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Mercedes lead Formula One tributes for Malaysian Grand Prix

It was a melancholy mood as the Formula One travelling circus began to touch down in Kuala Lumpur this week to prepare for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

With the tragedy of flight MH377 still fresh in the memories of many, a possible cancellation was mooted. The stance however was clear; the show must go on.

Lewis Hamilton (7/4 favourite for the race with Coral) and his teammate Nico Rosberg (2/1), who won in Australia will sport the message “Come home Flight MH377” on their Mercedes cars – a classy move from an organisation that personifies such touches.

By extension, Rosberg paid tribute via his Twitter account, tweeting: “all my prayers go to friends & families of the passengers on MH370”.

The first race of the season wasn’t without drama. Red Bull, who are 3/1 to win the Constructors’ Championship, were incensed after driver Daniel Ricciardo was excluded in Melbourne, due to his team’s decision to ignore new fuel regulations. Owner Dietrich Mateschitz told Austrian media this week that his company could quit the sport, for “sportsmanship and political” reasons.

Eyes will be on Ricciardo’s teammate, Sebastian Vettel, 12/1 as he looks to add to the German Sportsman of the Year award he recently picked up, and claim the highest number of wins at the Sepang International circuit. He is currently tied with compatriot Michael Schumacher on three.

A track that is renowned to have tricky twists and turns, it also has two long straights which could significantly benefit Mercedes. Rosberg described his car as a “Silver arrow” after his first victory of the 2014 circuit, significantly playing up the rapidity of the acceleration.

Ron Dennis has claimed McLaren will gain 0.5 seconds per lap in Malaysia, though it is expected that it will leave them considerably short of the Mercedes works team. McLaren’s best hope lies with Jensen Button, who is 14/1 to add to his 2009 win.

Practice will begin on Friday, and should provide an interesting prequel. Hamilton, who looked so impressive in the run-up to the main event at Albert Park and claimed pole position in qualifying, took his third-lap retirement on the chin: “There are massive positives,” the 2008 Champion said.

“We won the race by a long way, so as a team it’s a really strong position to be in. The car looks great and we have a lot of data for the guys to work on. I did everything I could. I’ve just got to look to the next race.”

Particularly impressive in the first race was Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas, who finished in fifth, from a grid position of 15. It has been suggested that Williams could be one of the teams to watch in certain races this season, and if it stays dry can mount a serious challenge. Felipe Massa’s retirement was unavoidable in Melbourne at the first corner, while Bottas was coasting until his error.

With humidity in Kuala Lumpur already at 91 per cent, the second Grand Prix of the season looks like being as heated as the first.