It’s said that good things come to those who wait. Frustratingly this might just have to be the case for the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team, who despite an awesome drive, and podium, from Nico Rosberg, came tantalizingly close to securing a record third constructors’ championship title at the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix.
With a near perfect 40-laps under his belt, Silver Arrows racer Lewis Hamilton was zeroing in on the all-important Grand Prix victory. Lewis clocked in a long early stint from his pole position slot on the super-sticky soft tyres, before diving into the pits and switching to hard compound’s in order to bank enough time to allow for a second visit to the pit lane.
Right up until 15 laps before the chequered flag, the 31 year old racer had nailed a near flawless weekend in Malaysia; netting his 57th career pole position - his fourth at the Sepang International Circuit and eighth of the 2016 season so far.
On course to spray the champagne and grab the points advantage needed to secure the team the coveted manufacturer title, Lewis had done all he could from his 900bhp office. Then, at turn one, his hopes of a podium burst into flames. An unexpected fire within the engine bay of his Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid forced Lewis to park it, and watch the remaining laps from the sidelines.
“Max (Verstappen) was in my pit window so I was just trying to push him out of it. I think I'd done that, almost. But then, on the straight, I just lost power all of a sudden. You could hear something blew and I obviously had to stop,” explained Lewis. “Honestly, you've got to understand it from my point of view. On one side, we've had the most incredible success these past two years, for which I'm so grateful. These guys work so hard and we're all feeling the pain right now. When you get out of the car - that feeling you have after leading the race and then your car fails - it's pretty hard to say positive things at the time. As I said in the TV interviews, Mercedes have built 43 engines or however many it might be with the extra three I've had, and I have happen to have most of, if not all of, the failures. So, that is definitely tough to take. But I have 100% confidence in these guys. It's my fourth year with them now and the guys in the garage and back at the factories - I have 100% faith in them. I love it here and without them I would not have won these two Championships.
Lewis continued: “While the struggle is real right now and has been all year, I honestly feel that it's a test of my will, my spirit and who I am as a person to get back in and keep fighting it head on. It's not how you fall, it's how you get back up. That applies not just to me but to the guys as well. I saw tears in the eyes of my mechanics so I know that we all bear the pain. But, as I said, it's how we re-group. We have to keep in mind what we've already built. Whilst it does not feel great right now, as long as I end the year knowing that I've given it everything, done everything I could possibly do and that we've done everything we could possibly do, that's all you can ask for. Don't forget that I'm World Champion. I'll be okay.”
It was a tough pill to swallow for Lewis, considering the performance he had clocked up through out intense and humid weekend. Even more so considering he had successfully scorched away cleanly at the lights and avoided the turn on melee that had claimed the early part of Nico Rosberg's race.
Qualifying into P2, things looked set for another epic showdown between the Silver Arrows. However off the lights, fifth placed Sebastian Vettel pulled an over ambitious pass down the inside of Max Verstappen, only to lock up his breaks and collide with Nico.
The resulting contact pitched Nico into a spin, and saw him emerge from a cloud of tyre smoke at the back of the field. Queue the ultimate recovery drive from the 31 year old German, who despite a 10 second penalty, still managed to score his 52nd career podium - his 50th top three finish with the Silver Arrows, not to mention his second at the Sepang International Circuit and 11th of the 2016 season so far.
"At turn one I thought it was all over, so I'm happy to fight back and make it to the podium,” said a delighted Nico. “I wished for a better day but that's how it goes. It is a positive moment and I look forward to the next one. Maximum attack. The impact was really hard so I thought that my car must have been broken.
But it was awesome that my car held on and I was able to turn it around quite quickly and fight my way back through. I can't believe I was in third place. I never expected it. It all worked out well I leave here with a third place. I'm sure Lewis is feeling absolutely gutted. I've been there before and know how it feels when your car gives up on you, and it is pretty horrible. You depend on technology and the car and you are doing a good job. It is a tough moment."
While the team will have to put the cans on ice for the moment, the good news for the fans is that the battle for the championship titles now moves on to next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at the legendary Suzuka International Circuit. Stay tuned for lights out on the 9th of October.
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 56 1h37m12.776s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 56 2.443s
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 56 25.516s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 56 28.785s
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 56 1m01.582s
6 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 56 1m03.794s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 56 1m05.205s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 56 1m14.062s
9 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 56 1m21.816s
10 Jolyon Palmer Renault 56 1m35.466s
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 56 1m38.878s
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 55 1 Lap
13 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 55 1 Lap
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 55 1 Lap
15 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 55 1 Lap
16 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes 55 1 Lap
- Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 46 Retirement
- Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 40 Engine
- Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 39 Retirement
- Kevin Magnussen Renault 17 Retirement
- Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 7 Brakes
- Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0 Collision