We rate the drivers for their performance during the second round of the season, the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
1 | Sebastian Vettel | Red Bull-Renault | 3rd | 9/10
Wet weather conditions during qualifying aided Red Bull’s chances but it still took Vettel’s natural talent to lift the RB10 onto the front row. He lost ground to Nico Rosberg at the start of the race and in trying to regain the position he conceded third, briefly, to team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Vettel hounded Rosberg for a while until he dropped back, but this was a consummate drive as the reigning champion started his campaign for a fifth crown.
3 | Daniel Ricciardo | Red Bull-Renault | Ret | 8/10
There’s good luck and bad luck in Formula 1. Then there’s the sort of luck that Ricciardo encountered as the race entered its final stages. Having forcefully demonstrated that he’s not just a grinning machine - firstly to his team-mate and then to Fernando Alonso – his headrest came loose, then he was released prematurely from his stop which led to a delay and a penalty. The front wing then came loose and to compound matters, the FIA clampdown on unsafe releases means he’ll start the race next weekend 10 places lower than he qualifies. But the honey badger will bounce back…
44 | Lewis Hamilton | Mercedes | 1st | 10/10
Hamilton made a few mistakes on his hot laps in the free practice sessions but there were no mistakes once qualifying properly began. He eased to pole position – although Vettel did get too close for comfort – and during the race he was only briefly headed during the first pit stop phase. This was as emphatic as Formula 1 races get and it’s unlikely that he was pushing to the limit.
6 | Nico Rosberg | Mercedes | 3rd | 8/10
Rosberg missed out in qualifying for the second successive weekend but from third place on the grid he was able to usurp Vettel off the start and allow Hamilton to scamper away. His race almost came to an end on the exit of turn two when he was dealt with a snap of oversteer but he controlled it beautifully and still managed to fend off the advancing Red Bulls. He couldn’t get near Hamilton, but still heads to Bahrain with an 18 point lead in the championship.
14 | Fernando Alonso | Ferrari | 4th | 9/10
Aside from having a Toro Rosso shaped dent in the sidepod during qualifying, Alonso had few problems across the duration of the weekend. So the fact that the best Ferrari could manage was a distant fourth – and only just beating a Force India – will undoubtedly concern the double champion. He was not comfortable with the balance of the F14T nor its brakes and emphasised afterwards that Ferrari must make improvements.
7 | Kimi Räikkönen | Ferrari | 12th | 7/10
Räikkönen was on the pace throughout practice and firmly put Alonso in the shade, but when it mattered in qualifying the Finn was a little behind his team-mate. In the race he was in the mix until a clip by Kevin Magnussen punctured his tyre, leaving Räikkönen to complete almost a full lap at an agonisingly slow speed. Ferrari sent him back out, but he was way down the field and with a crippled car.
8 | Romain Grosjean | Lotus-Renault | 11th | 7/10
Formula 1’s second most-smiley driver had an improved time in Malaysia as the E22 began to show signs of being competitive and reliable. Grosjean took advantage of the conditions in qualifying to progress through to Q2 and in the race he battled admirably with rivals, including the Ferrari of ex-team-mate Räikkönen. A sudden loss of downforce late on in the race didn’t help his cause, but this was a glimmer of hope for Lotus.
13 | Pastor Maldonado | Lotus-Renault | Ret | 5/10
Maldonado’s difficult start to his Lotus career continued on Friday when his running in practice ended on only his second lap, with smoke trailing from his E22. Qualifying promised an upturn in fortunes and he reckoned Q2 was possible had the session not been prematurely stopped. In the race, more reliability woes struck, but getting involved in a first lap collision was messy.
22 | Jenson Button | McLaren-Mercedes | 6th | 8/10
Button heeded caution prior to the weekend that McLaren was likely to struggle with the heat and high speed corners, which was precisely what happened. A tyre gamble during qualifying failed to pay off but he quickly made progress in the race and was aided by team-mate Kevin Magnussen holding up the Williams drivers early on. Felipe Massa closed in on Button but the Brit maintained his position and bagged a decent haul of points.
20 | Kevin Magnussen | McLaren-Mercedes | 9th | 6/10
After his starring run in Australia, Magnussen was brought back down to earth following an indifferent time in Malaysia. A software glitch hampered his running in FP1 and FP3 while in qualifying he ran wide in Q2, damaging his floor for his Q3 run. In the race his contact with Räikkönen was clumsy and he paid the price with a stop and go penalty, along with two penalty points.
27 | Nico Hülkenberg | Force India-Mercedes | 5th | 10/10
‘Alonso was eating me alive’ joked Hülkenberg after the race, mercifully metaphorically rather than literally. Again, the German driver performed to the maximum permitted by his machinery as he started from seventh and raced amongst the top group throughout. Force India gambled with a two stop strategy which left Hülkenberg in fourth place, albeit he slipped behind Alonso when the Spaniard, on fresher tyres, caught up. Nonetheless, fifth was still a fine effort from Hülkenberg.
11 | Sergio Pérez | Force India-Mercedes | DNS | 6/10
Pérez’s difficult start to 2014 continues as the Mexican struggled in the wet during qualifying and was unable to take the start when his car entered limp home mode. With Hülkenberg racking up the points, Pérez needs a couple of strong races to stamp his mark on the midfield battle. Still, at least he saved some fuel…
99 | Adrian Sutil | Sauber-Ferrari | Ret | 5/10
Sauber is currently operating in an environment of averageness as the team is not capable of qualifying inside the top 10 or racing there. Sutil’s C33 crawled to a halt exiting the hairpin but before then he insinuated that the car is neither quick nor has much downforce. The Germans woes are also exacerbated by the car’s weight problem, which is in turn not helped by his loftiness. This could be a long season.
21 | Esteban Gutiérrez | Sauber-Ferrari | 6/10
Considering that the Sauber wasn’t going either fast in a straight line or quickly around a corner – of which Sepang has in abundance – Gutiérrez did a stellar job to get within touching distance of Q3. In the race the C33 regressed to the norm, which left the Mexican battling outside of the points until he couldn’t select first gear following his pit stop.
25 | Jean-Éric Vergne | Toro Rosso-Renault | Ret | 6/10
Vergne initially got off to a good start but a power problem soon meant he was tumbling down the order. He made contact with Jules Bianchi and admitted that he was too optimistic trying to take two cars at once (and thus, why was Bianchi, rather than Vergne, penalised?) Nonetheless, his race was always compromised from the time the red lights went out due to a power issue. Vergne made an early stop as Toro Rosso attempted to fix the issues plaguing his STR9 but he had to take an early bath; a shame after another strong outing in qualifying.
26 | Daniil Kvyat | Toro Rosso-Renault | 10th | 7/10
Formula 1’s fridge magnet collecting Russian again finished in the top 10 after a competent performance in Malaysia. The last time Kvyat raced at Sepang he did so in a Formula BMW car, yet he coped with ease and narrowly missed out on a berth in Q3 during difficult conditions in qualifying. He again performed well in the race as he stayed out of trouble to bag the final point.
19 | Felipe Massa | Williams-Mercedes | 7th | 7/10
Poor Massa. He spends several years as Alonso’s wing man and in his first full race for Williams – he only lasted a few hundred metres in Australia – his race engineer tells him ‘Valtteri is faster than you’. It wasn’t even the subject of the message that was contentious, but rather the deliverance being so similar to the infamous message in Germany four years ago. But this time, Massa maintained his ground and laid down the gauntlet.
77 | Valtteri Bottas | Williams-Mercedes | 8th | 7/10
Bottas became the first recipient of Formula 1’s penalty points system (it’ll be an answer in future pub quizzes, you know it) when he was deemed to have blocked Ricciardo during Q2. It was a slightly perplexing decision as Ricciardo was barely slowed while Bottas failed to make the top 10. In the race he made quiet but considerable progress although he reckoned he could have had a go at Button during the closing stages.
17 | Jules Bianchi | Marussia-Ferrari | Ret | 6/10
Bianchi had the measure of team-mate Max Chilton in qualifying although he was wrestling with the Marussia MR03 so much in the wet conditions that it was more Sébastien Ogier than Sebastian Vettel in terms of style. Bianchi’s race didn’t last long due to a mechanical problem but before then he’d already been handed penalty points after making contact with Maldonado. Considering Bianchi’s tyre had been punctured by Vergne, the resultant sanction was harsh on the Marussia driver.
4 | Max Chilton | Marussia-Ferrari | 15th | 6/10
Chilton’s race was the sort that you’d measure as ‘forgettable’ – in a nice way – as he had a bad start, stayed out of trouble, and plodded along without bothering anyone. He came close to beating Ericsson to the finish – a tenth of a second separated them – and he continues his remarkable run of finishes, which is now up to 21.
10 | Kamui Kobayashi | Caterham-Renault | 13th | 8/10
Kobayashi’s second weekend with Caterham began about as smoothly as a March day in the Bay of Biscay but he coped admirably come race day. Despite his lack of running in the CT05 he took the fight to some of the teams ahead of Caterham and on merit. His pace and tyre preservation was good and in finishing 13th he regained 10th in the championship for Caterham. This was a very promising outing for the team and gives them hope that the elusive first point will finally arrive in 2014.
9 | Marcus Ericsson | Caterham-Renault | 14th | 7/10
Ericsson blotted his copybook slightly by mating his Caterham with the barriers on Saturday, although in fairness it was his first time driving a Formula 1 car in the wet. In the race he showed some GP2 style moves as he put up a dogged defence of his position and was no pushover when Räikkönen was making his move through the field. He made the finish and consequently secured his first race distance in Formula 1.