Race - Malaysian GP report: Mercedes
Double podium for MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS in enthralling Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit
— Lewis and Nico claimed a second consecutive double podium today, finishing P2 and P3 respectively
— Both drivers made clean starts to hold station in P1 / P3, only to then lose track position in the pits following the emergence of the Safety Car
— Lewis and Nico battled back strongly to return to the podium places, but top spot was out of reach after a strong performance from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari
— Lewis ran an Option / Prime / Option / Prime strategy, Nico Option / Prime / Prime / Option
— Lewis marked his 150th Grand Prix start with his 72nd podium, while Nico claimed the 10th fastest race lap and 28th podium of his Formula One career
First of all, huge congratulations to Seb and Ferrari. You have to hand it to them – I wasn’t expecting them to be as quick as they were today but they had some serious pace and deserved the win. It’s great for the fans to see them up here. It was a tough race out there. I was struggling with the balance today and never really felt comfortable with the car. There was so much understeer that tyre management was really hard. When I went to the option it was much better, so I thought we’d use it again at the end and was surprised we went with the prime. But I made the best I could with it and ultimately I’m sure the team made the call for the right reasons. There was a bit of confusion on the radio at one point where I wasn’t quite sure what we were doing on the strategy but I’m not sure if pitting with Seb would have made the difference anyway. They were as fast if not faster than us today and once I had that gap to make up it was just a step too far. I’m now looking forward to the next race and fighting to get back to the front again.
That wasn’t a great weekend for me and I cannot be happy with third place. When the Safety Car came out I lost a lot of time in the pits. I expected to have to wait behind Lewis but it was letting some other cars by that cost the places – especially waiting for the Red Bull queue to move, I think it was. So I had to fight through to the top positions which was tough but my race pace was okay, so I can build on that. We have to congratulate Sebastian and Ferrari. They had a great race pace today and it’s very impressive how they improved over the winter. Now this will be a fight against Ferrari I guess – and we want to strike back in Shanghai.
Our first feeling today is obviously one of disappointment. We were beaten fair and square by Ferrari and Sebastian, who did a fantastic job, and I’m not sure we could have matched their long run pace at any point. They took a well-deserved win. We saw on Friday that Kimi was really strong in these hot conditions, with the track over 60 degrees, and that was confirmed in the race. Of course, it’s easy to be clever after the race looking at things we could have done better and there are certainly plenty of points that could have been optimised. But we take these decisions together as a team and this is the moment to stay calm, do our analysis and learn what we can improve for next time. It was a complicated race for the team to read – and for the drivers, too, from the cockpit. We had some interesting radio discussions and both guys did a great job to deliver the double podium at the finish. But I think we can also take a step back and look at the sport today. Always it seems that when people are making the most noise about changing the rules, Formula One delivers. It was the case in Bahrain last year and we saw it again today. It wasn’t a perfect day for Mercedes but it was a good one for Formula One.
First of all, congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian on an impressive victory. Coming into the race, there were two main choices to be made: whether to make two or three stops, and whether the Prime or the Option would be the better race tyre. It was clear yesterday that opinion was divided on that question, as we saw the leading teams using different tyre compounds in Q1. We saved new Prime tyres for the race, while others saved new Options. We planned a three-stop strategy favouring the Prime tyre and, although the Safety Car came out early, it was late enough to be used as the first of our three stops. With hindsight, the advantage this gave to Ferrari on their two-stop strategy, and the time we lost in traffic in the first laps after the Safety Car, left us with a gap to Sebastian that proved too much of a challenge for us to recover – especially considering that we did not have an underlying pace advantage to Ferrari, who were very competitive this weekend. Nonetheless, we scored a good haul of points with P2 and P3 and I must also say well done to the team, who performed brilliantly on one of the most difficult weekends for human endurance.