Well no one was expecting that. After all the doom and gloom after Australia’s Mercedes domination, it all changed in a hot and humid Kuala Lumpur. Maybe this season isn’t such a foregone conclusion after all? Or was this a false dawn? Here are the winners and losers after the weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
What’s the German equivalent of “Cat amongst the pigeons”? Yes, Vettel has seemingly returned to his best to end the Mercedes domination that lasted…one race. Of course it’s still early days, but Ferrari and Vettel have shown that a decent car with an excellent race strategy can still lead to victories.
The familiar combination of Italian and German national anthems as he took his place at the top of the podium was emotional for Vettel. Following in his idol’s footsteps, Vettel has finally regained some of the race form that he displayed across his four consecutive championship victories. The big question: Is this a one off blip in Mercedes season, or a sign that the doom and gloom of Melbourne was misplaced?
It may seem strange to give a driver who has finished 2nd and 3rd in the two races this season the label of loser, but once again Rosberg was comprehensively outperformed and outraced by his teammate Hamilton. The last thing Rosberg needed was to see Vettel regaining his race form. It was tough enough when it was a two horse race. Now it looks like he might have to compete to finish as runner up.
A record breaking weekend for the young Dutchman, as he became the youngest everything in Formula One. Qualifying in sixth position, the seventeen year old driver finished seventh in the race, becoming the youngest ever points scorer in Formula One. The driver made a big impression, his overtake of Ricciardo one of many highlights. Verstappen has a big future ahead of him. Having seized the chance at 17, who knows how many more records he could soon be breaking.
Another race, another set of disappointments for the troubled team. Alonso’s first start of the season ended with mechanical failure and early retirement. Button was also forced to retire, unable to replicate his last place finish from Melbourne. Two of the most talented drivers in Formula One are being severely let down by their car. Alonso must be looking at Vettel and Ferrari’s win with envious eyes. Should he have stayed at Ferrari? On this evidence, he would have had better luck joining any other team than the sorry state that is team McLaren.
A puncture during the first laps of the race is not the best start to a grand prix. Having the puncture occur just as you finish passing the pit lane just makes it even worse. So to see Raikkonen make his way through the grid from last place to 4th shows just how good a driver the Finn is. Never one to show his emotions, even he may have let a slip a little smile as he crossed the finish line after completing such a fantastic recovery.
Aren’t Toro Rosso supposed to be the “B” team? Didn’t they get the memo? Toro Rosso outraced Red Bull in Malaysia, the two young drivers making a clear statement of intent to Kvyat and Ricciardo. The Aussie driver must be particularly disappointed. He was seen as one to watch this season, and there’s no doubt that he has talent. He just doesn’t have the car. With Red Bull and Renault continuing to fall out, it could be a hard season for the likeable Ricciardo.
Some congratulations must go to Roberto Merhi, who managed to finish the race. Even if it was in last place, the young Spaniard managed to outperform his teammate. No one is expecting Merhi to light any fires in F1 this season. But consistency may be an overlooked factor, especially seeing the troubles the others teams are experiencing.