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Team-Mate Battles

Team Mate Battles – Malaysian GP

In Formula One, the very first person you have to beat is your team-mate. So who did just that in Sepang? Let’s go through the teams and hand out the TMB points!

Click here to read the rules to which the drivers are being judged.

Points system:

1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.

3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.

5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on raceday.

Sauber:

Back down to Earth with a bump for Sauber after a disastrous race on Sunday. Marcus Ericsson spun himself out of 8th place on Lap 4, triggering the safety car that would change the complexion of the race. The Swede had been enjoying a good weekend up to that point, qualifying in the top 10 for the first time in his career to the detriment of Kimi Raikkonen. His pace through the practice sessions had also been good, usually 0.7 to 1 second quicker than Felipe Nasr, who attributed his poor weekend to a lack of balance.

Missing FP1 won’t have helped that, despite Nasr’s protestations to the contrary, claiming that his knowledge of Sepang didn’t hinder his Friday program. Sauber reserve Raffaele Marciello was just 0.6 seconds slower than Ericsson during FP1, a good initial showing for the man being groomed by Ferrari.

Nasr admitted his fault in his collision with Kimi Raikkonen’s left rear tyre, at the exact worst point on the circuit, the entrance to the pit lane. Scant consolation to the Finn, but owning up to mistakes is always a positive trait in a rookie (or any driver for that matter), and Felipe’s own race was destroyed by the incident. He showed good single lap pace during the race, and briefly looked as though he might fight the Red Bulls and Romain Grosjean for 10th place, but a total of four pit-stops due to tyre degradation consigned him to 12th place.

Fastest Lap: Felipe Nasr (1-1 to each) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Marcus Ericsson (3-3 to each) (after Round 2)
Race: Felipe Nasr (10-0 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 2)

Sauber: 14 – 4 to Felipe Nasr (Total After Round 2)

 

Manor Marussia:

At the second race of the season, it’s very easy to forget just how slow, laborious and boring the early days of winter testing can be. An installation lap here, a two hour break there to run ‘systems checks’, another installation lap and the day is done. Hard work for the teams and mechanics, but on the outside, it looks like needless caution. A necessary process though, as F1 cars and power units are complex and pernickety beasts. This is a process that Manor Marussia have not yet gone through in 2015.

Five minutes into FP1, both we and the team got the chance to see their interim 2015 car peel out onto the track and actually drive. Yes, the car was slow and remained so for the weekend, but out of the box in FP2, it was capable of a time within 107% of what a honed and fettled Mercedes with years of work could do. Manor are doomed for a year of negativity from Bernie Ecclestone while Force India still remain curiously interested in what a team at the back of the grid are doing, based on Bob Fernley’s post weekend comments about Manor’s inability to field two cars simultaneously.

Considering their resources, Manor’s stride from ‘never having driven’ to complete a Grand Prix in the space of three days is more impressive than McLaren’s gains. Roberto Merhi, after a shaky Friday, didn’t make a nuisance of himself over the weekend, while Will Stevens looked far more comfortable during the short amount of time he was out on track. Split points to both drivers, due to Steven’s inability to start.

Fastest lap: Split points (1 – 1 to each) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Split points (3 – 3 to each) (after Round 2)
Race: Split points (5 – 5 to each) (after Round 2)

Manor Marussia: 9 – 9 to each (Total After Round 2)

 

Lotus:

A dramatic but unfulfilling race for both of the Lotus drivers after the disappointment of Australia. Almost identical times in Q1 saw both men into Q2, but Romain Grosjean was almost a second quicker in the tricky damp conditions and allowed him to advance into Q3 and an ultimate 8th place, demoted to 10th for a minor infraction for jumping the pitlane queue leaving the pits. Pastor had emerged on track slightly too late, meaning he wasn’t able to match Romain’s pace.

Almost as quickly as his Australian race turned to pot, Pastor Maldonado’s first lap was also disastrous as he picked up a puncture from contact with Valtteri Bottas. Resulting in a very slow first lap and 37 second total pit stop, Pastor emerged dead last, even behind the similarly unfortunate Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Nasr after the safety car period. He also picked up a ten second time penalty for going too fast under the safety car but despite this, Pastor was able to mount a fight with Felipe Nasr, Jenson Button & Sergio Perez for his remaining time in the race. He ultimately had to retire from 12th place on Lap 47 with a brake problem. Romain Grosjean was one of the early stars of the race, being one of the men to not pit under the safety car. Rising to third behind Vettel & Hulkenberg, Grosjean was easily despatched by Lewis Hamilton once the freshly shod Mercedes got behind him and then got involved in a contretemps with Sergio Perez.

Both men entered the fast swooping left hander Turn 12 unwilling to yield to the other, with Grosjean on the outside. Tagged by Perez, Grosjean was spun at high speed but survived to continue thanks to the expansive escape areas that define a Herman Tilke circuit. To add to Grosjean’s frustration, his drinks bottle also stopped working, meaning an uncomfortable race in the high temperatures. Romain would finish in 11th place, 18 seconds behind the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat. Without the spin, its likely that Romain could have challenged Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo for the distant points places.

Fastest Lap: Romain Grosjean (1.5 – 0.5 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean (6 – 0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 2)
Race: Romain Grosjean (10 – 0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 2)

Lotus: 17.5 – 0.5 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 2)

 

Toro Rosso:

This is a genuinely tough decision to make, as both Toro Rosso rookies put in great performances on Sunday afternoon. Qualifying allowed both to shine at different points, with Carlos Sainz catching the eye in the dry conditions, before falling foul of the damp Q2. Making a mistake at Turn 14, Sainz had to settle for a lowly 15th place as team-mate Verstappen matched his dad’s best ever qualifying position by taking 6th place and all the rookie limelight.

The start and opening laps negated almost all of Verstappen’s qualifying work though, as a poor opening two laps moved him down to 10th place, while Carlos had jumped up to 11th and ran just 0.7 seconds behind Max and on a fresh set of medium tyres to Verstappen’s used. When the safety car came out, Max dived in for a fresh set of hards, but Carlos stayed out and climbed up to 4th place and briefly was one of the cars to hold up Lewis Hamilton.

Pitting on Lap 14 for a fresh set of hard tyres, Sainz ran a two stop strategy and a 24 lap final stint to close out the race. One less stop meant that he led the Toro Rosso/Red Bull pack after the stops had played out, with Sainz’s last stop coming on Lap 32 and Verstappen’s on Lap 40. Max’s fresher tyres and resulting superior pace allowed him to catch and pass Carlos, with the Spanish rookie falling back towards the chasing Red Bulls. A single lap extra probably would have resulted in Sainz finishing in 9th, but he held on to take 8th place, 10 seconds behind Max.

There really is no particular differentiator to make either Max’s or Carlos’ performances stand out over the other. Max’s points scoring was a new youngest points scorer record for F1, but simply being the younger of the two is insufficient reason to give him all the points. While the fastest lap and qualifying points are unquestionably Max’s, the fairest option for the race is to split the points. Toro Rosso really are on to something special with a pair who are so evenly matched.

Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen (1 – 1 to each) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Max Verstappen (3 – 3 to each) (after Round 2)
Race: Split points (7.5 – 2.5 to Max Verstappen) (after Round 2)

Toro Rosso: 11.5 – 6.5 to Max Verstappen (Total After Round 2)

 

Force India:

A race of turmoil for both of the Force India drivers after the chaos of Q2 left both eliminated. Nico Hulkenberg claimed 13th place, with Sergio Perez 0.4 seconds behind in 14th attributing being too late out onto the track to do any better in the increasingly damp conditions.

Nico Hulkenberg moved forwards at the start, climbing up to 7th on Lap 1, and then to 2nd under the safety car. He became the blockage that allowed Sebastian Vettel to open up the gap he needed to ensure a Ferrari win as a result, but his strategy of staying out on the medium tyres until Lap 15 didn’t pay much dividend, having fallen a full pitstop behind Vettel in the 8 laps between Lap 7 & 15. Perez struggled over the opening phase, falling to 16th on Lap 1, climbing back to 12th by the safety car as incidents unfolded ahead of him. Rising to 5th under the safety car, Sergio fell back down the order after it, his laptimes the slowest in the field – even slower than Roberto Merhi’s Manor at one point. Sergio attributed this to tyre degradation, but had no excuses for the silly incident with Romain Grosjean which spun the Lotus driver at high speed.

Speaking last summer after the Perez/Massa crash in Canada, Grosjean suggested to Sergio that owning up to errors and owning his mistakes would be beneficial, but Sergio certainly wasn’t doing so after causing the spin at Turn 12. Perez said afterwards that “I felt I had nowhere to go and couldn’t avoid contact with Romain.” but more viewing suggests yielding the place might have prevented the incident. The FIA seemed to agree, penalising the Mexican ten seconds and giving three points on his licence. Hulkenberg also picked up a ten second penalty for spinning Daniil Kvyat, but avoided being given points.

Despite Nico’s good opening phase, he ended up finishing behind Sergio due to initially attempting a two stop strategy and complete Laps 31-56 on the hard tyre. Severe tyre degradation meant another stop on Lap 44 to get him to the end, dropping him behind Perez. While he caught up rapidly with a lap to go, Nico didn’t try too hard to get past on the final lap and the pair finished 13th and 14th.

Fastest Lap: Nico Hulkenberg (1 – 1 to each) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg (6 – 0 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 2)
Race: Sergio Perez (5 – 5 to each) (after Round 2)

Force India: 12 – 6 to Nico Hulkenberg (Total After Round 2)

©FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO
©FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO

McLaren:

Back to full strength on the driving front, McLaren certainly seemed to have turned up their performance a little for Malaysia. The long straights and intense heat threatened to expose any power weaknesses the Honda power unit may have, and while the McLaren drivers were right down near the bottom of the speed trap figures in qualifying, the gap was not as astronomical as you might envisage….just 13 km/h deficit to the Mercedes powered Williams.

Despite their more reasonable laptimes and reduced deficit, McLaren still weren’t able to make it into Q2 having fallen less than 0.5 seconds shy of the Force India men. Jenson Button pipped past Fernando Alonso on his final run, just 0.110 seconds separating the pair at the end. First blood to Jenson, but Fernando immediately got in front at the race start.

Both started the race on the hard tyre, and Fernando jumped up to 15th past Jenson, Sergio Perez & the punctured Pastor Maldonado. Jenson quickly followed suit and when the safety car came out, they both pitted to swap to the favoured medium tyre. Jenson got held up by 7 seconds in the pits due to pitting immediately directly behind Fernando and having to stack, and lost time after the safety car. This was due to emerging behind Roberto Merhi, who didn’t catch up to the back of the train before the safety car’s withdrawal, meaning Jenson had a 6 second gap in front of him to Fernando as racing resumed. He quickly caught back up, and the pair rose up to 9th and 10th as others pitted, before Alonso withdrew on Lap 22 with an ERS problem. Jenson pitted again on Lap 21 for another new set of mediums, and circulated between 15th and 11th until another stop on Lap 35. Running 16th, he retired on Lap 41 with a turbo problem.

While McLaren’s performance did look more competitive than Australia, the gap remains significant. Neither car completed the race distance, with Honda’s Yasuhisa Arai attributing the failures to ‘harsh use of the power unit’, and not the heat. Does this mean McLaren did indeed up their power levels for Malaysia after conservative running in Melbourne? If they did, then the double failure suggests there is a lot more work to be done before points are on the menu.

Split points to both for the race, as the 21 laps of comparison is inconclusive. Fernando possibly shades it for a better first lap, but the gap out on track was negligible by the time Fernando retired, so split points seems fairest.

Fastest Lap: Jenson Button (1.5 – 0.5 to Jenson Button) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Jenson Button (6 – 0 to Jenson Button) (after Round 2)
Race: Split points (2.5 to each) (after Round 2)

McLaren: 12.5 – 5.5 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 2)

 

Ferrari:

Just like that, Fernando Alonso seems like a distant memory. A win in only his second race with the Scuderia isn’t quite the signal that another era of dominance is just around the corner, but it does send a very clear marker to Mercedes that their firm grip on the 2015 Championships may be a lot more slippery and sweaty than envisaged after Australia. After a less than perfect getaway off the line, Vettel put Nico Rosberg away comfortably through Turn 1, and made a break for it when the Mercs pitted under the safety car.

There are very few drivers quite as comfortable leading a race as Sebastian Vettel, and once he was there and had established a lead by the time Hamilton had worked his way back up to second, there was little chance of the German Champion being caught. His pace was metronomic too. After his first pitstop on Lap 17, Vettel pumped in a few 1.44s before rattling off a chain of 10 laps between 1.45.0 & 1.45.5, only dipping to 1.45.7s in the immediate laps before his final stop for the hard tyres.

The real question mark over Ferrari is whether Kimi Raikkonen would also have challenged for the win with a more fortunate qualifying run. The Finn appeared to have greater long run pace on Friday, finishing both FP1 & FP2 with half a second in his pocket over Sebastian. While he was still faster in FP3, Vettel had closed Kimi’s advantage down to just 0.021 seconds before comfortably getting through qualifying and onto the front row. Raikkonen’s infamous bad luck continued, getting stymied by the blameless Marcus Ericsson in Q2, before having his race destroyed by Felipe Nasr.

For the second consecutive year, Raikkonen had to complete a full lap of Sepang on three wheels after picking up a puncture from a rookie’s front wing, but luckily had an early safety to help close the gap. More evidence of Ferrari’s improved strategic nous came on Lap 14. Catching the train of Toro Rossos, Red Bulls, Williams and Force Indias, Raikkonen dived into the pits despite lapping several seconds a lap faster than the cars in front of him. Once the stops played out, Raikkonen was ahead of them all. Between Laps 30 & 56, Kimi lost a total of 15 seconds to Vettel. This was despite running a similar tyre strategy and running in clear air. While minor damage may have played a part, Vettel looked the stronger man on Sunday.

Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (1 – 1 to each) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel (6 – 0 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 2)
Race: Sebastian Vettel (10 – 0 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 2)

Ferrari: 17 – 1 to Sebastian Vettel (Total After Round 1)

 

Williams:

Valtteri Bottas resumed his cockpit on Friday morning, despite Adrian Sutil’s best efforts with a blonde voodoo doll and some needles, and had no problems getting back into the swing of things by going 0.3 seconds faster than Felipe Massa. Qualifying swung in Massa’s favour, lapping 0.7 seconds faster than Bottas to take 7th while the Finn took 9th.

Valtteri would start from 8th after Grosjean’s penalty, but had an appalling first lap. He said after the race that he was ‘always in the wrong place at the wrong time’, and this meant that he finished Lap 1 down in 14th place. Both pitted under the safety car and when action resumed, Felipe was in 8th place and Valtteri in 12th. Bottas picked off Sergio Perez, Daniil Kvyat & Max Verstappen quite quickly to close within a second of Felipe by Lap 13. As cars in front started to pit, the Williams pair rose to 4th and 5th with Valtteri unable to pass Felipe. The next round of stops saw them both run medium tyres for the same length of time, before embarking on a final stint on the hard tyres.

This meant both drivers ran a near-identical strategy through the race, and the gap between the pair at its biggest was 6 seconds, growing to that after the pair had pitted for the second time. After the third stop, Valtteri quickly closed down Felipe and the pair began duelling over 5th and 6th spot. Felipe was a little obstreperous in his defence of the position after Valtteri made a move around the outside into Turn 1, but the Finn outdragged Massa at Turn 4 on Lap 55 and pulled three seconds clear by the flag. After failing to clear Felipe at the same circuit in similar circumstances last year, Valtteri has sent a very clear message to Massa by taking the position. However, with Williams seemingly relegated to at least third fastest team over winter, a first win may not yet happen for the popular Bottas.

Fastest Lap: Felipe Massa (1.5 – 0.5 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Felipe Massa (4.5 – 1.5 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 2)
Race: Valtteri Bottas (7.5 – 2.5 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 2)

Williams: 9.5 – 8.5 to Valtteri Bottas (Total After Round 2)

 

Red Bull:

It almost seems obligatory for the Red Bull drivers to squabble for position at Sepang, as this was the third year in a row that they’ve done so. From Vettel & Webber’s infamous Multi-21 declaration of war in 2013, to Daniel Ricciardo making a statement with Vettel last year, Ricciardo and Kyvat enjoyed a nice battle between themselves for minor points placings on Sunday.

While not obvious in footage or pictures, Daniel Ricciardo picked up some minor front wing damage on the opening lap of the race. The Australian had qualified a great fourth place, with Kvyat taking fifth, suggesting the Renault engine isn’t quite as lacking in power as Australia suggested. Daniel held onto 4th until the safety car, while Daniil lost out to Felipe Massa. Both Red Bull men pitted for new medium tyres under the safety car, and Daniil lost time due to having to stack behind Daniel. This shuffled the Russian back to 11th on the restart, while Ricciardo held onto 7th place.

Daniel quickly climbed past Sergio Perez, and pitted again on Lap 18 for the hard tyre, his chosen compound for the remainder of the afternoon. Kvyat followed suit on Lap 21, also switching to the hard tyre. After these pit stops, only a second separated the Red Bull pair, led on track by Nico Hulkenberg with Max Verstappen in between. Max then overtook Ricciardo and pulled clear, as the Red Bulls engaged Hulkenberg in battle. After passing Daniel on track, Daniil fought with Nico through Turns 1 & 2, with the Force India spinning the Red Bull at Turn 2. Nico would pick up a ten second penalty for the incident, while Daniil had to catch back up again having lost around 7 seconds due to the incident.

Another pitstop each meant Daniel retained a seven second advantage over Daniil starting the final phase of the race, but climbing brake temperatures and fading stopping power slowed both men, Daniel more so. Coupled with the aforementioned front wing damage, Daniil was able to catch back up on Daniel and overtook on Lap 52. He then quickly closed down Carlos Sainz who was fading on old tyres, but ran out of time and missed out on 8th place.

With Red Bull fading from the front since last year, it will be interesting to see how the team respond. Since the team’s inception in 2005, they have always had at least one experienced driver in their line-up, starting with David Coulthard, then Mark Webber, with Vettel leading the way in 2014. Now that Vettel has departed, Ricciardo has been thrust into leading an expected front-running team, with backup coming in the form of an inexperienced Kvyat. A far higher pressure situation than the Australian found himself in last season, can he rise to it and help Red Bull & Renault find their way?

Fastest Lap: Daniil Kvyat (1.5 – 0.5 to Daniil Kvyat) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo (6 – 0 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 2)
Race: Daniil Kvyat (7.5 – 2.5 to Daniil Kvyat) (after Round 2)

Red Bull: 9 – 9 to each (Total After Round 2)

 

Mercedes:

Did Malaysia expose Nico Rosberg? A poor qualifying session compared to the surefooted wet pole lap of Hamilton saw a 0.4 second gap between the two, with Vettel’s Ferrari sneaking in between. After his throwaway comments after Australia about hoping for a closer battle with Ferrari, his words came back to haunt him on Sunday, when Sebastian Vettel handled his Turn 1 advances with ease, before overtaking him again later in the race. Not only did he overtake him, but Vettel was barely even held up by Nico. So what would have happened in a more straightforward race for Mercedes?

Mercedes’ mistake was in assuming that the leaders would all pit under the safety car, mixed with a sense of complacency that their car had the outright pace to overcome anything that went wrong. This would have been the case had any other car but the Ferrari managed to get into the lead, but one could forgive Mercedes for that sense of complacency, such has been their performance advantage for the last 18 months. The early stop shuffled both their men into traffic, and while Lewis Hamilton quickly carved his way back from 6th on Lap 6 to 2nd on Lap 10, losing a total of 6.5 seconds to Vettel in the process, Rosberg lost 13 seconds in traffic. Being backed up behind Lewis in the pits meant Nico emerged in 9th after his stop, and spent until Lap 14 getting back to 3rd. Crucially, he also lost 7.5 seconds to Lewis in those intervening laps.

The gap grew to 13 seconds between the pair on Lap 27 after their second stops, and Nico pegged the gap from there, closing in over the remainder of the race to just 4 seconds. Being quicker than Lewis on Sunday is only of use if you’re in front, and Nico hasn’t been in that position since Brazil last season. The increased competition with Ferrari is more likely to be the thorn in Nico’s side than it is Lewis’.

Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (1 – 1 to each) (after Round 2)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (6 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 2)
Race: Lewis Hamilton (10 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 2)

Mercedes: 17 – 1 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 2)

 

Totals:

  • Romain Grosjean – 17.5 points
  • Lewis Hamilton – 17 points
  • Sebastian Vettel – 17 points
  • Felipe Nasr – 14 points
  • Jenson Button – 12.5 points*
  • Nico Hulkenberg – 12 points
  • Max Verstappen – 11.5 points
  • Valtteri Bottas –  9.5 points
  • Daniil Kvyat – 9 points
  • Daniel Ricciardo – 9 points
  • Felipe Massa – 8.5 points
  • Carlos Sainz – 6.5 points
  • Sergio Perez – 6 points
  • Fernando Alonso – 5.5 points*
  • Marcus Ericsson – 4 points
  • Kevin Magnussen – 3 points*
  • Kimi Raikkonen – 1 point
  • Nico Rosberg – 1 point
  • Pastor Maldonado – 0.5 points

-Manor excluded until true average emerges.

*Due to split points in Melbourne

Team Mate Battles – Australian GP

Thomas Maher

Co-owner, Chief Editor and a journalist for FormulaSpy.com - Ireland's only accredited F1 & Formula E website. Also working in the Irish radio broadcasting industry. Donations: PayPal - paypal.me/thomasmaheronf1 ETH/ERC20 - 0x9d0b8071180AAcB0bD5f0c1d43281768C73e8763

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