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2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Malaysia  2015 Malaysian Grand Prix
Race details[1][2]
Race 2 of 19 in the 2015 Formula One season
Sepang.svg
Date 29 March 2015 (2015-03-29)
Official name 2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix
Location Sepang International Circuit, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Course Permanent racing facility
Course length 5.543 km (3.444 mi)
Distance 56 laps, 310.408 km (192.879 mi)
Weather Sunny
32–33 °C (90–91 °F) air temperature
53–58 °C (127–136 °F) track temperature
2 m/s (6.6 ft/s) wind from the south[3]
Attendance 44,611
Pole position
Driver Mercedes
Time 1:49.834
Fastest lap
Driver Germany Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Time 1:42.062 on lap 43
Podium
First Ferrari
Second Mercedes
Third Mercedes

The 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix, formally titled the 2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix, was a Formula One motor race that was held on 29 March 2015 at the Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[2] It was the seventeenth running of the Malaysian Grand Prix as a World Championship event, and thirty-fifth overall.[4]

Lewis Hamilton came into the race leading the Drivers' championship by seven points over team-mate Nico Rosberg, followed closely by Sebastian Vettel, a further three points adrift. Mercedes entered with a twenty-eight point lead over Ferrari in the Constructors' championship campaign.

Hamilton secured pole position in a rain-soaked qualifying session, the 40th pole position in his career.[5] Vettel won the race, having started from second place on the grid. It was the 40th victory of his career, and the first victory for Ferrari since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.[6]

Report

Background

Sporting criticism

The dominance of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton (pictured during practice) was a major talking point before the race.

Mercedes arrived at the second race of the season with maximum points from Australia, having finished first and second with third placed Sebastian Vettel half a minute down. Following their dominant performance, many commentators voiced fears that the sport might become even more one-sided and boring over the course of the 2015 season than it had been the previous year.[7][8] Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner called for the FIA to step in and apply rule changes that would level the competition, stating: "The FIA, within the rules, have an equalisation mechanism and that needs to be looked at."[9][10] Red Bull subsequently threatened to leave the sport, should no measures be taken.[11] While many commentators pointed out that Red Bull had enjoyed their own share of dominance in the prior years,[11] Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone voiced understanding for the team, saying: "There is a rule that I think [former president] Max [Mosley] put in when he was there that in the event... that a particular team or engine supplier did something magic - which Mercedes have done - the FIA can level up things. They [Mercedes] have done a first class job which everybody acknowledges. We need to change things a little bit now and try to level things up a little bit."[12] Mercedes' executive director Toto Wolff reacted to the calls by urging his rivals to "get your fucking head down and work to sort it out".[13] McLaren driver Jenson Button also raised doubt over the practicality of rule changes, saying "There's nothing really to ban because it doesn't look like Mercedes are doing anything other teams aren't doing."[14]

"All you bloody crowd have been complaining about everything, so let's hear it. If you were in my position, apart from leaving, what would you do?"

Bernie Ecclestone, speaking about Formula One's problems with journalists in Malaysia.[15]

Following criticism voiced by Red Bull, the future of engine supplier Renault was also a matter of debate. While Renault contemplated exiting the sport, another scenario that received media attention was a possible buy-out of the Toro Rosso team.[16] The discussion about the future of the sport was additionally fuelled by the news that the German Grand Prix would be dropped from the 2015 calendar, due to a lack of financing.[17] The exclusion of one of motorsport's most traditional events caused many to raise the question whether the same fate might await other traditional venues such as Monza.[18]

Returning competitors

Fernando Alonso returned from his pre-season injury to take back his seat at McLaren, which had been filled by Kevin Magnussen at the previous race in Australia.[19] Also returning was Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, who missed the previous race due to a back injury sustained during qualifying.[20]

Manor Marussia, who were able to field their cars for the first time in Malaysia,[21] were under criticism after they failed to run their cars at the Australian Grand Prix, with Ecclestone saying they would need to pay for their travel expenses, which are usually covered by the commercial rights holder.[22]

Tyres

As in the previous two years, Pirelli announced they would be supplying teams with the orange-banded hard compound tyre as the prime selection and the white-banded medium compound as the option selection for the event. The event also made use of Pirelli's two wet weather tyres, the green-banded intermediate and blue-banded full wet tyres.[23]

Free practice

Fernando Alonso returned to the grid after missing the first race in Australia.

Per the regulations for the 2015 season, three practice sessions were held, two 1.5-hour sessions on Friday and another one-hour session before qualifying on Saturday.[24] Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in the first practice session on Friday morning, while championship leader Lewis Hamilton was sidelined due to engine problems.[25] He recovered to take fastest time in the second session of the day,[26] while Ferrari proved that they would be closer to their rivals in Sepang, coming within 0.4 seconds in both free practice sessions.

Fernando Alonso made his debut in the new McLaren, finishing 14th and 16th in the two Friday sessions respectively, outpacing teammate Jenson Button both times.[26][27] Also debuting during free practice were Manor-Marussia, with both cars struggling to meet the time limit of 107%. Raffaele Marciello filled in for Sauber-regular Felipe Nasr during the first session.[28]

During the third practice session on Saturday morning, both Mercedes drivers were once again fastest, with Rosberg setting the fastest time, while Ferrari was about half a second behind.[29]

Qualifying

Max Verstappen, pictured here during the wet qualifying session, became the youngest driver to score points in Formula One.

Qualifying consisted of three parts, 18, 15 and 12 minutes in length respectively, with five drivers eliminated from competing after each of the first two sessions.[24] The first part of qualifying (Q1) got under way in the dry and sunny conditions; this was not the conditions that would favour McLaren as they were still off the pace of the midfield although they made progress. Jenson Button along with his returning team-mate Fernando Alonso were separated by only a tenth of a second, but were 17th and 18th on the grid. Joining them were the Manor-Marussias of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens; Merhi recorded a time that was almost five seconds slower than Alonso, and Stevens failed to take to the circuit, while Felipe Nasr also failed to make it out of Q1, as he struggled for balance in his Sauber.

Clouds built up at the west of the circuit before Q2 and there was a traffic jam in the pit lane. A scramble for position started to be evident and only one driver – Nico Rosberg – managed a clean lap without traffic, as the rest of the field dealt with the thunderstorm that was warned to arrive during Q2 and started tripping up on each other. The biggest casualty of the session was Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen who got held up by Marcus Ericsson. Räikkönen recorded a lap of 1:42.173, which was not fast enough to get into Q3 as rain started soon after. Joining Räikkönen were Pastor Maldonado, the Force Indias of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz, Jr., as they could not improve on their original lap times due to the conditions.

After a delay of half an hour, the cars returned to the circuit, with the majority of the remaining ten drivers on intermediate tyres, while Romain Grosjean, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas initially surveyed the circuit on wets before switching to the intermediates. Ultimately, Hamilton took pole by 0.074 seconds ahead of Vettel, with Rosberg third. They were followed by the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat, while Toro Rosso's young driver Max Verstappen took sixth place. The rest of the top ten was completed by Massa, Grosjean, Bottas and Ericsson.[30]

Post-qualifying

Romain Grosjean was found to have left the pit lane in a different position to the one he left the garage, and so he received a two place grid penalty dropping him to tenth on the grid.[31]

Race

File:Safety Car with Sebastian Vettel 2015 Malaysia.jpg
An early safety car phase proved to be a decisive factor in the race's outcome.

Temperatures on race day were very hot, with the track temperature at 61 °C (142 °F). Rain was possible, though less than in previous years, also due to the earlier starting time.[32][33] Williams were hoping for a dry race, since qualifying showed they were still off the pace in wet conditions.[34] Will Stevens, who missed qualifying due to a fuel system problem, was ultimately unable to participate in the race.[35]

At the start, Lewis Hamilton got away well, while Nico Rosberg challenged Sebastian Vettel for second place, but the Ferrari was able to come out on top. Both Pastor Maldonado and Kimi Räikkönen suffered punctures on lap one after contact with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Nasr respectively and had to come in for a new set of tyres. Vettel was able to stay with the Mercedes of Hamilton over the first few laps.

On lap four, Marcus Ericsson braked too late and spun in turn one, retiring from the race and bringing out the safety car. All but seven cars went into the pits to change tyres, including both Mercedes drivers, while Sebastian Vettel stayed out. When racing resumed on lap seven, Vettel led Nico Hülkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Carlos Sainz, Jr. and Sergio Pérez, with Hamilton the first of the pitted cars right behind.

Both Mercedes cars now made their way through the field, with Hamilton overtaking Hülkenberg for second position on the end of lap ten, now ten seconds down on race leader Vettel. Rosberg reached third position on lap 14, while Hamilton was unable to make significant gains on Vettel in front. The cars that had not used the safety car phase for their stops began to change tyres on lap 16, while Maldonado was handed a ten-second penalty for exceeding the safety car time. Meanwhile, the Red Bull cars showed signs of brake problems with brake dust exiting the wheels at the major braking points on both cars. Vettel came in for his first stop on lap 18, handing the lead back to Hamilton. Vettel rejoined in third place and began to close rapidly on second-placed Rosberg.

Vettel made good use of his fresher tyres, overtaking Rosberg on lap 22 and setting out to do the same on Hamilton, when the latter went into the pits for his second pit stop on lap 24. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso retired due to engine problems on lap 21 while running in ninth place. With deteriorating front wing damage, Daniel Ricciardo let his teammate Daniil Kvyat through into eleventh place on the beginning of lap 26, only for Kvyat to be sent in a spin by Hülkenberg, who ran wide and hit the Red Bull in turn two. Kvyat was able to continue, though down in 13th place. The other Force India of Pérez sent Romain Grosjean's Lotus into a spin five laps later. Both Force India drivers were handed a ten-second penalty for their actions.

Both Red Bulls suffered from brake issues. Brake dust can be seen here blowing out from the brake discs.

Vettel pitted for a second and final time on lap 38, handing the lead back to Hamilton, who came in for his final stop a lap later, emerging about twelve seconds behind Vettel in third place. His teammate Rosberg pitted on lap 41, elevating Hamilton to second, who now started to close on Vettel. Jenson Button retired from the race on lap 40 due to a turbo failure, while Maldonado's bad day turned worse when he had to park his car suffering brake failures. Hamilton was unable to overcome the gap between himself and Vettel, leaving Vettel to take his first victory since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix and his first with Ferrari. Bottas was able to overtake his teammate Felipe Massa on the final lap, after both Williams drivers had an uneventful race to finish fifth and sixth respectively.[36]

Post-race

The podium after the race

Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari reacted emotionally to the victory, with Vettel unable to hold back tears on the podium.[37] Speaking about the experience as a Ferrari driver, he told Eddie Jordan during the podium interview:

I remember when the gate opened in Maranello it was like a dream coming true. I remember the last time I was there was as a young kid watching Michael [Schumacher] over the fence driving around in the Ferrari and now I'm driving that very red car. It's incredible. The day today, the race, really spot on, the whole team was there, great strategy, great pace, we beat them fair and square [...].[38]

Second placed Lewis Hamilton conceded that Ferrari and Vettel "did a fantastic job this weekend" and that he had not expected them to be as quick as they were.[38]

The Ferrari team shared Vettel's enthusiasm, as they could be seen singing along to the Italian national anthem during the podium ceremony, led by team principal Maurizio Arrivabene.[39] He later admitted he cried after receiving a congratulatory text message from Michael Schumacher's manager on behalf of his family.[40] Comparisons between Vettel and Schumacher were omnipresent in the following days, with commentators pointing out that it took Vettel merely two races for his first win with the Scuderia, while Schumacher achieved a victory only in his seventh race.[41] During the post-race press conference, Vettel expressed hope to emulate Schumacher's success at Ferrari and win the world championship.[38]

The result was viewed as a welcome rebuttal of the fears of monotony voiced after the Australian Grand Prix. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung declared Vettel's win was "the best the flagging sport could have hoped for".[42] The Daily Mail commented: "Now a sport that has developed an impressive aptitude for navel-gazing, [...] can rest from its self-loathing criticism, at least for a while."[43]

Controversy arose when Force India's Bob Fernley accused Manor Marussia of intentionally only running one car during qualifying and the race and urged the FIA to investigate the matter.[44] Manor rejected these claims, with sporting director Graeme Lowdon saying "I can guarantee you if that car could have moved, it would have raced".[45]

Finishing seventh, Max Verstappen became the youngest driver to score World Championship points. Verstappen was quoted saying that it had been a "good day", while his father, former Formula One driver Jos Verstappen, commented: "I'm very pleased for what he has done today. I'm happy that he finished the race and the way he raced, he deserved it. I'm very proud."[46]

Classification

Will Stevens (pictured here during free practice) was unable to participate in the race.

Qualifying

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Q1 Q2 Q3 Grid
1 44 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.269 1:41.517 1:49.834 1
2 5 Germany Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:39.814 1:39.632 1:49.908 2
3 6 Germany Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:39.374 1:39.377 1:50.299 3
4 3 Australia Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:40.504 1:41.085 1:51.541 4
5 26 Russia Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:40.546 1:41.665 1:51.951 5
6 33 Netherlands Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault 1:40.793 1:41.430 1:51.981 6
7 19 Brazil Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:40.543 1:41.230 1:52.473 7
8 8 France Romain Grosjean Lotus-Mercedes 1:40.303 1:41.209 1:52.981 101
9 77 Finland Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:40.249 1:40.650 1:53.179 8
10 9 Sweden Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1:40.340 1:41.748 1:53.261 9
11 7 Finland Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:40.415 1:42.173 11
12 13 Venezuela Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Mercedes 1:40.361 1:42.198 12
13 27 Germany Nico Hülkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:40.830 1:43.023 13
14 11 Mexico Sergio Pérez Force India-Mercedes 1:41.036 1:43.469 14
15 55 Spain Carlos Sainz, Jr. Toro Rosso-Renault 1:39.814 1:43.701 15
16 12 Brazil Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1:41.308 16
17 22 United Kingdom Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1:41.636 17
18 14 Spain Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1:41.746 18
107% time: 1:46.217
98 Spain Roberto Merhi Marussia-Ferrari 1:46.677 192
28 United Kingdom Will Stevens Marussia-Ferrari no time 202
Source:[47]
Notes
  • ^1 — Romain Grosjean received a two place grid penalty for failing to "leave the pitlane in the order of his arrival."[48]
  • ^2 — Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens were granted permission to start by race stewards.[49]

Race

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts.
1 5 Germany Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 56 1:41:05.793 2 25
2 44 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 56 +8.569 1 18
3 6 Germany Nico Rosberg Mercedes 56 +12.310 3 15
4 7 Finland Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 56 +53.822 11 12
5 77 Finland Valtteri Bottas        Williams-Mercedes 56 +1:10.409 8 10
6 19 Brazil Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 56 +1:13.586 7 8
7 33 Netherlands Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault 56 +1:37.762 6 6
8 55 Spain Carlos Sainz, Jr. Toro Rosso-Renault 55 +1 Lap 15 4
9 26 Russia Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing-Renault 55 +1 Lap 5 2
10 3 Australia Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 55 +1 Lap 4 1
11 8 France Romain Grosjean Lotus-Mercedes 55 +1 Lap 10
12 12 Brazil Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 55 +1 Lap 16
13 11 Mexico Sergio Pérez Force India-Mercedes 55 +1 Lap 14
14 27 Germany Nico Hülkenberg Force India-Mercedes 55 +1 Lap 13
15 98 Spain Roberto Merhi Marussia-Ferrari 53 +3 Laps 19
Ret 13 Venezuela Pastor Maldonado        Lotus-Mercedes 46 Brakes 12
Ret 22 United Kingdom Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 40 Turbo 17
Ret 14 Spain Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 20 Power Unit 18
Ret 9 Sweden Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 3 Spun off 9
DNS 28 United Kingdom Will Stevens Marussia-Ferrari 0 Fuel system 20
Source:[50]

Championship standings after the race

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.

References

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External links


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2015 Australian Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
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