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2015 Malaysian F1 GP: Ferrari Hits Back As Vettel Takes Victory At Sepang Photo:
 
 
Peter Anderson | Mar, 30 2015 | 5 Comments

Sebastian Vettel silenced anyone who doubted the wisdom of his move to Ferrari as the German took his first win for the Scuderia at the Malaysian Grand Prix and the team's first since Spain in 2013.

Ferrari out-paced, out-raced and out-foxed an oddly at-sea Mercedes team and even dragged Kimi Raikkonen home in fourth after a first lap incident.

Vettel's former teammate Daniel Ricciardo limped home tenth, not only behind teammate Kvyat but also both Toro Rossos.

The midfield battle was furious, as furious as Lewis Hamilton as tempers frayed between driver and pitwall.

 

PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING

The Ferraris raised a cheer as they knocked a couple of tenths out of the gaping chasm between Mercedes and the rest.

More cheers came with the return of Fernando Alonso and The Curious Case of the Catalan Crash got even curiouser as he gave a different story to his team. And Marussia got their car out on track.

Qualifying saw Ferrari get it wrong for Raikkonen and he went out in Q2, in eleventh before the rain fell, ending Raikkonen's chance to make amends and delaying Q3.

Vettel pulled a blinder for a front row start with Hamilton, a disconsolate Rosberg third.

Daniel Ricciardo was pleased with his fourth position.

 

RACE

Hamilton got a terrific start and streaked away while Rosberg and Vettel battled into turn one. The Ferrari driver prevailed with a squeeze against the wall and a bump at that first corner.

Daniil Kvyat gave Daniel Ricciardo a hard time and Pastor Maldonado again had a first corner incident, this time with the returning Valtteri Bottas. He limped back to the pits with a puncture.

Hulkenberg got a great start too, finding himself seventh before long, while Bottas went backwards to thirteenth.

Ericsson and Verstappen made contact, with Ericsson barging past the Toro Rosso. The other Sauber of Nasr featured at the end of the lap, running into the back of Kimi Raikkonen and puncturing the left rear.

The Finn couldn't make the pit entry and drove the entire track with a disintegrating tyre and wheel. Nasr pitted for a new front wing. Raikkonen fitted new medium tyres and headed out with a slightly damaged Ferrari.

Marcus Ericsson tried a hugely optimistic move on Nico Hulkenberg and wobbled off into the gravel at turn one. The safety car came out and the Mercedes double-stacked in the pits while much of the rest of the field came in too.

Vettel stayed out and had the presence of mind to message his team that he thought the Mercedes were being a bit naughty on the way into the pits.

Williams didn't help their man Bottas by not having a tyre ready for him and Jenson Button too had a long stop.

Vettel wasted no time on the restart, pulling out a huge gap on a sleepy Hulkenberg. Rosberg tried to throw his Mercedes up the inside of eighth-placed Felipe Massa and was given no quarter, the Brazilian muscling the German through turn one and out of the way on turn two.

Hamilton was smarter and waited for turn ten to pass Perez. The following Daniel Ricciardo slipped by the Mexican too, a big move around the outside at eleven.

Hamilton and Rosberg had a job to do as Vettel began to pull away from Hulkenberg at over a second a lap, with Lewis well over fifteen seconds behind the four-time world champion.

Hamilton moved to third by passing the Toro Rosso of Sainz while Rosberg struggled to get around the Williams of Massa.

Again the old-stager fought the Mercedes hard through the series of corners after the main straight, finally admitting defeat.

By the end of lap ten, the gap was down to ten seconds between Vettel and Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas' was back and as punchy as ever, making an excellent pass on Verstappen at turn one.

Hamilton was unable to make significant inroads on Vettel's lead, with the gap remaining around nine seconds. The Red Bulls were going backwards as they lost places, Ricciardo complaining of understeer brought about by rubber chunks in his front wing.

The two McLarens were moving along at a much better rate than in Australia, with Alonso stalking Perez. He grabbed the place at turn fourteen and then the Mexican had to battle with Button, who breezed by.

Vettel pitted from the lead on lap 18 and the team put on a staggering 2.4 second stop for a new set of mediums. He returned to the track behind Rosberg but ahead of the Williams cars. Ricciardo pitted at the beginning of lap 19.

It became apparent that it wasn't just Ricciardo battling his tyres - Hamilton was bothered by understeer, preventing him from tearing off into the distance. Rosberg too found himself having trouble, but with the red car of Vettel.

At the end of lap twenty-two, Vettel duly passed Rosberg who was unable to fight back with the aid of DRS.

McLaren radioed Alonso to tell him that there was a problem with the car and to retire, but it had been a good show - the team had both cars in the points, the debacle in Australia now rapidly receding in the rear-view mirror.

Vettel, meanwhile was taking chunks out of Hamilton's lead. The Briton was getting agitated in his Mercedes cockpit and on lap 24, Vettel swept by as Hamilton pitted for the medium tyres, a choice he wasn't happy with.

Kvyat and Hulkenberg ran into grief - the young Russian thought he'd got by the Force India but as he turned into turn three, the Force India shovelled the Red Bull out of the way, all in front of Ricciardo.

The Force India survived to continue but copped a ten-second penalty for his troubles.

While Ferrari passed Mercedes up front, Mercedes passed Ferrari further back as Rosberg rounded up Raikkonen.

Just after halfway, Hamilton's new tyres seemed to be working for him as he set about catching Vettel, at a second a lap. The team told him he could settle for second or go for the win by passing on the track.

The brilliant battle between Perez and Grosjean ended badly for the Lotus driver the Force India driver failed to give adequate room, tipping the Frenchman into a spin and an entirely justified tizzy on the radio.

A couple of laps later, Perez duly copped a ten second penalty.

Bottas and Verstappen had a tremendous scrap over sixth place, the Toro Rosso driver racing like an old pro. The Finn prevailed but the young Dutchman made him work hard for it.

Raikkonen pitted on lap 35 yet again, this time for the hard compound, with Vettel in two laps later.

Vettel came out of the pits right in front of Nico Rosberg and the Ferrari driver held his nerve to stay ahead of the Mercedes. The gap to Hamilton was ten seconds, but he was in just a lap later.

Vettel punched in some fast laps and Hamilton squabbled with his team over tyre choice and radio communication timing.

Sadly for McLaren, Button radioed his pit to say he'd lost power and a greatly improved performance came to an end with a turbo problem.

Pastor Maldonado's race finished on lap 50, the Venezuelan's perfect non-finishing record in Malaysia remaining intact. His record extends to never finishing the opening two races of any season in his F1 career.

The Williams cars had a brilliant battle in the closing laps, with Valtteri Bottas fighting hard for Massa's fifth place on the final lap, pressing the point from turn one to turn six.

He got it cleanly, avoiding last year's pitwall faux-pas from Williams.

It seemed that by the end of lap fifty, Hamilton had given up the chase and resigned himself to defeat. Vettel took his fourth Malaysian win, the most of any driver, lapping his old team in the process. He took the win to become the first Ferrari victor since Fernando Alonso in 2013.

Ricciardo limped home in tenth behind Kvyat, having twice been told to let the Russian pass, a day that didn't end as well as he might have thought from a second row start.

"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," Ricciardo said.

"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."

Formula 1 returns in two weeks time at the Shanghai International Circuit.

 

Malaysian F1 GP Results

  1. Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari - 1h41m05.793s
  2. Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes +8.569s
  3. Nico Rosberg - Mercedes +12.310s
  4. Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari +53.822s
  5. Valtteri Bottas - Williams/Mercedes +1m10.409s
  6. Felipe Massa - Williams/Mercedes +1m13.586s
  7. Max Verstappen - Toro Rosso/Renault +1m37.762s
  8. Carlos Sainz - Toro Rosso/Renault +1 Lap
  9. Daniil Kvyat - Red Bull/Renault +1 Lap
  10. Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull/Renault +1 Lap
  11. Romain Grosjean - Lotus/Mercedes +1 Lap
  12. Felipe Nasr - Sauber/Ferrari +1 Lap
  13. Sergio Perez - Force India/Mercedes +1 Lap
  14. Nico Hulkenberg - Force India/Mercedes +1 Lap
  15. Roberto Merhi - Marussia/Ferrari +3 Laps
  • Pastor Maldonado - Lotus/Mercedes - Retirement
  • Jenson Button - McLaren/Honda - Retirement
  • Fernando Alonso - McLaren/Honda - Retirement
  • Marcus Ericsson - Sauber/Ferrari - Retirement
  • Will Stevens - Marussia/Ferrari - Withdrawn
 
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