It wasn’t vintage Vettel, but it’s a clinical victory nonetheless. Was he right to do what he did? Either way, he wouldn’t have been in that position had he not gambled so early for dry tyres. His decision to ignore the team gained him seven extra points that could be crucial in Brazil.
2 | Mark Webber | Red Bull Racing | 2nd | Multi 21/10
It was an almost perfect drive for Webber. He made an uncharacteristically superb start and Alonso’s woes meant he was comfortably in second place. That soon became first after he timed the switch correctly. The subsequent intra-team battle has been well documented; he’s no angel but it was a victory he deserved.
3 | Fernando Alonso | Ferrari | Ret | 3/10
Several of Ferrari’s decisions in 2012 were poor and ultimately played a part in costing Alonso the title. Despite the celebrations of his 200th race, Alonso’s day was disastrous. Nudge on Vettel was minor but costly; the decision not to pit him at the end of Lap One was baffling. On such calls are titles won and lost.
4 | Felipe Massa | Ferrari | 5th | 7/10
The 2007/8-spec Massa is well and truly back but it was a missed opportunity in Malaysia. He was boxed in by Alonso at the start and slipped behind Button. Tyre graining in the wet cost him time, but he recovered well to finish fifth and bag valuable points.
5 | Jenson Button | McLaren | 17th | 8/10
The mere statistics show that Button has taken a measly two points from the opening pair of races. But after the misery of Melbourne, Sepang offered optimism for the rest of the season. Button’s pace and intention to stop once less than his rivals indicated that fifth – or potentially more – was achievable.
6 | Sergio Perez | McLaren | 9th | 6/10
He finally ends his barren run but it was a disappointing performance. Perez was never in the same race as his team-mate and ultimately offered little in battle. He’ll have to flex his muscles more in the future.
7 | Kimi Raikkonen | Lotus | 7th | 6/10
Sublime in Melbourne, subdued in Malaysia. The pace from a week ago had disappeared as Raikkonen struggled with his Lotus. A couple of off track excursions cost him time, but seventh still continues his run of points.
8 | Romain Grosjean | Lotus | 6th | 7/10
A year ago Grosjean swiped into a Mercedes and spun off the track a few laps later. This season there were no such problems as he raced solidly to a commendable sixth place.
9 | Nico Rosberg | Mercedes | 4th | 8/10
It’s been a surprisingly long time since Nico Rosberg last finished in the top ten of a Grand Prix – September 23rd 2012, to be precise – but his pace was strong and he raced with an intelligence required in the modern era.
10 | Lewis Hamilton | Mercedes | 3rd | 8/10
He looked embarrassed to finish on the podium considering that Rosberg was issued orders to maintain position. Fiftieth career podium – and first with Mercedes – indicates that his move to the Silver Arrows was wiser than first thought. Just enter the right pit box next time.
11 | Nico Hulkenberg | Sauber | 8th | 8/10
After sitting out the Australian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg raced with a steely determination in Malaysia. A strong start elevated him among the tail end of the top ten and he had a race long duel with Raikkonen, once which he ultimately lost.
12 | Esteban Gutierrez | Sauber | 12th | 6/10
Apart from one minor off track moment it was another solid race for Gutierrez. It’s an encouraging start but he’s so far been fairly anonymous, a trait he’ll need to rectify once the sport returns to Europe.
14 | Paul di Resta | Force India | Ret | 6/10
At first it appeared that the Cirque du Soleil were in town and had put on some orange and green gear, but soon it became apparent that Force India’s problem was with the wheel nuts. It compounded a miserable weekend for the Scot.
15 | Adrian Sutil | Force India | Ret | 6/10
Sutil was fastest in Q1 and fifth in Q2 but once the rain arrived he slipped back to ninth; still a good result. But like with di Resta his weekend was curtailed by pit stop woes. China next…
16 | Pastor Maldonado | Williams | Ret | 4/10
The Williams FW35 is not a strong car at this moment, but Maldonado isn’t helping the issue by overdriving the car. Damaging the front wing put him among the backmarkers, although his race was eventually ended by a KERS issue.
17 | Valtteri Bottas | Williams | 11th | 7/10
Only two races in and Bottas is starting to put Maldonado under pressure. The Finn slid wide battling Van der Garde on the opening lap, dropping to the back of the field. He nonetheless fought back to finish an impressive eleventh, just missing out on the top ten.
18 | Jean Eric Vergne | Toro Rosso | 10th | 7/10
Vergne missed out on points in Australia after an enthusiastic final few laps dropped him back a few places. In Malaysia it was the pit crew who almost signalled the end of his event but he bounced back to claim a deserved point.
19 | Daniel Ricciardo | Toro Rosso | 18th | 5/10
It would be easy to be critical of Ricciardo for compromising his race by spinning out on his lap to the grid and damaging the floor. But seeing as a third of the grid repeated his error, he was just the unfortunate one who sustained terminal damage.
20 | Charles Pic | Caterham | 14th | 6/10
It was an unfortunate race for Pic as he was the victim of Toro Rosso’s eagerness with the lollipop. He lost just shy of half a minute while the team repaired the damage; without the delay he reckons beating Bianchi was possible.
21 | Giedo Van der Garde | Caterham | 15th | 5/10
The Dutchman suffered a puncture during his first stint but the change to slick tyres meant the loss wasn’t as great as it could have been. Felt the team is making steps but oversteer on corner entry remains an issue.
22 | Jules Bianchi | Marussia | 13th | 9/10
Shades of Alonso/Minardi 2001? His qualifying lap was outstanding as he came close to Q2 and was comfortably ahead of Chilton. With Bianchi at the helm, Marussia will feel confident of achieving points on merit before long. Just think: a month ago he had no drive…
23 | Max Chilton | Marussia | 16th | 5/10
Chilton was outclassed all weekend by Bianchi but he didn’t embarrass himself. A poor start meant that he had to queue behind his team-mate, and this time loss meant he hit the blue flags sooner than the rest, costing him even more time.