The Malaysian Grand Prix always seems to throw up some controversy, whether it be team orders or generally disgruntled drivers. By race two, the novelty of the new season has worn off and at Sepang they just want results.
Malaysia is physically one of the toughest races on the calendar and drivers, happy or unhappy, are understandably never keen to chat when they’ve just sweated out three kilos and are what would be classed as seriously dehydrated by any medical professional. It is fair to say that on Sunday there were a few hot but mostly bothered drivers.
As you go through life you know the items, phrases and memories that conjure up bad feelings between family, friends and people. If you have any sense or respect, you try not to go there. I thought the phrasing of “Valtteri is faster than you” to Felipe Massa was in poor taste.
If it was a coincidence then it was poor memory recall but as soon as those words were uttered in that order Massa was never going to move. The second explanation from the engineer about Bottas being on newer tyres was how the order been delivered in the first place, if delivered at all.
I can imagine Rob Smedley – who joins the Williams team this weekend – was not at all pleased with the public pantomime and since he was the one who initially had to deliver the “Fernando is fast than you” message at the 2010 German Grand Prix against his wishes, to hear that again for his best friend and driver would not have sat well.
Felipe told me after the race that he and the team have a lot of respect for each other but when colleagues popped their heads into the Williams engineering room before the debrief started, there was a group of engineers at one side and Massa sitting alone and looking very unhappy at the other side of the room. We’ll find out this week whether things really have been resolved.
It wasn’t only Massa who was unhappy; his team-mate was too and had been on team radio from early on in the race saying he needed to get past Massa. When Bottas was told he had to wait until Felipe had overtaken, he was on the radio icy-cool telling his team that Massa had better get on with it. After the race, the Finn was also livid but said he needed to speak to the team before he made any comment.
Thankfully there were a few people who were justifiably happy. Last year the podium was one of the most miserable there’d been, with the two Red Bulls caught up in the multi-21 farce and a slightly embarrassed Lewis Hamilton who wasn’t happy after team orders meant that he had ended up on the podium instead of his team-mate.
This year though it was big smiles all round as Hamilton put in a commanding performance and made a tough race look like a walk in the park. Nico Rosberg was celebrating still being at the top of the drivers’ championship and a steady second while Sebastian Vettel was delighted with the turnaround from his Red Bull team.
When asked, Hamilton told me that this was the best Formula 1 car he had ever driven. Mercedes know that they are the target and they also know and can see how the other teams are closing the gap although for the rivals, the next race might come too soon. With just five days to go until the first ever Bahrain night race, you wouldn’t bet against another Mercedes victory.
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