| Lewis Hamilton, after winning the Malaysian Grand Prix, in Sepang, on Sunday. (AFP) |
Sepang: Lewis Hamilton won the Malaysian Grand Prix with a pole-to-flag victory ahead of Nico Rosberg on Sunday in a first Mercedes one-two since they returned to Formula One as a works team in 2010.
The 2008 world champion easily pulled away from his rivals on a dry track with a three-stop strategy to win the race by 17.3 seconds, his 23rd career victory and first in Malaysia at the eighth attempt.
“Incredibly happy, it’s my eighth year here (at Sepang) and finally I got that win,” the Briton told reporters after taking the chequered flag for his second win for Mercedes since he joined them last year and first points of the season.
“Its quite special to get a one-two, I haven’t had many in my career, so that makes it even more special. A great day,” added the former McLaren driver.
The Briton was also quick to dedicate his win to the passengers of the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which took off from the Kuala Lumpur airport adjacent to the Sepang track earlier this month, and is thought to have crashed, killing all 239 people aboard.
“After such a tragedy three weeks ago, I would like to dedicate this win to those people and their families,” Hamilton said.
Rosberg, who won the season opener in Australia two weeks ago, started in third place but squeezed past quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel into the first corner and was able to keep the Red Bull at bay and stay top of the driver standings.
It was Mercedes’ first one-two since 1955, their last year as a works team before 2010.
Rosberg almost touched the wall as he took Vettel at the start and struggled to manage his rear tyres in the early stages as the two Germans remained close before the Mercedes driver pulled away over the closing laps.
The second place finish moved him on to 43 points in the standings, 18 clear of Hamilton with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso third on 24 points after his second fourth of the season.
Mercedes took the lead from McLaren in the constructors’ standings.
“I had a really good start.. got away well and I thought Sebastian was going to put me into the wall but he stopped just before so thank-you for that,” Rosberg said.
“My heart skipped a beat a little bit but it was OK. I was trying to chase Lewis but he was a bit too quick today.”
Vettel finished third, 7.2 seconds behind Rosberg, for his first points of the season following an early retirement in Australia as he struggled to make an impact on the Mercedes pair without the rain that helped his qualifying bid on Saturday.
Having endured a tricky time during off season testing, Vettel was delighted to make the podium.
“Congratulations to them, they are bloody quick, the package they have is very, very strong,” Vettel told reporters.
“For us there is mostly positives. It's much better than what we expected during the winter.”
Alonso was involved in a tight battle with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg in the closing stages before finally overtaking the German although he will be disappointed that once again the Ferrari looked well short of challenging the Mercedes duo.
McLaren’s Jenson Button was sixth with Felipe Massa of Williams seventh just ahead of team mate Valtteri Bottas after the Brazilian refused to yield to his Finnish team mate despite team orders to do so.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was disqualified in Australia pending an appeal, missed out on points for the second race in a row after a disastrous third pit stop when he was in fourth.
Ricciardo was handed a 10 place grid penalty for next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix after Formula One stewards ruled he had left the pits in an unsafe manner.
The Australian driver, who had been in fourth place, pulled away from a stop before his front left wheel was fully attached with engineers sprinting down the pitlane to push him back and fix the issue.
Ricciardo was then given a 10 second penalty for the unsafe release but his chances of points were already over after he shredded a tyre and damaged a wing shortly before the stewards' decision and he retired before the end.
McLaren’s Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen and Toro Rosso's Russian newcomer Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10 of a race that suffered just a couple of light drops of rain despite concerns about possible thunderstorms.