Sebastian Vettel has claimed his first race win in Ferrari colours after the Italian team pulled off a stunning win at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Italian outfit outsmarted Mercedes on strategy to break the Silver Arrows’ run of eight consecutive victories.
The win was the first for both driver and team since the Brazilian and Spanish Grands Prix of the 2013 season, respectively, marking a long overdue return to the top step of the podium for both.
Victory came thanks to two key factors: the Ferrari SF15-T’s gentler tyre management, and a critical call by the team not to pit Vettel during an early Safety Car period. Staying out during that full-course caution allowed him to take the lead from pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and manage the gap back to the chasing Mercedes’ which both toured through the pit lane.
Hamilton had managed to convert his hard-fought pole position into the lead at the start, and kept an early advantage over Vettel and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton’s early lead lasted until the fifth lap, when he and Rosberg both pulled into the pits – along with most of the field – while a crane was called into action to retrieve Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber, which had spun and beached itself in the Turn 1 gravel.
The two Mercedes runners shed their Medium compound tyres for a set of the Hard rubber, while Vettel stayed out until the end of Lap 17 and bolted on another set of Medium tyres for his second stint. The better grip from the softer and fresher tyres allowed the German to scythe into the gap to Rosberg, breezing ahead of his compatriot and then doing the same to Hamilton a few laps later.
By pitting earlier than Vettel, the two Mercedes’ would have to pit two more times and rely on the F1W06’s superior outright speed to do the rest to beat the Ferrari driver.
The team responded by splitting strategies at the second round of pit stops, putting Hamilton on Medium tyres and Rosberg on Hards.
Having managed an impressive 25-lap stint on his tyres, Vettel’s second and final pit stop came with fourteen laps to go and he made his compulsory switch to Hard tyres. He emerged just ahead of Rosberg and set himself the task of closing down the gap to Hamilton, who was by now struggling on his well-worn Medium tyres.
Hamilton had to pit for the final time and – having run out of available sets of Mediums – was forced to fit a set of the slower Hards for the run to the chequered flag, much to his clear frustration over the pit-to-car radio.
The calculations said Hamilton would catch Vettel with five laps to run, but the wily German upped his pace in the final laps to ensure Hamilton would pose no such threat; he crossed the line 8.5 seconds clear of the reigning champion. Rosberg finished just behind in third place.
Kimi Räikkönen put in a storng recovery drive to finish fourth, after being forced to make an unscheduled pit stop early on when he suffered a left-rear puncture after being tagged by Sauber rookie Felipe Nasr at the final corner.
The Williams team kicked off a Noah’s Ark formation on the final standings, with Valtteri Bottas making a late passing move on teammate Felipe Massa to win a race-long intra-team battle. The pair finished fifth and sixth respectively.
Scuderia Toro Rosso beat the Red Bull ‘A’ team on merit, with teenage rookie Max Verstappen beating home teammate Carlos Sainz Jr to seventh place.
The senior Red Bull team couldn’t continue its qualifying showing during the race, suffering from a lack of pace and incidents not of its own making to round out the top-ten and claim a paltry three championship points. Despite being punted into a spin by Force India driver Nico Hülkenberg at Turn 2, Daniil Kvyat eventually won out over teammate Daniel Ricciardo to finish in ninth place.
Another driver to feel the unwanted attentions of the Force India cars was Lotus’ Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman finished in eleventh place and out of the points, with his shot at a points’ finish ruined after being tipped into a dramatic spin by Sergio Pérez, who was rightly awarded a 10-second stop/go penalty.
Pérez’s pit lane penalty promoted the recovering Nasr to twelfth place; the Brazilian was unable to repeat his Melbourne heroics after his early contact with Räikkönen, which also saw him needing to pit early on for a new front wing.
Hülkenberg finished 14th as he was also penalised for his role in the incident with Kvyat, while Manor Marussia rookie Roberto Merhi was the final runner, finishing three laps down.
His teammate Will Stevens failed to take the start of the race, with the team still unable to resolve the fuel injector issue that sidelined him from qualifying the day before. There were rumours that the newly re-formed team simply didn’t have the spare parts to put in Stevens’ car.
McLaren was always going to struggle for reliability in what is undoubtedly one of the toughest events on the calendar, and so it was proved with a double-DNF.
Both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button flirted with the points-paying positions at various stages in the race – and ran near to the pace of the Force Indias, to their surprise – before ultimately succumbing to terminal technical issues.
The third round of the 2015 Formula 1 season takes place in two weeks’ time, being the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit.
|2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix – Final Classification (56 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||56||1:41:05.793|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||56||+ 8.569|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||56||+ 12.310|
|4.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||56||+ 53.822|
|5.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||56||+ 1:10.409|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||56||+ 1:13.586|
|7.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||56||+ 1:37.762|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||55||1 lap behind|
|9.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||55||1 lap behind|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||55||1 lap behind|
|11.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes Ere Hybrid||55||1 lap behind|
|12.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||55||1 lap behind|
|13.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||55||1 lap behind|
|14.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||55||1 lap behind|
|15.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||53||3 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Time|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes Ere Hybrid||47||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||41||Power Unit|
|DNF.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||21||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||3||Spin|
|NS.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||0||Fuel Injection|
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