Race Malaysian GP report: McLaren Mercedes
From eighth (Kevin) and 10th (Jenson) on the grid, both drivers made clean getaways. However, Kevin tangled with Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari as the pair jostled for position into Turn Two. The resultant contact shattered Kevin’s left-hand-side front-wing end-plate, losing him downforce during his first stint and causing him to drop behind Jenson, and struggle to keep both Williams drivers at bay.
Kevin stopped for fresh tyres on lap nine, during which pit-stop the team also fitted a new nose-box to his car. However, soon afterwards, he was awarded a five-second stop-go penalty in respect of his coming-together with Kimi, which he took at the start of his second pit-stop. Despite those setbacks, he pushed hard until the end, finishing ninth, his second consecutive points finish in as many grands prix.
Jenson’s race was incident-free – he vaulted Kevin to run seventh in the early laps, expertly keeping Felipe Massa’s Williams at bay throughout the first stint. He gained another place when the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo was delayed by a number of issues in the middle of the race. Then, in the closing laps, he put up a spirited defence, again facing an attack from Felipe, to come home sixth.
With four points finishes from four starts in 2014, McLaren currently sits second in the constructors’ world championship.
“It was hot out there this afternoon! And when you’ve spent all that time watching the two Williams battling in your mirrors, it makes it feel even hotter.
“Still, it was an enjoyable race, and I couldn’t really have expected more. I think we got the most we could out of the package this afternoon, and I didn’t think I’d be finishing sixth after the way the car had performed earlier in the weekend.
“It’s encouraging for all the guys that we called both the pit-stops and the fuel usage perfectly throughout the race. I also want to say a big ‘thanks’ to everyone back at the MTC [McLaren Technology Centre] for working so hard to bring the updates to the track. Every little helps.
“Nonetheless, there’s no getting away from the fact that we’re still weak in the high-speed corners; this car does have its strengths, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We got the best out of the car today, but we know we still need to improve.”
“I’m sorry for the team that I messed things up going into the second corner, with the incident with Kimi. I think we could have scored some good points today, so I’m disappointed with and for myself, too. Grands prix are long races, so I shouldn’t have made a mistake like that so early on in the afternoon.
“But that sort of stuff happens sometimes – and, when it does, you just have to learn from it, and I will.
“After the incident, it wasn’t easy to recover, and we struggled with the high track temperatures, and in the high-speed corners, too.
“As I say, I’ll learn from this race and I’ll see what I can do at the next one. It’s good that the Bahrain Grand Prix is so soon; it’ll feel good to put this one behind me, and move on.”
“Clearly, we’d expected to be leaving Sepang with rather more than the 10 points we scored here this afternoon.
“Having said that, Jenson drove a faultless race, moving steadily from his P10 grid slot to P6 at flag-fall. Had qualifying gone better for him, perhaps he could have finished a little farther up, but probably not much.
“Kevin made a good start, but, as he shaped up to pass Kimi’s Ferrari, the two cars touched, causing a puncture for Kimi and a broken left-side front-wing end-plate for Kevin.
“Kevin’s first pit-stop was consequently elongated by our need to fit a replacement nose-cone assembly, which deficit was compounded by the stop-go penalty he was awarded soon after.
“Such races are a Formula 1 rookie’s rights of passage, inevitable and unsurprising, but Kevin’s reaction was impressive from two perspectives: first, he put his head down and drove his heart out for the remainder of the afternoon, recovering very well to finish ninth at the finish; and, second, he apologised to the team unreservedly on the slowing-down lap, which wasn’t strictly necessary but was good to hear all the same.
“Overall, then, despite having got both our cars to the finish in points-scoring positions, we’re far from satisfied; but we’re working tirelessly to improve things, and that’s exactly what we’ll do.
“From here we go to Bahrain, where we hope to spice things up a bit by putting on a better show in the home race of our principal shareholder, Mumtalakat.”