The Inside Line #49: The way the cookie crumbles

TILI Logo PrintLewis Hamilton arrived in Kuala Lumpur for last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix with precisely zero points to show for his endeavours in Australia, which included a hugely meritorious pole position in dreadful conditions to kick off the new V6 turbo era for Mercedes. His race, however, was almost over before it started.

A hairline split in a rubber tube the team admitted was worth all of $A1.50 caused a spark that saw his Mercedes drop a cylinder, a blow that would have been made even more bitter as teammate Nico Rosberg strolled to a win Hamilton would have undoubtedly felt should have been his.

Perhaps mindful of getting his hopes up too high after his disappointment in Melbourne, Hamilton was more pleased than ecstatic after taking pole again at Sepang last weekend, choosing to adopt a low-key approach after his 33rd career pole and tweeting a photo of a full barrel of biscuits in the Mercedes hospitality area with the words ‘if only …’. It’s a sentiment that could have summed up his race day in Australia, but in Malaysia, he emphatically sated his hunger for a win. Pole was converted to a dominant 17-second victory, while he led for 55 of the 56 laps and set the fastest race lap to boot. Disappointment one race, delight the next – as ever in sport, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. [1]

Hamilton’s extension of Mercedes’ perfect start to the season and all of the other stories to emerge from the Malaysian Grand Prix is the main focus on this week’s episode of ‘The Inside Line’.

Episode 49 also looks at Daniel Ricciardo’s second straight race of disasters through no fault of his own [2], and examines the intra-team squabble at Williams between the team’s pit wall and a defiant Felipe Massa in the closing stages, a story that will run and run between Sepang and Sakhir when the teams assemble at next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Quite how Massa felt when he was told that “Valtteri (Bottas) is faster than you” over the team radio late in the race is unimaginable; after years of being treated as a subservient doormat to Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso at Ferrari, it’s probably little wonder that he refused to heed the instruction, choosing instead to deal with the fallout later [3]. Somewhat lost in the wash of the Williams wrangle was that, for the second straight race, the team scored 10 points, and fighting over points-paying finishes for both cars last year was as unlikely as Red Bull being able to affix a wheel properly to the machinery being steered by an Australian driver. And people wonder why F1 encourages so many conspiracy theories …

There’s all that and plenty more besides on ‘The Inside Line’, which you can watch on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm AEDT on Wednesday April 2, and/or on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 9.30pm AEDT Thursday April 3. Just be sure to clean up your biscuit crumbs afterwards.

—————

[1] Very, very close to a Dad joke. I won’t make a habit of them.

[2] Another fuel sensor failure. Followed by an incorrectly fitted wheel at a pit stop. Followed by a front wing failure and subsequent puncture. Followed by a retirement. Followed by a 10-place grid penalty for Bahrain. And we thought Mark Webber was the unlucky Australian …

[3] My quick summation: Massa was right to do what he did. Wasn’t like Bottas was crawling all over him to get past and go after sixth-placed Jenson Button in the closing laps. Is it worth upsetting the harmony within the team for two measly points, given there are 17 other races remaining? As a way to make a hash of a feel-good story, Williams can consider Malaysia to be a success.

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