Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Hamilton fights back // Mercedes show their true colours

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Hamilton's Malaysian GP win put Rosberg on notice
Hamilton's Malaysian GP win put Rosberg on noticeCredit: Mercedes AMG Petronas

Malaysia proved some F1 fans' biggest concerns. Just like in Melbourne, a Red Bull came home as best of the rest 24 seconds behind the winning Mercedes. Though this season does seem unpredictable in most facets, the race winner appears it could be as predictable as 2013. What's worse, it appears that Mercedes have a lot to spare. And yet, I'm still excited about the necessary direction that F1 is going in.

Brit secures crucial result

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team: Started 1st, Finished 1st

Lewis Hamilton looks like he is back to his best and appears as motivated as ever. Hamilton secured back to back poles and this time the reliability of his Mercedes allowed him to push on and secure his first win of the season. The Briton quite simply blew Nico Rosberg out of the water. Though Rosberg looked to have a slight edge in practice, when the times counted, Hamilton suddenly came to life. He was second in the sopping wet Q1 and then flew to the front, denying Sebastian Vettel a shock pole.

Qualifying on pole meant that Hamilton had a clean run to turn one, with Rosberg too far back to make a move. Hamilton then drove away from his teammate with consummate ease, worrying more about conserving his power unit for future races than the threat from behind. And just to prove how much more pace he had, he set the fastest lap of the race by nearly a second.

At some point the Brackley squad will have to pick a driver as number one

To see Lewis Hamilton perform so well in Malaysia was a slight surprise. He’s had three podiums and no wins in Sepang but he clearly had more than enough speed on Sunday. It may be only two races into the season but Hamilton needed the result in Malaysia. With Mercedes being the best car, at some point the Brackley squad will have to pick a driver as number one and Hamilton went into the weekend already trailing Rosberg by 25 points. But his Malaysian GP win, and particularly the manner of it, clawed seven points back and put Rosberg on notice.

One final note on Mercedes, it will be interesting to see whether Nico Rosberg had issues with his car, because he certainly wasn’t comfortably ahead of Vettel. Is this a sign of Mercedes losing their edge?

Grosjean rescues Lotus

Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team: Started 15th, Finished 11th

It may have been under the radar but Grosjean was a true star in Malaysia. He struggled in the wet, but still made it out of Q1, which was a step forward for Lotus (it’s unbelievable to say this). Grosjean made good progress in the race, moving up to eleventh.

Grosjean was on low power unit settings just to ensure that he made the finish
Grosjean was on low power unit settings just to ensure that he made the finishCredit: Glenn Dunbar/Lotus F1 Team

But what was more impressive was the pace that Grosjean showed, particularly when neither Lotus had completed a race distance prior to Sunday. The Frenchman managed to hold off ex-teammate Kimi Räikkönen for much of the final stint. It was a bit of a battle of cars limping home however, as Räikkönen had minor floor damage from doing an entire lap on three wheels, recovering from a puncture after contact with Magnussen, while Grosjean was on low power unit settings throughout the race just to ensure that he made the finish.

If Grosjean can hold off a Ferrari with his power unit turned down, maybe there is some pace buried deep within the 2014 Lotus, and that will give Grosjean and Maldonado real hope for the upcoming races.

Hulk does it again

Nico Hülkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 7th, Finished 5th

It still baffles me how Nico Hülkenberg can’t secure a top drive in Formula One. Somehow the German is still without an F1 podium despite battling at the sharp end more often than not. Even if he is too heavy for an ideal centre of gravity, he is showing that his pace supersedes that by far. In fact, Hülkenberg overcoming the supposed penalty that his weight provides is surely a sign of just how fast he really is.

They were seen as the fourth-fastest Mercedes team and yet Hülkenberg beat Jenson Button and both Williams to the flag by nearly 40 seconds.

He was his typical supersonic self in qualifying, driving his Force India to seventh in the damp conditions when Sergio Pérez, who let’s not forget is no slouch was stuck in the mire of Q2, finishing 14th. Pérez’s reliability problems prior to the start mean that we don’t have a yardstick to judge Hülkenberg's performance in the race, but he was undoubtedly on form. No one mentioned Force India as a real competitor prior to the season. They were seen as the fourth-fastest Mercedes team and yet Hülkenberg beat Jenson Button and both Williams to the flag by nearly 40 seconds.

It does appear that Hülkenberg and Alonso can’t stay away from each other and I’m sure there was a huge groan from Alonso when he realised he had to beat the German in a race to the flag. Though Alonso made it past, Hülkenberg showed great race combat in defence and also knew when to give up the fight and secure ten valuable points for Force India.

Reformed Massa beats Bottas

Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari: Started 13th, Finished 7th

After all the promise that Williams showed in preseason, they do seem to be fading toward the midfield. Forget their results in qualifying, it is a complete lottery whether a car is good in the rain or not. The team were considered second fastest in winter testing and suddenly they are at the very best third fastest. Perhaps Malaysia didn’t suit them, or perhaps they were hindered by having to fight through the field but the Malaysian GP was disappointing for Williams for more reasons than one.

All for two points
All for two pointsCredit: Glenn Dunbar/Williams F1

Felipe Massa should deserve credit for showing the resolve he did in ignoring team orders in Malaysia considering his many years of operant conditioning to let his teammate through. While I really don’t blame him for what he did and it shows that he won’t be a pushover for Bottas, it may prove costly if it has a negative effect on his relationships within the team. Was it really worth potentially becoming the outcast early in his Williams career all for two points?

While the headlines were about team orders, give Massa credit for his performance over the weekend. He outqualified his highly fancied teammate, even though he did drop out in Q2 and put in a good shift in the race. Also, if Bottas was so much faster than Massa, he would have overtaken him. Massa may be a little too fast for the teammate dynamic that Williams expected. And I suspect that we haven’t heard the last of this rivalry.