Vettel at the double - Malaysian GP report

By on Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vettel takes his second 2011 win and extends his lead to 24 points.

Pre-race, all the talk was about the weather. With rain having held off on Friday and Saturday, it was destined to come on race day. However, despite a few spots, the anticipated deluge never arrive but instead, the Sepang circuit put on a cracking race, largely thanks to the high wear rate of the Pirelli tyres. Despite all the variables, Sebastian Vettel won for the fourth race running to pull out a hefty lead in the championship after just two races.

At the start, Sebastian Vettel led away from pole but team mate Mark Webber bogged down. On the formation lap, he reported a problem with KERS and this duly resulted in him dropping to 9th after the first series of corners. Both Renaults left the grid like rockets, Heidfeld went around the outside to leapfrog Hamilton into 2nd, with Petrov gaining three places from his grid slot.

Webber soon set about trying to rectify his problems, but without KERS this was proving difficult. He was involved in a great scrap with Kamui Kobayashi, with the Japanese driver going around the outside of Webber into Turn 1.

Hamilton was being held up by Heidfeld, although not extensively. Vettel’s lead was up to 7 seconds by the first round of stops, although there were several shuffles behind him. Heidfeld had a poor stop and lost out to Hamilton, Button and Alonso, the latter showing promising pace after a difficult qualifying.

Hamilton set about hunting Vettel down and after the second round of stops; the latter looked to be in trouble as his team informed him that he should not use KERS, presumably due to concerns over reliability. However, Vettel simply extended his lead from four seconds to eight seconds as Hamilton began to struggle and when McLaren pitted for a third time, Button jumped Hamilton after a slow stop for the 2008 world champion.

Button edged closer to Vettel but the fight for the lead was never on. However, behind him Hamilton was struggling and Alonso was closing on the Brit. On Lap 45, Alonso got too close to Hamilton, damaged his front wing and pitted for a fourth time. This caused the greatest controversy post-race as Alonso was given a 20 second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision. This would have dropped him to 7th, had Hamilton not been given the same penalty for defending his position more than once on the straight. Both penalties were excessive and soured a great race.

Hamilton was struggling badly and was caught and passed by Heidfeld. The recovering Webber soon did the same as Hamilton slid off at Turn 7. He subsequently pitted for a fourth time and came home a dejected seventh.

Melbourne hero Vitaly Petrov, who had been running in the points throughout the race, provided the most spectacular moment. On Lap 53, he ran wide at Turn 8 and kept his foot flat on the throttle as he hit a dip in the ground which launched his Renault into the air. The steering mounting failed and he retired after a heavy landing.

Further back and the team who had a shocker was Mercedes. Michael Schumacher made a great start but a bad strategy left him overtaken by Kamui Kobayashi three times. He finished 9th. Nico Rosberg fared worse as he was easily overtaken by Paul di Resta and struggled to twelfth.

Lotus was challenging the midfield runners for the first time, staying within sight of Jaime Alguersuari and finishing a lap ahead of Virgin. They should score their first point this year on merit. Virgin Racing got Timo Glock to the finish although Jerome d’Ambrosio stopped trackside near the end. HRT managed to qualify but neither car finished whilst it was another awful weekend for Williams as both Barrichello and Maldonado failed to see the chequered flag. Another retirement was Sergio Perez, whose car shut down after he hit debris from Buemi’s Toro Rosso. STR failed to achieve the heights of last weekend, although they might have done had Buemi not speeded in the pits, resulting in a stop and go penalty. The high tyre wear - 59 stops in total - suggests that Pirelli has succeeded in spicing up the action and could mean races such as Montreal will be crazy.

The circus heads to Shanghai next weekend and there may well be a few more surprises in store.

The Malaysian Grand Prix
Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia;
56 laps; 310.408km;
Weather: Dry.

Classified:

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
 1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h37:39.832
 2.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +     3.261
 3.  Heidfeld      Renault                    +    25.075
 4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    26.384
 5.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    36.958
 6.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    57.248
 7.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:07.239
 8.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +  1:09.957
 9.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:24.896
10.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +  1:31.563
11.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +  1:41.379
12.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +     1 lap
13.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +     1 lap
14.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +     1 lap
15.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +     1 lap
16.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +    2 laps
17.  Petrov        Renault                    +    4 laps

Fastest lap: Webber, 1:40.571

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                         On lap
Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth                 47 - Retired
D'Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth              43 - Hit the kerb hard, engine shut down
Trulli        Lotus-Renault                32 - Clutch
Perez         Sauber-Ferrari               24 - Electrics
Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth            23 - Hydraulics
Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth                 15 - Retired
Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth            9 - Engine misfire

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