F1 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix result: Hamilton beaten by Vettel
- Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was beaten in the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag for Ferrari at Sepang.
The 30-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire was unable to repeat his victory in the season-opening Australian GP in today’s race around the Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur.
Four-time world champion Vettel’s red Ferrari crossed the finish line first with Hamilton 8.5 seconds behind. Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague Nico Rosberg took the final step on the podium four seconds later.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth as the resurgent Ferrari team showed the great progress they have made over the winter. Valtteri Bottas was fifth for Williams after overtaking team-mate Felipe Massa in the closing laps.
Toro Rosso teenager Max Verstappen took his first F1 points in seventh, with team-mate Carlos Sainz eighth. The Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10 in ninth and 10th places respectively.
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There was double disappointment for the McLaren-Honda team with both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button retiring.
Hamilton started the race from pole position alongside Vettel in second, with Rosberg third on the grid.
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Both Mercedes stopped for tyres early under a safety car, which was out for Marcus Ericsson’s beached Sauber. Vettel stayed out and took control of the race during a long first stint on the medium tyres, opting for a two-stop strategy while the Mercedes pair were on three stoppers.
That left Hamilton playing catch-up throughout the grand prix, and despite taking the race lead a couple of times due to the different pit-stop strategies, he was unable to overtake the Ferrari out on track and Vettel chalked up his 40th F1 victory.
Vettel also had the satisfaction of overtaking his former Red Bull colleagues. And the Ferrari’s race pace today (Sunday) and tyre management means the Mercedes drivers have a genuine challenger at the front of the field.
Despite missing out on another Silver Arrows victory, it was still a double podium for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team following an enthralling race in Malaysia.
Hamilton and Rosberg both made clean starts to hold station in P1 / P3, only to then lose track position in the pits following the emergence of the Safety Car.
The Mercedes drivers battled back strongly to return to the podium places, but top spot was out of reach after a strong performance from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari.
Hamilton ran an Option / Prime / Option / Prime strategy, while Rosberg ran Option / Prime / Prime / Option.
After marking his 150th Grand Prix with his 72nd podium, Hamilton said: “First of all, huge congratulations to Seb and Ferrari. You have to hand it to them. I wasn’t expecting them to be as quick as they were today [Sunday] but they had some serious pace and deserved the win.
“It’s great for the fans to see them up here.”
As for his own fortunes, the two-time world champion from Hertfordshire said: “It was a tough race out there. I was struggling with the balance today and never really felt comfortable with the car.
“There was so much understeer that tyre management was really hard. When I went to the option it was much better, so I thought we’d use it again at the end and was surprised we went with the prime.
“But I made the best I could with it and ultimately I’m sure the team made the call for the right reasons.”
The Stevenage-born star added: “There was a bit of confusion on the radio at one point where I wasn’t quite sure what we were doing on the strategy but I’m not sure if pitting with Seb would have made the difference anyway.
“They were as fast, if not faster, than us today and once I had that gap to make up it was just a step too far.
“I’m now looking forward to the next race and fighting to get back to the front again.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes mate Rosberg claimed the 10th fastest race lap and 28th podium of his Formula One career. However, he wasn’t satisfied afterwards.
The German racer said: “That wasn’t a great weekend for me and I cannot be happy with third place.
“When the safety car came out I lost a lot of time in the pits.
“I expected to have to wait behind Lewis but it was letting some other cars by that cost the places – especially waiting for the Red Bull queue to move, I think it was.
“So I had to fight through to the top positions, which was tough, but my race pace was okay, so I can build on that.”
Turning towards the performance of his compatriot Vettel, Rosberg added: “We have to congratulate Sebastian and Ferrari. They had a great race pace today and it’s very impressive how they improved over the winter.
“Now this will be a fight against Ferrari I guess – and we want to strike back in Shanghai.”
The head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport was disappointed with today’s result in Malaysia, one of the team’s home races.
Toto Wolff said: “Our first feeling today is obviously one of disappointment. We were beaten fair and square by Ferrari and Sebastian, who did a fantastic job, and I’m not sure we could have matched their long run pace at any point.
“They took a well-deserved win.
“We saw on Friday that Kimi [Raikkonen] was really strong in these hot conditions, with the track over 60 degrees, and that was confirmed in the race.
“Of course, it’s easy to be clever after the race looking at things we could have done better and there are certainly plenty of points that could have been optimised.
“But we take these decisions together as a team and this is the moment to stay calm, do our analysis and learn what we can improve for next time.”
Wolff added: “It was a complicated race for the team to read – and for the drivers, too, from the cockpit.
“We had some interesting radio discussions and both guys did a great job to deliver the double podium at the finish.
“But I think we can also take a step back and look at the sport today. Always it seems that when people are making the most noise about changing the rules, Formula One delivers.
“It was the case in Bahrain last year and we saw it again today. It wasn’t a perfect day for Mercedes but it was a good one for Formula One.”
Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe also congratulated Ferrari on Vettel’s “impressive victory” and explained the Silver Arrows’ tyre strategy in greater detail.
Lowe said: “Coming into the race, there were two main choices to be made: whether to make two or three stops, and whether the Prime or the Option would be the better race tyre.
“It was clear yesterday [Saturday] that opinion was divided on that question, as we saw the leading teams using different tyre compounds in Q1.
“We saved new Prime tyres for the race, while others saved new Options. We planned a three-stop strategy favouring the Prime tyre and, although the Safety Car came out early, it was late enough to be used as the first of our three stops.
“With hindsight, the advantage this gave to Ferrari on their two-stop strategy, and the time we lost in traffic in the first laps after the Safety Car, left us with a gap to Sebastian that proved too much of a challenge for us to recover – especially considering that we did not have an underlying pace advantage to Ferrari, who were very competitive this weekend.
“Nonetheless, we scored a good haul of points with P2 and P3 and I must also say well done to the team, who performed brilliantly on one of the most difficult weekends for human endurance.”
While there was a podium double for Mercedes, there was another double DNF for Hamilton’s former team McLaren.
Jenson Button started 17th and retired with a turbo problem after 41 laps, while Fernando Alonso’s race came to a premature end on lap 21 with an ERS cooling issue.
Despite failing to get both cars to the flag, the Malaysian Grand Prix marked a significant step-up in performance for the whole McLaren-Honda team.
The two MP4-30s were the only cars to start the race on the hard (Prime) tyres, but were able quickly to switch to the medium (Option) when both boxed during an early safety car period.
Button was delayed at his stop by an issue with the left-front, and was also hampered behind Manor’s Roberto Merhi, who failed to catch the cars in front ahead of the restart.
During the race itself, both McLaren cars ran more strongly than they had in Australia two weeks ago.
Alonso ran as high as eighth before an ERS cooling problem required him to stop his car on lap 21.
Button was able to latch onto a midfield battle but was also ordered to stop by the team and retired on lap 41 with a turbo issue.
He said: “The start of the race was a bit of a mess for me. I’d had a longer-than-normal pit-stop under the Safety Car, and came out behind Roberto [Mehri], who didn’t close down the gap before the Safety Car came in.
“At the restart, I then started about four or five seconds behind the pack, had to get past him, then chased down the cars in front, which hurt my tyres.
“But I enjoyed it out there – we’re actually racing people. To be able to see one of the Red Bulls ahead of me – and so far into the race – was obviously a nice surprise.
“And we were able to mix it with the others a little bit more, too. Fighting in the pack is the most positive thing to take away from this weekend – hopefully, before too long, we can start to pick them off on a race-by-race basis.”
Button added: “Today has been a useful day; it’s just a pity that both Fernando and I ended up finishing it early.”
Alonso, who switched from Ferrari to McLaren during the winter, said: “This whole weekend has been better than I expected.
“The main positive to take away from today is the fact that we were able to run with other cars – Jenson and I weren’t simply fighting with each other. That was the first step we needed to take, and we’ve taken it already.
“Indeed, our race pace was surprisingly good; I was running with the pack, and I was even able to catch the Red Bulls before the pit-stops. That was a nice surprise.”
On not finishing the race, Alonso said: “We still need a little more time to investigate the exact cause of my retirement. The team came over the radio to tell me to back off a little, to save the car, so I brought it back to the pits.
“For us, these are the sort of reliability problems you’d usually discover in pre-season testing, but, given our lack of running over the winter, unfortunately we’re likely to encounter such issues in the first few races of the year.
“Hopefully, we can take another step forward in China.”
McLaren-Honda racing director Eric Boullier added: “The fact that neither Fernando nor Jenson finished today’s race is of course disappointing, but they both drove extremely well in arduous, challenging and frustrating conditions.
“Moreover, in line with the MP4-30’s improved qualifying pace of yesterday, its race pace today was also a significant improvement over what it showed in Melbourne two weeks ago.”