Malaysian Grand Prix 2011: Vettel maintains perfect start
World champion storms to victory to record his second win of the season and preserve his 100 per cent start
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel maintained his perfect start to 2011 as he cruised to victory in a thrilling Malaysian Grand Prix.
The world champion was imperious as he led McLaren’s Jenson Button and Renault’s Nick Heidfeld across the line, despite a problem with KERS.
“We could control it, but it was never easy,” Vettel said afterwards. “When Jenson was behind me I could control the gap. KERS was a little bit on-off during the race. Two weeks ago we never raced it at all.
“Today if I didn’t have it at the start the race would never have unfolded as it did. Then we had a problem and had to turn it off, but it came back on again.”
The forecasted heavy rain failed to materialise but the race offered plenty of overtaking, with several drivers making the most of the new Drag Reduction System (DRS) and KERS down the long straights.
Renault were the best team off the line as both Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov moved up the order with daring runs up the outside into Turn 1, where Heidfeld move from sixth to second and Petrov moved from eighth to fourth.
Mark Webber took fourth place for Red Bull ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa despite a poor start leaving him helpless as the lights went out and both Ferrari and Renault cars got a jump on him.
Vettel’s championship defence was further boosted as rivals Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton could only finish sixth and seventh after Alonso brushed the back of the McLaren while chasing third forcing Alonso to pit.
Hamilton also had to pit for new tyres before the end of the race, leaving Vettel 24 points ahead of Button in the championship standings.
The McLaren driver, starting second on the grid, lost out to Heidfeld at the start but was able to jump the German at the first stop. After his second stop, however, he fell back as he switched to the option tyres.
Vettel added: “I think first of all, we can be happy today and enjoy and try to keep that momentum, take it into next race. Two races, two out of two. Perfect.
“It could not be any better, but there is a long, long way to go. Lots of points still to get, so we have to keep our feet on the ground.
“Things are looking good and if that is the reward then it’s no problem putting harder work in. Tomorrow China starts and we’ll see how we get on there.”
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi took eighth for the Swiss team, two weeks after being thrown out for a technical infringement in Melbourne.
Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher finished ninth ahead of Scot Paul di Resta who also had success as he moved up from 14th on the grid to finish tenth to secure his second world championship point in his debut season with Force India.
Schumacher benefited from an error of judgement by Petrov which ended his race in dramatic fashion in the closing stages as his steering column came loose after running wide.
“I am quite happy I must say,” Di Resta said. “The team did a good job with the strategy. I just could not hold off Michael at the end, he had fresher tyres and we had to stop a bit earlier for my third stop than predicted.
“But I also did not want to risk the championship point as well. I think the DRS showed some good racing today, so maybe we can be confident that in China our race pace may even be a little bit better.
“We were battling with cars that were a little bit quicker than us today, so overall I think we had a great race.”
Formula 1 heads to Shanghai next week for the Chinese Grand Prix with Vettel looking to take his sixth win in seven races and become the first driver to win three consecutive races in the same season since Jenson Button’s four-race winning streak from Bahrain to Turkey in 2009.