Sebastian Vettel claims his first win since 2013, at the Malaysia Grand Prix, ahead of both Hamilton and Rosberg.
It is just two weeks since the Australian Grand Prix, but today Vettel improved on a podium finish to claim his first win for Ferrari. Seb battled it out with both Mercedes drivers’ for the win throughout the race. But the Silver Arrows could not fly at the top today, in a race that began with an early safety car, a few punctures and a spinning Sauber.
Across the weekend Mercedes have topped every session with both drivers topping at least two. But the important session of qualifying fell in favour of Hamilton after torrential rain flipped Q2 on its head and made the session a mad five minutes.
The only man who was unable to compete in qualifying, Will Stevens, was also unable to take part in the race after Marussia were unable to solve the fuel system problem that developed in FP3 on Saturday morning.
But come race day, Lewis Hamilton led the field away from the grid and the 19 cars powered towards turn one. Rosberg had a strong start from third place but Hamilton kept his team mate looking at his gearbox and the rear of Vettel’s Ferrari.
A little further back, Bottas took things cautiously going into turn one and became swamped by the midfield pack. One of the drivers Bottas found himself behind was Pastor Maldonado. As the Venezuelan slowed for turn two, Valtteri’s front wing made contact with the Lotus’ rear right tyre, resulting in an instant puncture for Pastor.
Come the end of the lap, Hamilton continued to lead the way but Pastor’s puncture was followed by Felipe Nasr clipping Raikkonen’s rear left at the final corner, giving the Finn a puncture. Unfortunately for him, he had already passed the pit entry when the tyre began to shred so the Ferrari was forced to limp around the track.
But to the rescue of Raikkonen came an early safety car, courtesy of the spinning Marcus Ericsson. The Sauber man had secured his first Q3 appearance in F1 this weekend, but the spin caused his car to beach in the gravel trap.
Under the safety car, a swarm of drivers made their first pit stop. Those drivers included both Silver Arrows as Mercedes double stacked their drivers. Contrastingly, Vettel stayed out and led the field upon the restart as Hamilton found himself in sixth place.
After the restart, Hamilton began to pick of the drivers ahead of him as he hunted down the Ferrari. But by the time he found himself back in second, Seb had already created a strong lead. However the Ferrari had not yet pitted for a change of tyres.
As for the other Mercedes, Rosberg lost out heavily from pitting under the safety car and fell further down the order than his team mate. Come the restart, he found himself with the Williams of Massa in front causing the two to do battle for a number of laps before Nico eventually managed to move ahead and hold on to the position.
While Raikkonen and Sainz headed for fresh rubber on lap 15, Maldonado came under an investigation by the race stewards for exceeding the safety car lap time. Unfortunately for him, he was found guilty and handed a 10 second time penalty.
Not so soon after and Vettel was another man heading for his box. The German had managed to remain in the lead until lap 18 but came out behind both Mercedes’.
But as he set about regaining the lost time, an inner team battle down at his former team Red Bull seemed to have begun. Kvyat made his way past his Australian team mate to take seventh place. But the battle was over as Ricciardo pitted at the end of the lap. Unfortunately the new tyres did him no favours and he was easily picked off by the 17-year-old in the Toro Rosso. Verstappen darted into turn one and sent his car around the outside of Ricciardo. Then as the two flowed into turn 2, Max edged Ricciardo out onto the rumble strips and made his way into the distance.
Despite coming out behind both Mercedes drivers, Seb wasted no time and instantly regained the lost ground. In fact, it was just four laps before Rosberg was overtaken and a further three laps before Vettel was in the lead. Seb’s rate of progress over those laps was around 1.5 to 2 seconds per lap over Hamilton, who pitted for another set of tyres the moment Seb took the lead.
Back at Red Bull, Ricciardo was told by the team that his front wing damage was getting worse and he should not hold up Kvyat. Unfortunately for the Russian, Ricciardo’s presence would not matter after a large spin at turn 2. Kvyat had just overtaken Ricciardo and Hulkenberg in turn 1, but he turned in for turn 2 in front of Hulkenberg and the rear of his car was tagged. Daniil then flew over the apex and span across the track.
Amazingly, it took just three more laps before another driver was sent into a spin. This time the driver at fault appeared to be Hulkenberg’s team mate, Sergio Perez, after the Mexican prevented Grosjean from gaining the position. Like Kvyat and Hulkenberg’s incident, Perez was found under investigation for spinning Grosjean and both Force India driver’s were handed 10 second time penalties.
Out at the front of the field, Vettel was returning to the Ferrari pit box for the second time. Vettel had done a far better job than the Mercedes duo when it come to tyres, and when he exited the pit lane he found himself right in front of Rosberg.
Nico however was unable to challenge Seb at all, as the German in the Ferrari bolted away from the German in the Mercedes in pursuit of the Brit in his Mercedes. Yet, no battle would be on the horizon as Lewis pitted once more at the end of his lap. Hamilton exited the garage in third place and on the hard tyres with the team believing he had the ability to catch up and overtake Vettel. But to do so would involve overtaking Rosberg, but that threat was taken away as the team brought Nico back into the pit lane.
Lewis began to show some pace and crawl towards Vettel, but Nico came out of the pits on the medium tyres. The tyres Lewis wanted put on his car (if he had any that were not used in qualifying). With the medium (option) tyres on Rosberg’s car, the German actually began to close back up on Lewis. But with 10 laps to go, he found himself 10 seconds behind his team mate. Who coincidently was over 10 seconds behind Vettel.
Meanwhile, at Hamilton’s former team McLaren, Button was peeling into the garage after a loss of power. His retirement comes as the first double DNF for McLaren since Bahrain last year. Soon after Button retired today, another driver was peeling off into his garage late on into the race. This time the man retiring was Pastor Maldonado who is yet to ever finish a Malaysian Grand Prix.
Back out at front, Hamilton remained over 10 seconds behind Vettel as the final five laps came into action. For Vettel however, he had no focus on Hamilton anymore as he set about catching up and lapping both Red Bull’s, whilst leading the race in just his second Ferrari Grand Prix.
As the chequered flag came into sight, Vettel remained miles in the lead and had now lapped both Red Bull’s. Hamilton and Rosberg were both too far back to challenge for the win, which allowed Vettel to take the win in his second Grand Prix for Ferrari. Whilst his former team could only manage ninth (Kvyat) and tenth place (Ricciardo). Seb’s victory is also his 40th in Formula One.