Well, there is no brighter way to start a day than with a smiley, bouncy Lewis Hamilton, is there? It’s been way too long since Lewis has had a car commensurate with his talent — sorry, McLaren. Today’s easy one-two shows the Mercedes W05 is clearly an awful lot faster than anything else on these new-look, hush-hush grids. We going to be seeing a lot of pictures of a beaming Lewis this year, hearing God Save the Queen and generally getting juiced by the idea of a second world championship.
But… that was not the most exciting race. Sure, lots of little battles here and there, but no team looked like it had any ambition higher than third. Mercedes doesn’t always get its pricey marquee projects right (Smart, the original A-Class, the fuel cell hype…), but it has spent massively on winning with its own name in F1 and this time it’s got it right. Two weeks ago the company wasted no time in rushing out and ad drawing parallels between the W05 and the latest, hybrid S-Class (yeah, us neither). Don’t expect it to keep quiet about today’s result, its first one-two since the days of the real Silberpfiel.
Good then to hear Paddy Lowe name check Ross Brawn on the BBC this morning — you can’t make a team work this well inside three months. Lowe also seemed pumped that F1 is now even more complicated, even more strategic. We saw for the first time today a fuel graphic today which told us that not only did the Mercs finish the race with more than a splash of four star left in the tank, but generally gave us viewers yet another variable to factor in.
We’ve only just go used to understanding whose tyres are working and whose are not, now we have to work out who is actually racing their F1 cars and who is merely cruising it, short shifting when a beep goes off in his ear. Lowe clearly thinks this is a good thing. But do we want to see a race or engage in a complex, real-time multi-dimensional puzzle? No wonder the organisers hired Sherlock to decode this one (and even he failed).
So, races or puzzles? You tell us.
There was racing today, some good racing and mostly between teammates. Daniel Ricciardo messed big time with the RBR hierarchy in the opening two laps. Vettel, third today, immediately set the grumpy button to G11: “Please speak up when you talk to me”, he said, which fresh off the back of “DO SOMETHING!” in Australia rather gives the lie to the Sweet Sebastian line. In any case Red Bull Karma worked its wonders and Ricciardo’s race fell apart in such a way as to suggest Red Bull is really feeling the pressure as it tries to bring the RB10 up to speed.
Meanwhile over at Williams someone should be getting a rocket right now. And that probably shouldn’t be Felipe Massa, who has every reason to be throwing a big hissy fit despite not getting out of the way of teammate Valtteri Bottas. Instead the joker who scripted the words “Valtteri is faster than you…” should either be given his P45, or a medal.
Ferrari’s drivers didn’t have the chance to race — frustratingly — but both enjoyed a surge towards the end, Alonso passing a two-stopping Hulkenberg (the pack all three-stopped) for fourth and Raikkonen coming back from a puncture to land outside the points just behind Grosjean, although that actually says more about the significantly improved performance of the Lotus. Grosjean is way too good to be mixing it with the Caterhams (13th today with Kobayashi) and Marussias (nowhere and broken).
Teammates Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen both made it into the points (sixth and ninth after a nose-job for Magnussen), but the team has not made progress. Jenson Button, usually the most charming man on the grid was anything but in that place they call ‘the pen’ afterwards. Normally when JB gets like this it’s a precursor to a long and difficult summer. He can’t afford that. Not with a talent like Magnussen in front.
So, the Malaysian Grand Prix. A teams story and a tech story but not really a race story. Hands up who is happy at the prospect of a season of silver cars winning in very much the same way blue cars have done for the last four years?