was Hamilton who took the limelight with a storming performance in Kuala Lumpur, but following his first victory at the Sepang Circuit the Briton dedicated his win to those on-board Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
“I wanted to dedicate this race to the families and the people that lost their lives on the flight three weeks ago. You can never predict that you’re going to win, so the first thing I thought of when I crossed the line was those families.
“I’ve been watching it every day on the news and cannot even imagine what it’s like for them. I know this won’t do anything for them, but still, hopefully it’s a positive.”
Race winner Hamilton went on to praise his “spectacular” Mercedes team for producing such a competitive car: “The car was just spectacular this weekend, it’s the best car I’ve ever driven.
“To win that race is incredible – I’m kind of lost for words, really. Just ecstatic – what a great weekend for the team, particularly after a difficult weekend in Australia. To see all the work the team have done to get us here today, I’m really proud.”
The question on everybody’s lips is who can challenge Mercedes following such an incredible start to the season, as the F1 circus moves onto round three in Bahrain next weekend.