Rookie of the Race
#33 – Max Verstappen – Netherlands – Scuderia Toro Rosso
Who else could it have been in Malaysia? The youngest driver in Formula 1 history became the youngest points scorer in Formula 1 history with a confident, competent drive in the Toro Rosso.
The seventeen-year-old excelled in the wet qualifying, making it through to the final part of qualifying for the first time, and then proceeded to put his car sixth on the grid, ahead of both of the more-fancied Williams Martini Racing drivers.
Despite a difficult start, when the Dutchman struggled with the Medium Pirelli tyres, Verstappen remained cool and composed, and was a different proposition when he switched to the Hard tyres, and slowly climbed back up the order.
He eventually finished an excellent seventh, and was the last of the drivers not to be lapped by race winner Sebastian Vettel. In the process, he also matched the best result of his father Jos at this circuit, with the elder Verstappen finishing seventh in 2001. There is almost no doubt that in the younger Verstappen, Formula 1 has found a superstar.
#55 – Carlos Sainz Jr – Spain – Scuderia Toro Rosso
Despite finishing behind his team-mate in Malaysia, the performance of Carlos Sainz was also noteworthy, with the Spaniard moving up from fifteenth on the grid to finish eighth in the race.
The Spaniard continued his impressive start to the season and to his Formula 1 career during practice, and had the pace to easily make it through to the final part of qualifying, had he not been caught out by the heavy rain that left him further down the order than he would have liked.
Sainz made a good start to climb up the order, and was one of just a handful of drivers to make a two-stop strategy work for him as he moved ahead of both Infiniti Red Bull Racing drivers into eighth.
The signs are all positive at this early stage of the season for Sainz and for Toro Rosso, with the Spaniard having finished inside the points in both races so far in 2015.
#12 – Felipe Nasr – Brazil – Sauber F1 Team
After securing the Rookie of the Race award in Australia, it was a much different weekend in Malaysia for Felipe Nasr, as he struggled all meeting long with the set-up of his Sauber.
Having sat out FP1 to allow test driver Raffaele Marciello to run, the Brazilian was overshadowed throughout practice and qualifying by team-mate Marcus Ericsson, and was eliminated in Q1, and would line-up sixteenth on the Sepang grid.
It wasn’t the best opening few laps for Nasr either, with the Brazilian clipping the rear tyre of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari at the final corner on lap one, giving the Ferrari a puncture and breaking his own front wing. He came into the pits to replace the wing just before the safety car period, but was well down the order when the race resumed.
Ultimately Nasr had a relatively quiet race after that, losing eleventh place to the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, but two races in, he has two top-twelve finishes, and certainly something to build on as his Formula 1 career continues.
#98 – Roberto Merhi – Spain – Manor F1 Team
After sitting out the Australian Grand Prix, Merhi was able to finally take to the track and make his Formula 1 race debut in Malaysia, and brought the car home in fifteenth, albeit three laps down on the race winner.
He admitted a spin in free practice was his fault that cost him valuable time, and the Spaniard struggled throughout to match Manor team-mate Will Stevens, but was allowed to race by the FIA despite not setting a time during qualifying within 107% of the fastest time of Q1.
He stayed out of trouble throughout the race, and brought the car home in one piece to the delight of his Manor team, all of who had worked tirelessly to just be on the F1 grid in 2015. The result might not as matter as much as the data the team would have gathered during the race, and it was certainly a positive race debut for Merhi.
Rookie of the Race Winners:
1 – Felipe Nasr, Max Verstappen
0 – Carlos Sainz Jr, Roberto Merhi