Mar 31, 2014

    It's Merc 1-2 after 59 yrs


    BRITAIN'S Lewis Hamilton led the first Mercedes one-two in 59 years yesterday as he stormed into the Formula One drivers' title race with a commanding victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    He streaked away from pole position and was never pressured as he finished ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg, with four-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel third for Red Bull.

    It was the first time both Mercedes drivers have led the field since 1955, when the German marque departed the sport before returning in 2010 and now confirming themselves as the team to beat in F1's new era.

    Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was fourth and Nico Huelkenberg placed a creditable fifth for Force India.

    The win was sweet for Hamilton, who ended an eight-month win drought since Hungary last July and who was frustrated at the season-opener in Australia when he had to retire early.

    Malaysia's notorious downpours were largely absent as the 2008 world champion finished 17 seconds ahead of Rosberg, who leads the overall standings with 43 points to Hamilton's 25.

    Afterwards, Hamilton paid tribute to the victims of the missing airliner MH370, which cast a shadow over the race and was blamed for poor ticket sales, with the Sepang circuit only about half-full.

    "Incredible, incredible," Hamilton said of the win. "I just feel so grateful, particularly after such a tragedy three weeks ago. I would like to dedicate it to those people and their families."

    Given Red Bull's struggles in pre-season and his own troubles in Melbourne, when he was forced to retire, Vettel was delighted to make the podium.

    "Congratulations to them (Mercedes), they are bloody quick, the package they have is very strong," he told reporters. "For us there are mostly positives. It's much better than what we expected during the winter."

    After a minute's silence for the MH370 missing, Hamilton got away smoothly from pole as Rosberg squeezed inside Vettel and into second position on the starting straight.

    So dominant was Hamilton that he had a 5.2-second lead by Lap 9, with Rosberg nearly four seconds ahead of Vettel in third and Daniel Ricciardo fourth in the second Red Bull.

    By the halfway mark, Hamilton had a 10-second lead and Mercedes' relaxed instructions to the former world champion were simply to "keep doing what you're doing".

    After the race, Rosberg admitted that he had been outpaced: "I was trying to chase Lewis but he was a bit too quick today."

    Ricciardo's nightmare continued from where he left off two weeks ago, when he was disqualified from second place for a fuel-sensor issue in Melbourne. Red Bull reported trouble with his fuel sensor yesterday but then disaster struck the Australian as, after his third pit stop, he drove off with a loose front left wheel and had to go back to the garage.

    It got worse when his front wing came loose and he had to return to the pits again, finally rejoining in 16th.

    Officials then compounded his misery when they pulled him in for a 10-second stop-go penalty for the unsafe pit-stop release. He retired before the finish.