Sepang: Lewis Hamilton got his title charge off the ground by putting in a flawless drive to win yesterday's Malaysian Grand Prix, the Briton cruising to the flag ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg in what was the perfect result for Mercedes.
The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton (left) and Nico Rosberg celebrate their victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
Hamilton led every single lap of the 56-lap race around the hot and sultry Sepang circuit to cross the line 17.3 seconds ahead of Rosberg and give Mercedes their first one-two finish since the German marque returned to the sport four years ago.
"Incredibly happy, my first time. It's my eighth year here and finally got that win. I really just owe it all to the team," Hamilton, who had to watch from the sidelines two weeks ago as his team-mate drove to a dominant win in Australia, said.
"It's quite special when you get a one-two. I've not had many in my career and so that makes it even more special. I'm really grateful for all the work that's done and… yeah, great day," he added.
Behind the two Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel bounced back from his pre-season troubles and a disastrous weekend in Australia, with a trouble-free drive to third that saw the reigning world champion return to the podium.
The German, at times, looked like he could perhaps challenge Rosberg, which combined with Daniel Ricciardo's performance in Australia highlight the massive strides his Red Bull team have made following a difficult winter.
"I think the car was very competitive, it's a completely different track, different conditions but yeah, we are there and that's the most important," Vettel said after the race. "I think it's much better than what we expected at some stage during the winter."
It wasn't all smooth sailing for Red Bull, however, as Ricciardo - who had looked to be on course for a strong fourth place finish - suffered a series of misfortunes in the space of a handful of laps, including an incorrectly fitted wheel, a failed front wing and a stop-go penalty, prompting Red Bull to retire his car.
Ricciardo's troubles elevated Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to fourth, the Spaniard finishing ahead of Nico Hulkenberg after a late-race tussle with the Force India driver.
Jenson Button was the lead McLaren in sixth while Williams driver Felipe Massa finished seventh, the former Ferrari man holding off team-mate Valtteri Bottas despite the team asking him to make way for the Finn.
McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, unable to repeat his podium-performance from the last race, finished ninth, while Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat kept his points-scoring run going with tenth.
Despite Hamilton's win, Rosberg, with 43 points, extends his lead at the top of the drivers' standings. Hamilton vaults to second, 18 behind his team-mate with Ferrari's Alonso just one point behind in third.
By AFP: "Incredibly happy. My first time. It's my eighth year here and finally got that win," said Hamilton, who finished 17 seconds ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg with world champion Sebastian Vettel third.
"I really just owe it all to the team... it's quite special when you get a one-two. I've not had many in my career and so that makes it even more special."
Hamilton's helmet was decorated with the words "Still I Rise", from a poem by American author Maya Angelou, which he also has tattooed on his back.
He said he has drawn inspiration from the line as he fought through career and personal setbacks after becoming what was then Formula One's youngest world champion at the age of 23.
Since then, Hamilton has not finished a season higher than fourth after his former team McLaren slipped behind Vettel's Red Bull in the pecking order.
Following a whirl of rumour and speculation, and ups and downs with his pop star girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, he took the tough decision to leave long-term employer McLaren for Mercedes last year.
Hamilton's past also includes a high-profile and acrimonious decision to ditch his father, Anthony, as his manager in 2010. But he said he still follows his father's life lessons.
"It's what I have tattooed on my back so I just added it to the helmet design and I think the metaphor is just that regardless of what difficulties you go through, you still rise above it," he said.
"That's really something my dad has always enforced in me. We've had so many ups and downs throughout our lives and our careers, as everyone has, but he would always 'say just rise above it' and do your talking on track."