Raising Vettel: Defending Formula One Champion Captures Malaysia GP
While the Formula One scene may have changed with tyre supplier Pirelli taking over the reigns from Bridgestone, Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel remains a constant in the series by doing one thing - winning races.
Not only does Vettel capture the checkered flag, but the 23-year-old defending F1 champion does it in style, taking the number one spot after posting the fastest qualifying time.
For the second time this season (and fourth straight occasion, if you count the tail end of 2010), the German sensation started from the pole once again.
Even with tyre management concerns, Vettel and his team masterfully put together another solid victory, this time coming in the Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix.
Along with teammate Mark Webber, who took home a fourth place finish, the Red Bull racers abandoned the KERS boost system halfway in the race due to reliability problems.
No matter, as the talent and teamwork for both drivers' teams paid off in their stellar weekend and start to the young F1 season.
"Fantastic job," Vettel said to his crew via radio communication per a Reuters article. "In the heat we keep our heads cool. Thank you. A pleasure every weekend to be with you. I'm loving it."
On an overcast but humid Sunday in which racers conserved and watch their tyres, the elite talent once again prevailed around the 5.543 km (3.444 mile), 15-turn Sepang International Circuit.
Vettel didn't win as convincingly as he did in Melbourne, but it was still a sounding victory, besting Jenson Button to the stripe by 3.261 seconds.
However, it was another frustrating race for 2008 F1 champion Lewis Hamilton.
Not only did Hamilton collide with Ferrari racer Fernando Alonso, but he also received a 20-second time penalty which relegated him to eighth spot.
Adding insult to injury for the McLaren driver was his off-course excursion late in the race, which forced him down pit lane to change all four tyres.
Rounding out the podium positions were Jenson Button, Hamilton's McLaren teammate, and Nick Heidfeld in his Renault.
Button nearly had his shot to challenge Vettel for the win, but a pair of costly pit stops prevented him from dueling with the defending Malaysia GP champion.
"It was a really confusing race in a way, understanding or trying to understand the pit stops and whether it is worth looking after the tyres or not, so pretty trick," Button said following the race.
"In the last stint, putting the prime tyre on, the car came alive, I had so much more grip."
Heidfeld's teammate Vitaly Petrov didn't fare as well as he did in the season opening Australian GP, as his machine's steering broke, sending him violently through the grass and crashing out just five laps from the finish.
As for Webber, it was a eventful race, dropping back to 10th as he struggled early with the KERS system.
Eventually doing away with it, he worked his way back up to a fourth place finish, while Ferrari teammates Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso took home the fifth and sixth positions.
"It's tough to clear people when they have a better KERS," Webber said. "Anyway, it was an interesting grand prix and we keep learning. It's not our day yet but I'm pushing for it to come."
Alonso had to be slightly disappointed with his sixth spot finish, as he damaged his front wing on lap 45 after running into the back of Hamilton's McLaren machine.
"Obviously I was close, the rear wing didn't work for me in the last part of the race, so I couldn't overtake him (Hamilton) on the straight line which was the best possibility," Alonso said.
With Vettel taking his second checkered flag of the win, rounding out the Petronas Malaysia GP top-10 were Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, Mark Webber, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, and Paul di Resta.
Here's a look at the current Formula One drivers' top 10 standings following round two of 19, with their manufacturers alongside:
- Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull): 50 points
- Jenson Button (McLaren): 26 points
- Lewis Hamilton (McLaren): 22 points
- Mark Webber (Red Bull): 22 points
- Fernando Alonso (Ferrari): 20 points
- Felipe Massa (Ferrari): 16 points
- Nick Heidfeld (Renault): 15 points
- Vitaly Petrov (Renault): 15 points
- Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber): 6 points
- Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso): 4 points
Also, here's a glance at the Formula One Team Standings heading into the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai:
- Red Bull: 72 points
- McLaren: 48 points
- Ferrari: 36 points
- Renaut: 30 points
- Sauber: 6 points
- Toro Rosso: 4 points
- Force India: 4 points
- Mercedes: 2 points
- Lotus: 0 points
- Virgin: 0 points
Next Sunday, the Formula One drivers and teams will hit up the 5.451 km (3.387 mile), 16-turn Shanghai International Circuit for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Jenson Button looks to defend his victory of a year ago, while streaky Sebastian Vettel looks to duplicate his pole winning efforts as well as capturing his third straight win of the season.
Star Sports will carry the race live in Southeast Asia at 2:45 PM Manila time, with prerace coverage taking place at 2 PM.
For those in North America, SPEED will carry the race on the tube as well as through Twitter via its account, @Formula1onSPEED, for racing fans up in the wee hours of next Sunday morning.
Will Vettel continue his early season dominance?
Only time will tell, but if they continually experience problems with their KERS boost system, the likes of Button, Massa, Alonso, and Hamilton will be ready to pounce on Team Red Bull.