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Hamilton heads Mercedes 1-2 at Sepang

NEWS STORY
30/03/2014

Following yesterday's ultra-soggy qualifying session, conditions are wholly different today, the Sepang circuit bathed in bright sunshine. Then again, we know how quickly things can change here, how quickly conditions can deteriorate and then improve.

That said, Mercedes have proved the class of the field in just about all conditions here and there is nothing to suggests that the German team won't take a resounding win today. The question is, will it be Lewis Hamilton or will Nico Rosberg further extend his championship lead?

While Red Bull has clearly made improvements, Sebastian Vettel's cause no doubt helped by the weather yesterday, there is the small issue of the fuel flow meter and whether the team will continue with its own version and thereby risk further penalties. That said, Vettel and teammate Daniel Ricciardo should be strong today, the Austrian team having apparently got over most of the problems that plagued it in pre-season testing.

Ferrari also looks stronger here, and while Fernando Alonso was ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen yesterday, the Finn appeared to have the edge in the previous sessions.

As in FP3, Nico Hulkenberg proved to be the spanner in the works, the rain master, having ruined the 'Noah like' symmetry of FP3 once again popping up among the more established teams in qualifying to take a fine seventh which could see him leave here with another decent point haul. Unfortunately his teammate, Sergio Perez, could only manage 14th, but should do better today.

It was all a bit of a mess for McLaren, the podium result of Melbourne seemingly a lifetime ago. Both drivers suffered sensor issues that seriously compromised running in FP3, while in qualifying erratic tyre choice saw the pair struggle. Nonetheless, we expect an altogether better performance today.

Another team that made some curious calls in terms of tyres yesterday was Williams, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas both ultimately paying the price as the team continues to disappoint... certainly when compared to its pre-season form. To add to its misery, not only is the Finn demoted three places for impeding Ricciardo, he has the dubious honour of being the first driver to have penalty points (two) applied to his superlicence.

The dark horses here could be Toro Rosso. Having got both cars into the points in Australia, the Faenza team looks likely to add more to its tally today. Other than the clear talent that is Daniil Kvyat, Jean-Eric Vergne appears to have rediscovered his old (pre-F1) form.

Sauber struggled, though Adrian Sutil's lowly grid position was more about failing to get out on track before conditions deteriorated in Q3, leaving the German behind the Lotus duo. On the other hand a strong performance from teammate Esteban Gutierrez.

Following the nightmare of Friday, things were a little better for Lotus come qualifying. That said, we're talking about sixteenth and seventeenth for a team challenging for wins, and indeed the title, just twelve months ago. Both drivers, along with Sutil, benefit from Bottas' grid penalty.

At the very back the Marussia/Caterham squabble continues, the Russian team appearing to lose its edge as the conditions deteriorated.

Though it is currently bright and sunny there is talk of a seventy percent chance of rain around an hour into the race. In which case we could have a race of two halves and all bets are off. While some drivers and teams will be hoping that the weathermen (and women) have got it wrong, others will no doubt look forward to any downpour with relish.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers make their way to the grid. The last to take their places being the Mercedes duo... indeed the pair are worryingly late. Though they both eventually arrive, no such luck for Sergio Perez who will need to start from the pitlane.

Naturally, strategy will naturally depend on the weather. Theoretically, the quickest strategy is three stops, starting on the medium, change to the medium again on lap 15, medium once more on lap 29 and a final stint on the hard from lap 43.

Air temperature is 32 degrees C, while the track temperature is 51 degrees. Humidity is 61 percent.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Ludovico, 30/03/2014 18:00

"Don't mix politics with sport, cancel Bahrein!"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Carugatese, 30/03/2014 16:13

"Mercedes is the new RB, Red Bull is the new front runner and Ferrari is just the same old Ferrari, without any substantial improvement. Another dull race."

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3. Posted by Kkiirmki, 30/03/2014 15:33

"I'm with F One, terrible race to watch and I'm note sure Bahrain next week is going to be any different. Rather easy win for Hamilton and I'm sure some of his comments from last year sound a bit silly now. I'm not sure of the the exact quote(s) but it's was something along the lines of 'hate to be winning by such a margin' and he'd 'rather be fighting for victories' in reference to Vettel's domination last season. "

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4. Posted by F One, 30/03/2014 11:37

"That was a really boring race. :("

Rating: Positive (2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

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