In the shadows of MH370, F1 brings some light to Malaysia

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Yesterday’s Malaysian Grand Prix was always going to be a subdued affair as the nation mourns following the disappearance of flight MH370 three weeks ago. However, the home representatives in the race put on a good show as the race brought some light to Kuala Lumpur at such a difficult time.

Although there were no Malaysian drivers racing – you’d need to go back to Alex Yoong in 2002 – there was a strong home connection to the all-conquering Mercedes team. The German marque’s title sponsor, Petronas, hails from Malaysia, and is the company that owns the iconic Petronas Towers that dominate the Kuala Lumpur skyline.

On the podium after the race, third place finisher Nico Rosberg was quick to address the Malaysian fans.

“Malaysia you can be proud because your company Petronas has taken us to the front of F1, so you can be really proud of that,” he said. “Petronas has given us the best oil and fuel in F1, it’s brilliant.”

Lewis Hamilton was slightly more reserved during his interview, dedicating his win to those affected by the disappearance of MH370.

“I just feel so grateful,” he said. “Particularly after such a tragedy three weeks ago. I’d really like to dedicate this to those people and their families.”

The only Malaysian team on the grid – Caterham – enjoyed a very successful race on home soil. The team had struggled throughout pre-season and got neither of its cars to the finish in Australia. However, this weekend, both Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson saw the checkered flag.

Kobayashi’s performance was particularly spectacular as he fought with the likes of Romain Grosjean and Daniil Kvyat for position, and eventually finished in 13th place, already bettering the team’s best result from 2013.

Team owner Tony Fernandes, who hails from Malaysia, tweeted: “Well done @CaterhamF1 especially our two drivers. After all the gremlins great to get two cars home and good pace with so little set up.”

Formula 1 also honored the victims and families of MH370 with a minute of silence before the race.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.