After a wet end to qualifying yesterday, the hot dry weather returned to the Malaysian track for Sunday. That doesn’t mean that rain is out of the question, although that might only happen at the end of the race in line with other days this week.
Before the race it was announce by Manor Marussia that they couldn’t resolve the fuel problem they had on Will Stevens’ car, and therefore he wouldn’t start the race for the second time in succession. His team mate Roberto Merhi would continue to the start though for his debut Grand Prix. The hot conditions meant that the track was at its hottest all weekend, peaking at 64 degrees.
With the formation lap starting, due to the storm yesterday afternoon everyone on the grid would able to start on their preferred tyre. Everyone apart from the McLaren would start on the mediums though. Going off the line Lewis complained that his steering wheel was hot, and suggested to the team that they should keep it cool in the future.
In the heat haze the cars lined up on the grid. With the lights out Hamilton had a good start, with Rosberg following, although Vettel stayed ahead. The Red Bull of Ricciardo in 4th and Massa 5th. There was an almighty battle in the midfield involving the Toro Rosso’s and Lotus, with Maldonado getting a puncture.
At the end of the first lap Kimi Raikkonen slows and got a puncture at the first through the first corner. Bottas had also dropped down the order in the midfields shuffle to 14th. It was Felipe Nasr that gave Raikkonen the puncture at the final corner.
Grosjean passed Verstappen for 9th, while Felipe Nasr stopped at the end of the second lap for a new front wing. Raikkonen also stopped after getting a puncture and taking on another set of the mediums.
The order at lap 4 being Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Massa, Kvyat.
At the end of lap 3, Marcus Ericsson outbraked himself into the first corner and beached himself in the gravel on the outside of the track. It brought out the safety car. Hamilton pitted behind the safety, with Rosberg following. Massa also got out ahead of Rosberg, but it was a close call. Vettel, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Sainz, Perez all didn’t stop.
The order behind with the pitstops: Hamilton 6th, Ricciardo, Massa, Rosberg and Merhi (who hadn’t stopped). Bottas had a slow pit stop, which demoted him to 12th in the Williams. While the rest of the runners were on the mediums, both Mercedes changed to the Hards. The safety car came in at the end of lap 6, with Raikkonen back on the lead lap. At the restart, Rosberg tried to overtake Massa into the first corner, but wasn’t successful and stayed in 9th. Verstappen overtook Kvyat for 10th after the Russian went wide at the final corner. Hamilton took his first position for 5ht, and Ricciardo did the same thing behind.
Massa complained of a lack of power, but he still managed to overtake Perez, Rosberg quickly also overtook the Force India. Verstappen cruised onto the back of Perez and took him in turn 4 and took Kvyat with him. Bottas also got around the Force India by the end of the lap.
At the front Vettel was leading Hulkenberg by five seconds, Hamilton still behind the Toro Rosso of Hamilton in 5th. Rosberg overtook Massa, while Hamilton took Sainz in the first corner on Lap 10. Hamilton then overtook Grosjean on the same lap, and Hulkenberg on the front straight. Bottas overtook Verstappen for 9th, after his poor pitstop.
With Hamilton nearly 10 seconds behind Vettel. Sainz tried to overtake Grosjean on lap 11, but nearly opened the door for Ricciardo. Ricciardo himself went wide at the first turn, and let Rosberg down the inside and nearly the Williams of Massa behind him. Massa and Bottas together in the Williams now in 8th and 9th, and in the train behind Hulkenberg, with Verstappen and Kvyat behind them.
Coming back from his woes, Raikkonen was up to 12th on lap 13. Rosberg overtook Grosjean after the Frenchman was struggling with his tyres. He also took Hulkenberg into the fist corner, with Massa making a move on Ricciardo for 7th.
Sainz and Raikkonen pitted on lap 15. Massa got ahead of Grosjean for 5th place, with Bottas also closing quickly. Grosjean pitted at the end of the lap, along with Hulkenberg for their first stops of the day. It elevated Fernando Alonso into the points. Jenson Button also overtook Perez, but the Force India used the DRS to get ahead down the start/finish straight.
At the front on lap 17 Vettel was still leading from Hamilton, but stopped at the end of the lap with a gap of 8 seconds, and taking the softer medium tyre again. He came out in the gap between the two Mercedes and two Williams. Kvyat overtook Ricciardo into the first corner, after he lost a position to Verstappen. All caused by a mistake on the exit of turn 8.
Red Bull pitted Ricciardo on lap 19, a set of the hard tyres. Raikkonen got down the inside of Button into the first corner for 9th.
Pastor Maldonado got a 10 second penalty for exceeding the safety car time.
Sebastian Vettel after his pitstop was closing in on Rosberg, going 2.5 seconds per lap faster than the leader, on an older set of the hards. Nasr lost a couple of places after going off the track behind Jenson Button. Verstappen pitted, along with Nasr and Hulkenberg. Sainz climbed back up to 10th in the second Toro Rosso. Vettel overtook Rosberg at the end of the lap in the final corner, while Fernando Alonso was told to ‘box’ after a car problem in the McLaren. Kvyat pitted on lap 22, along with Jenson Button who took more mediums for McLaren, while his team mate had to retire.
The gap between Hamilton and Vettel was reduced to five seconds. Verstappen pushed his Red Bull compatriot for 10th place on lap 23, again in the first sequence of corners. Verstappen overtook Hulkenberg for 9th, two places in two laps at turn one. Hamilton was struggling on his tyres, with Vettel closing in at a rate of knots, over two seconds per lap. It was an easy pass for Vettel on lap 24 in the final corner. Hamilton pitted for the medium tyres, it wasn’t a quick stop at just 3.1 seconds. Further back the Red Bull’s were still battling, this time behind Hulkenberg who was in 10th. Ricciardo and Kvyat out of the points.
Mercedes said over the radio that they would pit in a couple of laps with Rosberg. Bottas who was 4th was overtaken by Raikkonen before pitting at the end of the lap, Massa also pitted and dropped to 8th.
Kvyat got hit while passing the Force India of Hulkenberg in the first corner, with Ricciardo getting out of the way after being told not to hold him up.
Rosberg pitted on lap 28, he took the hard tyre, and came out on the track behind Raikkonen. In the meantime Hamilton was setting fastest laps with the Mercedes drivers now on different tyre strategies.
With the clash the lap before, Ricciardo overtook Hulkenberg for 9th. A train had formed again behind Hulkenberg, with Perez, Kvyat and Grosjean all close. Rosberg also overtook Raikkonen using the DRS, Massa made the same move on Sainz. Kvyat made his way though on Perez in the first corner.
The order at the front on lap 30 was Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Massa, Sainz, Verstappen, Bottas, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.
Max Verstappen overtook his team mate at the end of the lap, with Kvyat overtaking Hulkenberg for 10th, this time getting through at the first corner. That collision would be looked at by the stewards. Grosjean tried to get through on Perez, but they touched causing the Lotus into a spin. Nasr and Button overtook the Lotus. The stewards also announced that they would investigate that incident as well.
Sainz stopped on lap 33, dropping to 13th. Both Hulkenberg and Perez would get 10 second penalties for their collisions. Verstappen and Bottas battled into the first corner, with Bottas really trying to overtake the Toro Rosso got passed at turn 5 for 6th place. Raikkonen pitted from 4th on lap 35 for the hard tyres, another great 2.5 second stop. Ricciardo also pitted in the Red Bull, along with Grosjean.
At the front, the gap between Vettel and Hamilton was down to 14 seconds on lap 36, although the advantage of a second a lap that the Mercedes was enjoying reduced.
Sergio Perez and Jenson Button pitted a lap later, with the Force India serving the 10 second penalty. Force India put on another set of the medium tyres. After pitting, Raikkonen quickly got on the back of Verstappen who was 6th, and overtook into the final corner.
A lap later again and Vettel pitted, he had to take on a set of the hard tyres. It was a three second stop, and got out ahead of Rosberg, just. The Ferrari being just 10 seconds behind Hamilton. Hamilton complained over the radio that he wasn’t happy with the tyres, now being the only one of the leaders on the medium tyre. Even on the hard tyre Vettel started to close on Hamilton after the pit stop.
Hamilton pitted straight afterwards, and another set of the hard tyres for the Mercedes. Advantage to Ferrari again. Massa also pitted for Williams, he also had another set of the mediums, but a slow stop of 5.2 seconds and returning in 7th. After the pitstop Hamilton was 10 seconds behind the Ferrari, although Vettel was still setting fastest laps of the race. Kvyat pitted and returned out behind his team mate in 10th.
Setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 40, Hamilton reduced the gap to 8 seconds behind Rosberg. Bottas pitted in the Williams, with Rosberg also pitting from second, he did have another set of the medium tyres. Button lost power in the McLaren and dropped down the order and retired on lap 44. Hulkenberg said over the radio that he didn’t think he would make it to the end of the race down in 11th and so far only stopping twice.
On the faster tyre, Rosberg started catching Hamilton at a rate of knots, although both of them were closing in on the Ferrari. Vettel closed in on the Grosjean/Hulkenberg battle and lost a little time through the first sequence of corners. Hulkenberg pitted at the end of the lap. The order on lap 48 was Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Massa, Bottas, Sainz, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Kvyat. Verstappen made a late lunge into turn 4, which he managed to make stick without hitting his team mate.
At the front Hamilton wasn’t making the inroads that he needed to close on Vettel, with the German maintaining the gap. Pastor Maldonado retired on lap 50 in the Lotus.
Vettel came up onto the back of the two Red Bulls at the bottom end of the top 10 to lap them, holding back for a couple of laps. Kvyat and Ricciardo swapped places, and both let the Ferrari through.
The Williams drivers were battling in 5th and 6th, with Bottas closing on Massa. The Finn tried to go around the outside of turn 1, but Massa edged Bottas wide. Bottas looking faster, going around the outside of turn 5.
Vettel retained his advantage though, winning by ten seconds from Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Kimi Raikkonen recovered after his early puncture to finish fourth, with Bottas and Massa in the Williams a long way behind the Ferrari.