VF1blog: Vettel Takes Controversial Race Victory
Sebastian Vettel has taken a controversial race victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix, after a race long-battle with his Red Bull team-mate of Mark Webber who eventually finished 2nd. Lewis Hamilton managed to finish an decent 3rd, as he too fought with his team-mate of Nico Rosberg.
Prior to the start of the race, rain struck parts of the Sepang International Circuit, resulting in several drivers spinning off of the track on their way to the grid. This forced the entire grid to start the race on the intermediate tyre, with the opening sector of the track extremely wet in particular. At the start, Sebastian Vettel glided into the lead, as Mark Webber enjoyed a surprisingly competitive getaway and stormed into 3rd position around the opening two corners.
In the ensuing melee of the opening few corners, Fernando Alonso damaged his front wing whilst battling with Sebastian Vettel for the lead. The Spaniard surprisingly elected to remain out on the track at the end of the opening lap, and subsequently suffered a front wing failure as Mark Webber overtook the Ferrari driver at Turn 1. With his front-wing utterly destroyed and stuck underneath his Ferrari, Fernando Alonso ran straight on at Turn 1 and beached his car in the retaining gravel trap, forcing him into retirement.
By Lap 5 Sebastian Vettel elected to pit for slick tyres, with the Sepang International Circuit quickly drying out in the humid weather conditions. This move was met with scepticism throughout the paddock as the German driver struggled for grip early on. However, many more drivers eventually decided to pit throughout the next few laps, including Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber.
Many were amused when Lewis Hamilton mistakenly stopped at the McLaren garage, with the Briton clearly forgetting he had changed teams for a split second. Force India suffered a disastrous pit stop for their two drivers, after an issue with the front-left tyre held them up. Jean-Eric Vergne collided with Charles Pic in the pits, as the Toro Rosso driver was unsafely released into the path of the Caterham driver.
As the majority of the field pitted, Nico Rosberg assumed the lead for Mercedes however the German driver eventually pitted on Lap 9 to hand the lead of the race to Mark Webber who had overtaken his German team-mate during the opening pit-stops. As Mark Webber continued to lead at the front, Lewis Hamilton gradually began to catch the Red Bull duo at the front. Pastor Maldonado’s torrid start to the new season continued on Lap 14, when the Venezuelan driver ran extensively wide at Turn 11 and damaged his front wing, forcing him to pit for a new one.
After winning the Australian Grand Prix last time out, Kimi Raikkonen was enduring a tough race in the midfield for Lotus after starting 10th. The Finn found himself frustratingly stuck behind the McLaren of Sergio Perez after his first pit-stop, and finally managed to perfect an overtaking manoeuvre on Lap 15. Mark Webber pitted from the lead on Lap 19, handing the lead down to team-mate Sebastian Vettel. However, the reigning World Champion pitted several laps later, allowing Mark Webber to re-assume his lead at the front.
The Force India duo suffered another string of disastrous stops with both of their drivers, which later forced both Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil to retire from the race. Lewis Hamilton pitted from 3rd, this time managing to find the correct pit box. Several laps later saw both Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg pit once again, as Sebastian Vettel took the lead. However, the German driver once again failed to retain the lead at the front when he pitted, exiting the pits behind both Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton down in 3rd position.
After the front runners had completed their third pit-stops, Jenson Button was left in the lead of the race for McLaren. The 2009 World Champion eventually pitted on Lap 36, however a disastrous stop for McLaren saw the Briton grind to a halt just after exiting his pit box with a loose front-right wheel. Out on track saw Sebastian Vettel overtake Lewis Hamilton for 2nd position, as the Briton was ordered to save fuel in his Mercedes. The final round of pit-stops began on Lap 41, with Lewis Hamilton pitting first for Mercedes.
Both Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg were next, with Mark Webber pitting on Lap 43 and only just resuming in the lead ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The next lap saw the Red Bull duo battle extremely hard for the lead, with Mark Webber almost forcing Sebastian Vettel into the pit-wall down the start/finish straight. Eventually Sebastian Vettel muscled his way around his team-mate, as Lewis Hamilton was forced to defend from Nico Rosberg for the final podium position.
As the race entered its closing stages, both Pastor Maldonado, Daniel Ricciardo and Jenson Button retired from the race. Nico Rosberg was forced to settle for 4th position in the latter stages of the race, despite being visibly quicker than his British team-mate. At the front, Sebastian Vettel crossed the line to secure his 27th career victory, ahead of a disgruntled Mark Webber who thought the victory was his. Lewis Hamilton secured his first podium finish for Mercedes, with Nico Rosberg 4th.
Despite a controversial conclusion, the Malaysian Grand Prix was one of pure excitement as two teams at the front battled relentlessly for both the race victory and the final podium position. With the podium an extremely tense affair, the paddock will reconvene in several weeks time for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Author: Andy Young
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