LEWIS Hamilton stayed true to the philosophy he has inked on his back as a victory to savour ignited his Formula 1 world title challenge for this year.
The words “Still I Rise” are tattooed across the top of his shoulders – and also adorn his helmet from this season – and are a reminder that in adversity there remains the capacity to perform and achieve.
After enduring an unhappy season-opening Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago that was littered with technical problems, one of which forced his retirement after just two laps, Hamilton rose above such disappointment to clinch his first win in Malaysia, and 23rd of his F1 career.
It was also Hamilton’s 100th points finish in F1, and when you throw in pole position and fastest lap, it was a weekend in stark contrast to the setbacks he experienced at Melbourne’s Albert Park.
From lights to flag Hamilton was never troubled, finishing 17 seconds ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to hand the German marque its first one-two in the sport for 59 years.
The ambition for Hamilton now would be to rise all the way to the top again in F1 and become champion, as he was in 2008. Asked for his thoughts behind the words, Hamilton replied: “The meaning is that regardless of what difficulties you go through, you still rise above them.
“It’s really something my dad has always enforced in me. We’ve had so many ups and downs throughout our lives and our careers, as everyone has, but he would always say ‘just rise above it’ and do your talking on the track.
“I had a difficult time in the last race and that’s what I did [in this race], so I feel quite good about it.”
“Feeling quite good” is perhaps an understatement as Hamilton seemed positively euphoric after emerging from a car which is undoubtedly a title contender this season, jumping and skipping around as if the win was his first.
“I’ll definitely celebrate this. I’m incredibly happy,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s my eighth year here and I’ve finally got that win, and I really owe it all to the team who have done a fantastic job, with the guys back at the factory pushing non-stop to get the car to where it is.
“And to get a one-two, it’s quite special. I’ve not had many in my career and so that makes it even more special.”
Of course, Hamilton also had kind words for the Malaysian people in the grandstands in light of the tragedy that unfolded a few weeks ago with the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight 370. “I’d really like to dedicate this to them and their families,” added Hamilton.
Although Mercedes were dominant, the fact reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel joined them on the podium was an ominous warning fired across their bows. Like Hamilton, Vettel also suffered an early retirement in Melbourne, so the four-times title-holder was naturally happy to be back in contention.
“We know what we have achieved so far this season is better than we expected during the winter,” said Vettel. “But we know there’s a lot we can do better because it [the car] doesn’t feel great when we are out there racing. If you go out on track and listen and look at how the cars behave, on power, I think there’s a big difference [compared to Mercedes], and we know that.
“I think it’s a question of time, how soon we manage to catch up, and then we can try to give them a harder time.”
After a disqualification on home soil in Australia, there was further misery for Vettel’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who was initially on course for fourth place. At his final pit stop, however, Ricciardo was released with the front-left tyre not fitted correctly, forcing him to stop halfway down the pit lane and be retrieved by his mechanics.
On his return to the track, the front wing then failed, forcing him back into the pits again, following which the FIA also handed him a ten-second stop-go penalty for the team’s unsafe release.
To rub salt into the wounds, Ricciardo will also serve a ten-place grid penalty at next weekend’s grand prix in Bahrain, while he was also eventually one of seven retirees over the course of the 56 laps.
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. The Brazilian was told the Finn was quicker in the closing laps and to allow him by, only to ignore the commands.
McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat completed the top ten, with the former serving a five-second stop-go penalty for running into Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen early on, puncturing a tyre and leaving the Finn to finish down in a lowly 12th.