Malaysia GP Paper Review: 'Strike one' to Lewis Hamilton in Mercedes title battle
British press say Hamilton's crushing win a big warning for Rosberg
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 31/03/14 3:33pm
Lewis Hamilton: After retiring in Melbourne, he crushed Nico at Sepang
The dominant manner of Lewis Hamilton's Malaysia GP win has served as a big statement of intent in the 2014 title fight and significant early psychological blow to Nico Rosberg, according to the British press.
After starring at Sepang to win his first race of the season by 17 seconds from Rosberg - the biggest dry-weather victory margin of Hamilton's F1 career - Fleet Street believe the former World Champion has laid down an ominous marker.
"The significance of Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix was lost on no one, certainly not the man himself," Kevin Eason declared in The Times.
"It was nice enough that Hamilton could tick this grand prix of his bucket list as one race he had never won before, but that mattered not in the context of a seven-year career that, by his own admission, has been marked by underachievement since his only World Championship win in 2008.
"Jenson Button, Hamilton's former team-mate at McLaren, who knows a thing or two about this game after 14 years at the top, summed it up: "Strike one to Lewis." But that Button meant the momentous psychological advantage Hamilton imposed on his team-mate in steamy Sepang."
An impressed Daily Mail concurred: "What looked like a piffling one-pipe triumph for a driver of Hamilton's brilliance was a massive statement of intent in what, at this early stage of the season at least, is a private championship duel between the two Mercedes' men, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg." Meanwhile, The Daily Mirror emphatically declared: "Few victories have been as significant as this."
How many more trophies will follow in 2014?
Although Rosberg technically 'struck first' by winning the Australian GP after Hamilton retired through mechanical problems early on, and the German still holds the early 2014 points lead, The Guardian suggests Malaysia underlined the difference in outright pace between the two drivers as they went head-to-head in a race for the first time this year.
"There is a line on Lewis Hamilton's fastidiously decorated helmet - taken from the American poet and author Maya Angelou - which reads "Still I Rise"," The Guardian wrote. "But for Nico Rosberg and the other Formula 1 drivers who trail in his phosphorescent wake there should be another message: Mind The Gap. The letters should be very large, and placed on the back of the helmet.
"Rosberg, who won the first race in Australia two weeks ago and was second here, still leads the embryonic drivers' championship by 18 points. But this was a reminder of the chasm that exists between the two Silver Arrow drivers when Hamilton is at his absolute best."
With Hamilton long famed for his natural pace behind the wheel and widely regarded as the fastest man in F1, Rosberg, who has seen his odds for the title halved since the start of pre-season, is in turn recognised as one of the sport's most technical and brainy exponents.
It is on this latter basis that many expert observers have tipped Rosberg for a maiden title in F1's new technological era, but in the wake of Sepang, The Daily Telegraph suggested: "The emerging consensus had been that this new era of fuel saving and relentless car management might give the German the edge. Not on Sunday's evidence."
However, in a word of warning to title favourites Mercedes, The Times also noted both Hamilton and Rosberg's reaction to Sebastian Vettel's sudden return to the podium after Red Bull's woeful winter.
"It would be fair to say, though, that both Mercedes drivers were spooked by the sight of Sebastian Vettel in their wind mirrors," the newspaper added.
"Red Bull had the worst pre-season in their short ten-year history... his car is clearly slower than the Mercedes, but he clung on grimly for a magnificent third place."
Will Lewis soon have a familiar face emerging as a big title threat?