Vettel wins Malaysian thriller

Sebastian Vettel today won an exciting Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Jenson Button and Nick Heidfeld.

The German was his now usual magisterial self in conditions that demanded finesse and speed in equal measure. Challenged by his competitors and hampered by his team’s instruction not to use his KERS, Vettel was nevertheless capable of finding new speed when he needed it.

Jenson Button was second after a solid afternoon charge once the tyres came to him. The Englishman revelled in the Malaysian heat that wore down everybody’s tyres and left “marbles” all over the Sepang track.

Nick Heidfeld was an excellent third for Renault that demonstrates their early season form. The German got a fantastic start and remained in contention throughout the race. Although threatened by fourth-placed Mark Webber towards the end, Heidfeld stayed calm and took the final podium position.

Webber gave a typically battling performance to end up fourth, having stopped four times. He too did not have the option of KERS available to him but made do in determined fashion.

The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso went over the line fifth and sixth. Despite their lack of frontrunning pace the Italian team were much faster in race trim than they had been in qualifying, Massa in particular looking combative all afternoon. Alonso was unlucky in that he had one poor pit stop and also came together with Lewis Hamilton while battling him at the denouement of the race, forcing him to pit to change his damaged front wing.

Lewis Hamilton had a day to forget, a middle stint on hard tyres gravely affecting his speed and rendering him vulnerable to all and sundry behind him. Earlier on he had looked as though he might be capable of challenging Vettel for the win but his dislike of the hard tyres was ultimately his undoing.

Kamui Kobayashi was an excellent eighth for the Sauber team, fighting all afternoon with Michael Schumacher who must be encouraged by a strong points finish, even if the Mercedes is not yet at the same pace as the front four teams’ cars.

Paul di Resta was the last of the points finishers, bringing his Force India-Mercedes home after another strong performance.

Elsewhere in the race’s stories, Vitaly Petrov was lucky to escape injury after a sizeable and scary accident in his Renault. He had run wide at Turn 5 and instead of taking the shortest route back to the track he elected to floor the throttle and ease back onto the track. He was not to know that a raised rain gully lay there and promptly took off, landing so hard that his steering wheel came off.

Petrov was classified, but others retirements included both Williamses and both HRTs, the Lotus of Jarno Trulli and the Virgin of Jerome d’Ambrosio.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS

The Malaysian Grand Prix
Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia;
56 laps; 310.408km;
Weather: Dry.

Classified:

Pos Driver Team Time
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h37:39.832
2. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 3.261
3. Heidfeld Renault + 25.075
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 26.384
5. Massa Ferrari + 36.958
6. Alonso Ferrari + 37.248
7. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 49.957
8. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:07.239
9. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:24.896
10. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1:31.563
11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1:45.000
12. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap
13. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
14. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
15. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault + 1 lap
16. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
17. Petrov Renault + 4 laps

Fastest lap: Webber, 1:40.571

Not classified/retirements:

Driver Team On lap
Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 47
D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 43
Trulli Lotus-Renault 32
Perez Sauber-Ferrari 24
Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 23
Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 15
Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 9