x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Formula One Notebook: After the Malaysia Grand Prix

Old rivals Hamilton and Alonso clash again and the figures look even better for Sebastian Vettel, the reigning champion.

Hamilton and Alonso

The collision between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton with just over 10 laps to go was the latest chapter in the long-standing bad feelings between the rival drivers. The former teammates were fighting over a podium spot when Alonso clipped Hamilton's rear wheel, snapping off part of the rear wing of Alonso's Ferrari and damaging the floor of Hamilton's McLaren. Alonso was forced to pit and finished sixth; Hamilton struggled with the damaged floor and worn tyres and dropped from third to seventh. Stewards gave both drivers a 20-second penalty; Alonso for causing the collision and Hamilton for changing direction more than once to defend his position. "It was a disaster. ... It was a really terrible race," Hamilton said. Alonso was more positive. "[The collision] cost me maybe the podium today," he said.

Podium places

Sebastian Vettel has won four races in a row dating back to last season, and five of the last six F1 events. Yesterday's win was the 12th of his career. Jenson Button finished second and moved into second place in the standings, albeit already 24 points down on Vettel. It was his best finish since Italy last year. Renault's Nick Heidfeld was third, which allowed him to climb to seventh in the standings. On the podium for the first time since the 2009 race in Malaysia, Heidfeld said: "It's great, a podium for Renault, and a great step forward for the team."

Hispania Racing

Colin Kolles, the team principal of Hispania Racing, said he decided to stop both cars in order to avoid damage and spoke of finally being able to see "the light at the end of the tunnel" following a tough few months. Narain Karthikeyan, the Indian driver, retired from the race after 15 laps with high water temperatures, and teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi stopped because his car was unstable. Kolles said, however, that the team had reasons to be pleased considering it was the first time they took part in a race this year. "We stopped both cars just to be safe," he said. "We pitted [Liuzzi's] car twice to check the problem and found out there was a damage on the rear wing so we decided to stop just for safety reasons."


Renault's Vitaly Petrov had a spectacular crash on lap 54, when he ran wide at a corner and hit a kerb that propelled him into the air. As he crash-landed back on to the track it jolted loose the steering wheel. Even without the most important of driving aids, Petrov managed to come to a stop, albeit crashing into an advertising board.

The grid

There was movement on the grid before the race even started as positions were swapped after an agreement between the drivers. Initially the pole sitter and those who qualified in the odd-numbered slots were to start from the left side of the grid, giving them the best racing line into the first corner. However, the right side of the grid has a more-seasoned surface. Following a request from drivers, the FIA agreed to the change.


Teams held more discussions on how to cut costs so the smaller teams can better compete. Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren principal and Formula One Teams' Association chairman, said wealthy teams must recognise the importance of keeping the smaller teams. "F1 needs it," Whitmarsh told Autosport. "You don't have to go too far down the pit lane to know that unless we can continue to go down the path of controlling and reducing costs in F1 there will be problems."