Malaysian triumph for Hamilton
10:59am Sunday 30th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Lewis Hamilton's 100th points finish of his Formula One career proved to be a comfortable lights-to-flag win of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
It was a consummate performance from Hamilton and Mercedes, ending a run of nine races without a podium, one of his worst droughts since he entered the top tier of the sport at the start of 2007.
From pre-season testing the suspicion was Mercedes had the best car, and so it has proven so far, with Nico Rosberg following up his win at the opening race in Australia by finishing second to Hamilton this time.
For the 29-year-old Briton, after claiming his 33rd pole on Saturday, this was his 23rd victory, and his first at the Sepang International Circuit.
It will now ignite the fire of his championship challenge this year after retiring just a handful of laps into the race at Melbourne.
Hamilton finished 17.3 seconds clear of Rosberg, with four-times champion Sebastian Vettel third in his Red Bull but 25 seconds down on the lead Mercedes.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso had to settle for fourth, ahead of Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, with Jenson Button sixth in his McLaren.
Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were seventh and eighth, even though the Brazilian was told the Finn was quicker in the closing laps and to allow him by.
Massa, who for so long played second fiddle at Ferrari prior to his move to Williams over the winter, ignored the commands and fought to the line to claim his six points.
McLaren's Kevin Magnussen and Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat completed the top 10, with only 15 finishers classified as there were seven retirements overall with technical issues continuing to bite teams in this new era of the 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged power units.
For Red Bull there were yet more woes, and not just with the controversial fuel-flow sensors that played a part in Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification from second place in his home race in Australia a fortnight ago.
The team immediately launched an appeal - to be heard in Paris at the FIA's headquarters on April 14 - as they were forced to use their own readings, unauthorised by the FIA, due to the failure of the sensors.
Coming into this race team principal Christian Horner called for their abolition, but has so far received no support from any other boss in the paddock.
But his call will likely become louder in the wake of another failure early in Sunday's race of the sensor in Ricciardo's car.
Instead of opting to take their own divergent path as they did at Melbourne's Albert Park, Horner confirmed they were "going with the references the FIA have given us".
Despite the problem, Ricciardo was on course for a potential fourth-place finish until running into trouble at his third and final pit stop.
The 24-year-old was released, even though the front-left tyre had not been fitted properly, forcing him to stop halfway down the pit lane.
From there Ricciardo's mechanics collected and returned him back to the pit box, dropping him a lap down on the leaders and out of the points.
Worse was to follow, as Ricciardo's car then encountered a front-wing issue, seemingly after an innocuous run over a kerb as it dislodged slightly.
A front-wing endplate also fell off, and with Ricciardo running over it he collected a puncture, forcing an immediate return to the pits for changes, dropping him to last before retiring five laps from the finish.
For Alonso's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn's race was ruined on lap two when Magnussen ran into the back of his rear-right tyre.
That resulted in a slow journey back to the pits with a puncture that eventually resulted in the rubber shedding itself from the wheel.
Dropping a long way behind the leaders, Raikkonen eventually finished 12th and over a lap down on Hamilton, while Magnussen collected a five-second stop-and-go penalty for his rookie moment.
As for Hamilton, he was never troubled throughout the entire 56 laps, arguably enjoying one of the most comfortable victories of his career.
Of the other retirements, Sergio Perez was the first, not even making it out of the garage in his Force India at the start due to a gearbox issue.
Pastor Maldonado's first season with Lotus continues to be a shocker as he pulled into his garage after seven laps to preserve his engine.
The Venezuelan was also involved in a lap-one clash with Marussia's Jules Bianchi, the Frenchman sustaining a puncture and collecting a five-second stop-go penalty, but retiring soon after on lap nine.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne was the next to drop out on lap 20, followed by Adrian Sutil in his Sauber after 34 laps and Sutil's team-mate Esteban Gutierrez just three laps later.
In the wake of the Malaysian Airlines tragedy of a few weeks ago, Hamilton delivered a special dedication following his win.
"Incredible!" said Hamilton, when asked about his victory on the podium by Hollywood actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
"After such a difficult weekend, a long winter, for such a great crowd, I feel so grateful.
"After such a tragedy a few weeks ago I dedicate this win to those people and their families.
"What a great car and what a great job from everyone."
Try as he might, Rosberg conceded he lacked the pace of team-mate Hamilton.
"I got a great start and from then on I tried to chase Lewis, but he was a bit too quick," said Rosberg.
He then added: "Malaysia you can be proud because your company (Mercedes title sponsor) Petronas has taken us to the front of F1."
Four-times champion Vettel, who like Hamilton retired early in the race in Australia, was at least grateful to be on the podium after all of Red Bull's technical troubles over the winter.
"I thought I had a good start and tried to get into the tow of Lewis to attack him at the first corner, but Nico was on my right so I lost a place," said Vettel.
"At times it looked like we (he and Rosberg) were evenly matched at times in the race, but then he found another gear (late on) and he pulled away.
"In the end these guys (Mercedes) are quick."