Skip navigation

SEBASTIAN VETTEL (Red Bull) won last Sunday’s Malaysia Grand Prix, stretching his run of consecutive victories to four. He has also won five of the last six races and if not for his engine failure in South Korea, this would now be one of the longest unbeaten runs in F1 history.

The reigning world champion won the 56-lap race at the Sepang International Circuit in a time of 1:37:39.832 (118.496-mph). The previous world champion, McLaren’s Jenson Button, finished second just over three seconds behind Vettel. Renault picked up their second straight podium of 2011 thanks to Nick Heidfeld’s third place. He now holds the record for most podiums without a win – 13. Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber set the fastest lap of the race on lap 46 with a 1:40.571 (123.280-mph) lap. Webber ended up finishing fourth.

Vettel made another good start and led the pack going into the tight and twisty first two corners. Both the Renaults (Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov) surprised everybody by going around the outside of Turn 1 so as they could have the inside line of Turn 2. Heidfeld had shot up from sixth to second and ahead of Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), while Petrov who’d started eighth was now fifth and only just behind Button. Felipe Massa had gotten ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso at the start and was now sixth, while further back Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) had risen to eighth from 11th on the grid. The big loser at the start was Webber, who without KERS had gone from third on the grid to ninth by the time everybody made it to Turn 4.

On lap five, Red Bull radioed Vettel telling him: “There might be rain in the next half-hour.” This turned out to be wrong in the grand scheme of things. There was moisture during the race yes, but the rain itself was nowhere to be seen. Elsewhere on the track, Massa had taken fifth place from Petrov and was again filling Fernando Alonso’s field of vision. But the Russian ran off the track at Turn 14, allowing the Spaniard through.

Meanwhile Webber was busy fighting with the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese driver had passed the Aussie somewhere on lap six, but Webber re-passed him on the long back straight. However, Kobayashi used his KERS and DRS to overtake Webber again at Turn 1. It seemed like this was going to be another long afternoon for the ‘number two driver’.

At the beginning of lap 14 Vettel made his first stop after Hamilton came in to change his tyres. Later on in the lap Hamilton found himself three-wide with Schumacher and Toro Rosso’s Sébastien Buemi down the back straight. Buemi succeeded in passing Schumacher and Hamilton got by the pair of them without a scratch. Schumacher dove into the pits in the aftermath. Alonso then came in to the pits from the lead of the Grand Prix.

Three laps later Alonso (on fresh rubber) overtook Kobayashi to take third place for himself. Further up the road Vettel led Hamilton by six seconds, and with no Renaults around to slow him down this time, the Englishman set about trying to catch the German world champion.

Red Bull brought Vettel into the pits again on lap 25 for what was an excellent tyre change. Their sister team (Toro Rosso) on the other hand had to tell Buemi that he had been given a Drive-Through Penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Oops.

Lewis Hamilton stopped again, as did Alonso from the lead on lap 27. Back out on track and on new tyres, Vettel DRSed his way past Massa, and with Heidfeld having pitted as well, Vettel found himself back in the lead. However, the two McLarens were hunting him down. Hamilton and Button got close to Vettel, but then their tyres started to go off and the pair of them dropped back to the point where Hamilton needed to pit again on lap 38. Unlike Vettel, his pit-stop was slow thanks to a sickey front left wheel nut. Thanks to that holdup Hamilton was behind Button one lap later after the 2009 world champion had made his (much smoother) tyre stop.

Button began to charge and this got Red Bull worried. So in came Vettel again for new rubber. Alonso came in the pits again but on his re-entry to the track was greeted to the sight of Hamilton and Webber speeding past him into Turn 1. Webber was soon out of the picture and the stage was set for another Hamilton vs. Alonso battle.

Said battle came to a head on lap 46. Alonso was right behind Hamilton on the run down to Turn 4 and pulled his Ferrari out from behind the McLaren’s slipstream. But he did this too late and wiped his front wing across Hamilton’s right-rear tyre and back wing. Alonso needed to pit for a new nosecone but Hamilton soldiered on with a damaged car for the second race in a row.

With six laps remaining Webber DRSed Massa down the front straight and just got his Red Bull in front of the Ferrari at Turn 2. Massa tried in vain to fight back but in the end was resigned to losing his fifth place.

Two laps later Heidfeld passed Hamilton using the DRS and moved up to third. On the same lap Hamilton ran off the track at Turn 7 and lost his fourth place to Webber who just drove straight by. The damage to Hamilton’s car was costing him dearly, so the McLaren driver pitted again for new tyres and was eighth behind Alonso (sixth) and Petrov (seventh) by the time he was back on track.

Petrov’s race came to a spectacular end one lap later. He slid off the black stuff at Turn 8 and decided to get back on track at full speed. Unfortunately for the Russian he hit a drain and was launched high into the air. His Renault hit the deck with so much force that the steering column broke off in his hands. 😮 The BBC’s Martin Brundle referred to him as: “The rudderless Russian” and I personally hope that this nickname catches on.

Petrov attempts to do as Yuri Gagarin did 50 years ago.

The last few laps went without incident, meaning that Sebastian Vettel took his 12th Grand Prix victory with relative ease. Button, Heidfeld, Webber and Massa completed the top five. Alonso finished sixth and crossed the line right behind Massa, but he was given a 20 second time penalty after the race for causing his collision with Hamilton who finished seventh. At least I thought he did until I read that Hamilton had been given a 20 second penalty as well for weaving in front of Alonso. Are there any none-McLaren fans out there who agree with me in thinking that’s just so unfair? Because of this, Kobayashi was promoted to seventh with Hamilton being relegated to eighth (and losing two points to boot) :-(. Schumacher finished ninth to earn himself and Mercedes their first points of the season, and Scotland’s Paul di Resta (Force India) finished in tenth (10 seconds ahead of his team-mate Adrian Sutil) to earn his second world championship point.

After losing so much water in the Malaysian humidity, Button and Vettel are wise not to waste much of the first cool liquid they’ve had in just under two hours.

With the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend, I’m quietly confident of McLaren’s chances of success in Shanghai. Button won their last year and Red Bull will not be running KERS which will mean they’ll be missing out on all that extra power on that long straight.

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – After 2/19 Races.

Pos

Driver

Constructor

Points

Gap From 1st

1

Sebastian VETTEL (GER)

Red Bull

50

2

Jenson BUTTON (ENG)

McLaren

26

24

3

Lewis HAMILTON (ENG)

McLaren

22

28

4

Mark WEBBER (AUS)

Red Bull

22

28

5

Fernando ALONSO (ESP)

Ferrari

20

30

6

Felipe MASSA (BRA)

Ferrari

16

34

7

Nick HEIDFELD (GER)

Renault

15

35

8

Vitaly PETROV (RUS)

Renault

15

35

9

Kamui KOBAYASHI (JAP)

Sauber

6

44

10

Sébastien BUEMI (SWI)

Toro Rosso

4

46

11

Adrian SUTIL (GER)

Force India

2

48

12

Michael SCHUMACHER (GER)

Mercedes

2

48

13

Paul DI RESTA (SCO)

Force India

2

48

 

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – After 2/19 Races.

Pos

Constructor

Engine

Points

Gap From 1st

1

RED BULL (AUT)

Renault

72

2

MCLAREN (ENG)

Mercedes

48

24

3

FERRARI (ITA)

Ferrari

36

36

4

RENAULT (ENG)

Renault

30

42

5

SAUBER (SWI)

Ferrari

6

66

6

TORO ROSSO (ITA)

Ferrari

4

68

7

FORCE INDIA (IND)

Mercedes

4

68

8

MERCEDES (GER)

Mercedes

2

70

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: