Sebastian Victorious In Sepang Storm

Sebastian Vettel has won the Malaysian Grand Prix from pole position ahead of Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton. The German flanked his Aussie team-mate for most of the race, eventually passing him despite calls from his team to the contrary. 

Lights out and 22 drivers stormed towards the first corner. Fernando Alonso was too eager and tapped the rear of Sebastian Vettel’s RB9 into turn 2, damaging his front wing. It was a nasty break but Fernando refused to come in to the pits when he passed it the first time and continued to battle Mark down the pit straight. That’s when the front wing buckled and went under his F138, disabling the steering and sending Alonso off into turn 1 where he was beached and out of the race.

With Fernando out of the race, a surprisingly strong starting Mark Webber was chasing his team-mate. Massa on the other hand had an awful start, dropping from his first front row start in 2010 all the way down to 6th by the end of the first lap. While Vettel lead Webber by almost four seconds in the drying track, Rosberg was battling hard with Jenson Button, the former eventually trumping the latter.

Winner of the season opening Australian Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen was surprisingly off the pace, dropping to 12th when he ran wide on lap four. Vettel was the first man to box on lap five, swapping from the Intermediate to Dry Pirellis. He was followed in by Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil. Sutil’s stop was awful, the left front tire simply refusing to come off the car and keeping the German fuming in the box.

Toro Rosso let Jean-Eric Vergne out of his pit box and straight into the path of the Caterham of Charles Pic meaning the team had to pull Vergne back into his box to replace his front wing. First round of pit stops over and Webber was now leading from Vettel, Lewis and then Rosberg. The sparring Red Bull’s were slowing each other down while both Mercedes’ took full advantage of it to catch up on them.

There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as Webber extended his lead to have it reduced again, eventually being the first of the top five to box for a second time. Sutil also came in for a second time to have exactly the same problem as the first when his wheel nut on the front left simply refused to budge. The team eventually got him going but when di Resta came in and lost a lap to the problem, he retired the car.

Second stops all completed and Webber led from Vettel, Hamilton and Rosberg in identical formation to that of when they boxed initially. Vettel was really catching his Aussie team-mate now and was himself facing the threat of Hamilton behind him and soon reached Mark’s DRS zone. While Sutil was wheeled into the Force India garage to retire his VJM-07 for the same reason as di Resta, Vettel and Hamilton were trying unsuccessfully to move up the order with Webber doing a good job to keep them behind him.

Hamilton pitted again followed by Webber and Rosberg a lap later and Vettel another lap after that. Hamilton had jumped Vettel in the pits meaning the new order was Webber, Hamilton and Vettel narrowly leading Rosberg. Surely nothing could hold Lewis back now that he had a free track to attack Webber – or so we thought. Ordered over the radio to lift and coast, it became obvious that Lewis’ fantastic pace was due to a high fuel setting and he was now suffering from it and in fuel saving.

Webber stormed ahead and Vettel made quick work of Hamilton, Rosberg ordered not to pass Hamilton. Further down the grid, Raikkonen still wasn’t feeling comfortable, battling Hulkenberg out of the pits. A close call out of turn 4 saw the German move across as the Finn tried to overtake, merely pushing and pushing until Raikkonen was nearly on the grass.

Force India weren’t the only ones suffering pitlane woes. Lewis Hamilton made a return to the McLaren garage instead of the Mercedes one while Jenson Button pitted in the right box but leaving the pits without a properly connected front right wheel meaning the Briton had to pull over at the end of  the pitlane and wait to be wheeled back down to his garage to have it reattached.

Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel pitted again for the last time while Webber boxed on lap later. He could not have emerged any closer to Vettel who tried to overtake Webber on the outside of Turn 1. Webber cut him off and they fought tooth and nail out of turn 2 and in the run up to turn 3. Webber keeps control for three laps until Vettel, aided by DRS, renewed his charge for the lead.

To Christian Horner’s words of “This is Silly Seb, come on” Vettel was pushed to the edge by Webber who was then pushed off-line in Turn 1 by Vettel, the German eventually getting his nose in front and storming away. Similarly at Mercedes, Rosberg was contesting the team orders prohibiting him from overtaking a much slower Hamilton. Ross Brawn assured Rosberg that Hamilton could go much faster but that they needed to take it easy.

Meanwhile, Pastor Maldonado took a trip through the gravel and became beached, retiring for the second consecutive race, which is exactly what happened in 2012 too. Jenson Button had badly worn tires and decided to retire on Lap 55 of 56.

And so, Sebastian Vettel met the checkered flag first, followed by Mark Webber who drove as far away from the pit wall as possible to show his distaste. This spilled over into the post-race room where Webber shouted “Multi-21! Multi-21!” at Vettel, which is a code for fuel saving. Vettel later apologised in the press conference, saying that the race should have been Mark’s, but Mark refused to accept it. There’s a storm a-brewing.

  1. Sebastian Vettel
  2. Mark Webber
  3. Lewis Hamilton
  4. Nico Rosberg
  5. Felipe Massa
  6. Romain Grosjean
  7. Kimi Raikkonen
  8. Nico Hulkenberg
  9. Sergio Perez
  10. Jean-Eric Vergne
  11. Valtteri Bottas
  12. Esteban Gutierrez
  13. Jules Bianchi
  14. Charles Pic
  15. Giedo van der Garde
  16. Max Chilton

Retired:

  • Fernando Alonso
  • Paul di Resta
  • Adrian Sutil
  • Pastor Maldonado
  • Jenson Button
  • Daniel Ricciardo
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