Sebastian Vettel claimed his first victory as a Ferrari driver while offering a driving clinic in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. The four-time champion took advantage of an early safety car and superior pit-stop tactics to take the win 8.5 seconds ahead of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, finished in third place. Driver Kimi Raikkonen, overcoming an early puncture and a slow start on the grid, finished fourth.
The Team Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa followed closely behind and took fifth and sixth places. Max Verstappen became the youngest points scorer in F1 history with a 7th place finish for Scuderia Toro Rosso, one spot ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz. Infiniti Red Bull Racing rounded out the top 10 with Daniil Kvyat earning his first ever points in the 9th spot ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in 10th.
Of note: It was Vettel’s 40th career victory and his first since the 2013 season. The teams now head to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix on April 12. Hamilton marked his 150th Grand Prix start along with his 72nd podium. Rosberg claimed the 10th fastest race lap and 28th podium of his Formula One career.
Now, In Their Own Words….
First of all, a huge congratulations to Sebastian and Ferrari. You have to hand it to them – I wasn’t expecting them to be as quick as they were today but they had some serious pace and deserved the win. It’s great for the fans to see them up here. It was a tough race out there. I was struggling with the balance today and never really felt comfortable with the car. There was so much understeer that tyre management was really hard. When I went to the option it was much better, so I thought we’d use it again at the end and was surprised we went with the prime. But I made the best I could with it and ultimately I’m sure the team made the call for the right reasons. There was a bit of confusion on the radio at one point where I wasn’t quite sure what we were doing on the strategy but I’m not sure if pitting with Seb would have made the difference anyway. They were as fast if not faster than us today and once I had that gap to make up it was just a step too far. I’m now looking forward to the next race and fighting to get back to the front again.
That wasn’t a great weekend for me and I cannot be happy with third place. When the Safety Car came out I lost a lot of time in the pits. I expected to have to wait behind Lewis but it was letting some other cars by that cost the places – especially waiting for the Red Bull queue to move, I think it was. So I had to fight through to the top positions, which was tough, but my race pace was okay, so I can build on that. We have to congratulate Sebastian and Ferrari. They had a great race pace today and it’s very impressive how they improved over the winter. Now this will be a fight against Ferrari I guess – and we want to strike back in Shanghai.
Our first feeling today is obviously one of disappointment. We were beaten fair and square by Ferrari and Sebastian, who did a fantastic job, and I’m not sure we could have matched their long run pace at any point. They took a well-deserved win. We saw on Friday that Kimi was really strong in these hot conditions, with the track over 60 degrees, and that was confirmed in the race. Of course, it’s easy to be clever after the race looking at things we could have done better and there are certainly plenty of points that could have been optimized. But we take these decisions together as a team and this is the moment to stay calm, do our analysis and learn what we can improve for next time. It was a complicated race for the team to read – and for the drivers, too, from the cockpit. We had some interesting radio discussions and both guys did a great job to deliver the double podium at the finish. But I think we can also take a step back and look at the sport today. Always it seems that when people are making the most noise about changing the rules, Formula One delivers. It was the case in Bahrain last year and we saw it again today. It wasn’t a perfect day for Mercedes but it was a good one for Formula One.
First of all, congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian on an impressive victory. Coming into the race, there were two main choices to be made: whether to make two or three stops, and whether the Prime or the Option would be the better race tire. It was clear yesterday that opinion was divided on that question, as we saw the leading teams using different tyre compounds in Q1. We saved new Prime tires for the race, while others saved new Options. We planned a three-stop strategy favoring the Prime tire and, although the Safety Car came out early, it was late enough to be used as the first of our three stops. With hindsight, the advantage this gave to Ferrari on their two-stop strategy, and the time we lost in traffic in the first laps after the Safety Car, left us with a gap to Sebastian that proved too much of a challenge for us to recover – especially considering that we did not have an underlying pace advantage to Ferrari, who were very competitive this weekend. Nonetheless, we scored a good haul of points with P2 and P3 and I must also say well done to the team, who performed brilliantly on one of the most difficult weekends for Formula 1
Daniil Kvyat, Finish Position: 9th, Start Position: 5th
“We took the maximum out of the situation today. We are lacking some pace and need to catch up, I am confident that the team can do it; it’s a challenge and we have to face it with a strong mind. Fighting for P9 and P10 is not what we want, we struggled today and we need to work out why.”
Daniel Riccaiardo, Finish Position: 10th, Start Position: 4th
“A really frustrating race. I was ready for a fight going into the race and hoping for something special – but it wasn’t to be! I had a bit of contact on the first lap, which hurt us and then we had a few issues throughout the race, which we had to manage. It took a long time to pass cars as we didn’t have the pace and we had some problems with the brakes, which didn’t make our afternoon easy. It was a good job by Sebastian, a great drive from him.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal: “A really difficult afternoon. Some contact at the first turn damaged Daniel’s front wing, which seemed to deteriorate through the race. Then after the safety car we started to see brake temperatures climb and needed to nurse the cars quite significantly through the second half of the race. I don’t think the drivers could have done anymore today. There’s plenty to understand following this weekend and plenty to address before China in two weeks. Sebastian drove an incredible race, so congratulations to him and Ferrari. Hopefully we will give them a harder time soon.”
Thierry Salvi Renault: “This weekend we made a step forward in drivability compared to Melbourne, which was essential in the wet Quali. There are still improvements that can be made to bring lap time gains, but so far both drivers are happy with the work completed. As usual in Malaysia, we were on the limit cooling wise during the race and had to compromise to stay safe, especially when following competitors. Daniel’s front wing issue cost him a lot of lap time and Dany had to work hard to come back after the clash with Hulkenberg. Reliability was much better this weekend, which will allow us to spend more time working on the performance of the Power Unit and with the team.”