Vettel ends Mercedes dominance in Malaysia
Four times world champion Sebastian Vettel scored a shock first victory for Ferrari in yesterday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, after edging out the dominate Mercedes’ of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Vettel’s win was also the first for the Scuderia since the Spanish Grand Prix in 2013, as well as his 40th career win and first since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix. His tally now places him a single victory behind Ayrton Senna on the all-time winners list.
“To be the first one to beat Mercedes fair and square is an incredible achievement,” Vettel said in the post-race press conference.
“Our goal is to bring back the world championship to Maranello. We were quicker which is why we beat them. We know they are very strong but we were strong on the tyres which gave us an edge and we made the most of it”.
Having already proved Ferrari’s newfound pace by splitting the Silver Arrows in qualifying, Vettel took a calculated risk of staying out following the deployment of the safety car on lap four, triggered when Swedish rookie, Marcus Ericsson, spun his Sauber into the gravel at turn one having tried to pass the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg.
Choosing to continue on the faster medium tyre while both Mercedes pitted for the slower hard Pirelli compound, Vettel maintained a 10 sec lead, which eventually fell to eight when he came in for his first stop on lap 17.
Although back in front, Hamilton’s second stop seven laps later, pushed him 24 seconds behind the Ferrari and despite being a bit quicker, a switch back to the hard tyres on lap 38, one after Vettel, left him 14 seconds behind and unable to close the gap.
A clearly annoyed Hamilton vented his frustration about the decision by telling his race engineer over the radio, “This is the wrong tyre, man”, before another transmission three laps later heard him say, “Don't talk to me through the corners. I almost went off.”
Speaking to the BBC after the race, the Brit stated that they had underestimated the performance of Ferrari, and that his race was blunted by tyre choice and the confusing radio messages.
“It felt like it was lost at the first stop. We were a little bit quicker than them through some stints but it was too big a gap to close up,” he said.
“When I put the prime (hard) tyre on it did not feel good, it felt better on the option (medium), we went back on the prime at the end but it really was not good”.
About the confusion on the radio, Hamilton said, “I remember there were some conversations going on, [Technical Director] Paddy [Lowe] had pressed the wrong button and I could hear them yapping in my ear. He was asking 'am I going to do another stop. I thought it was my last stop so it confused me, which was not helpful”.
In an interview with Sky F1, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said that Ferrari and Vettel’s performance had been a “wake-up call” for the three pointed star.
“This is a well-deserved win for Ferrari as much as it hurts from a racers point of view, but maybe this is the wake-up call that we needed,” he said, adding that Vettel can no longer be ignored as a title rival.
“It is going to make us work harder and concentrate even more. The recovery they have made over the winter is incredible and you have to honour that as a racer”.
Behind the top three, Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, fought back from a puncture on the second lap to finish fourth ahead of the Williams’ of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.
In a sterling performance, 17-year old Toro Rosso rookie, Max Verstappen, become the sport’s youngest points finisher by finishing seventh ahead of his teammate and fellow rookie, Carlos Sainz Jr. In stark contrast, former champions Red Bull endured another miserable race with Danill Kvyat surviving a mid-race crash with Hulkenberg to finish ninth ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Returning from his testing accident last month, former double world champion Fernando Alonso’s first competitive outing for McLaren Honda ended after 21 laps with suspected power unit failure while his teammate, Jenson Button, retired with turbo related problems after 47 laps.
The F1 circus now heads for China on April 12th for round three followed a week later by round four in Bahrain.
MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
|7.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||+1.39:085|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||+ 1 Lap|
|9.||Danill Kvyat||Red Bull||+ 1 Lap|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+ 1 Lap|
|11.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||+ 1 Lap|
|12.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||+ 1 Lap|
|13.||Sergio Perez||Force India||+ 1 Lap|
|14.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+ 1 Lap|
|15.||Roberto Mehri||Manor||+ 3 Laps|
|DNF||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||47 laps, brakes|
|DNF||Jenson Button||McLaren||41 laps, turbo|
|DNF||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||21 laps, power unit|
|DNF||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||4 laps, spun off|
|DNS||Will Stevens||Manor||did not start|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||9|
|9.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||6|
|10.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||6|
|11.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||6|
|13.||Danill Kvyat||Red Bull||2|
|14.||Sergio Perez||Force India||1|
IMAGE sourced from india.com
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