Sunday, 30 March 2014 | MYT 6:00 PM
Hamilton storms to big win in Malaysia
Lewis Hamilton is all smiles after winning the Malaysian Grand Prix. - S. S. KANESAN / The Star
SEPANG: Lewis Hamilton suffered an embarrassing experience in his first Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix race for Mercedes last year when he drove into former team McLaren’s pit-stop area.
But everything was forgiven on Sunday as Hamilton claimed an unchallenged pole-to-flag victory at the Sepang International Circuit under the threat of rain to lead Mercedes to a 1-2 finish for the first time since the Italian GP in 1955.
Hamilton crossed the finish line in 1’40:25.974 to easily beat his German team-mate Nico Rosberg, the winner of the season-opener in Melbourne two weeks ago, by 17.313 seconds.
Hamilton started from pole position and led off the line ahead of Rosberg and the chasing Red Bull drivers – reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo.
Hamilton began to stretch his advantage over the chasing pack and held it through both his pit stops.
With 20 laps to go, it drizzled for just a few laps but this failed to halt Hamilton’s charge as he coasted to a comfortable win – his first in Sepang.
It was a tense battle between the two Red Bull drivers to join the Mercedes duo on the podium.
Ricciardo overtook Vettel to go third at the start of the race but his more illustrious team-mate kept up the pressure and was able to use his DRS (drag reduction system) to overtake his team-mate on Lap 3.
The German maintained the advantage to claim his first podium finish and also first points of the season,
Spaniard Fernando Alonso brought his Ferrari car home in fourth place while German Nico Hulkenberg, whose two-stop plan backfired as he was caught late in the race by Alonso, was fifth for Force India.
Jenson Button was sixth for McLaren, beating the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
Dane Kevin Magnussen and Russian youngster Daniil Kvyat continued their fantastic debuts as F1 rookies by taking ninth and 10th spots for McLaren and Toro Rosso respectively.
But the man of the hour was Hamilton, whose eyes were sparkling as brightly as the diamond earstuds he wore as he answered questions at the post-race press conference.
Hamilton certainly had reasons to be thrilled as he finally nailed his first win at Sepang despite three previous pole starts.
“To win that race is incredible ... I’m kind of lost for words, really. It’s just ecstatic, what a great weekend for the team, particularly after a difficult weekend in Australia (he retired early despite starting from pole).
“To see all the work the team have done to get us here today, well I’m really proud.
“I’m really happy with the way today went. Nothing is ever easy and you’re always learning, and today is the first race distance I’ve really covered.
“I’ve learned about the fuel and the tyres, lots of things I can improve upon,” said Hamilton, who showed his human side by dedicating his victory to those affected by the MH370 air disaster.
“I came into the weekend thinking that dedicating a win to the people of Malaysia would be a really cool thing to do. 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.”
Out of 22 cars that started, seven failed to cross the finish line.
The next race will be at Bahrain on April 6.