Drafting the Circuits
Formula 1 Report
Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix
By Steve Aibel
With only one race completed in the 2015 season, Mercedes AMG Petronas were practically crowned champion after a dominating performance in the Australian Grand Prix. There was chatter about a boring F1 season and an inability to keep up with the dominant Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid.
Just two weeks later the winds have shifted. Ferrari have a victory under their belt, Lewis Hamilton leads Sebastian Vettel by only three points in the drivers championship, and Ferrari has announced loudly.
We are back and there is a championship up for grabs!
Vettel won the Grand Prix in Malaysia and was joined on the podium by Lewis Hamilton who placed second and Nico Rosberg in third.
After 34 races without a victory, Ferrari erased the memory of their disastrous 2014 season and the general malaise that had fogged Maranello. The Scuderia are a force this year with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen ready to take the fight to Mercedes. In a car built to suit their driving styles and untapped potential, Ferrari are certainly the early surprise of the season.
In Malaysia, it was Vettel who conquered the Sepang International Circuit breaking the streak of 8 consecutive Mercedes victories. Vettel, who left Red Bull Racing as a four time World Champion, came to a broken Ferrari that went winless in 2014. This victory brought him to tears as a boyhood dream of winning for Ferrari was realized.
Vettel also went winless in 2014 . His last win was in Brazil in 2013; a winless streak of 21 races. The win in Malaysia was a strong declaration that Vettel, and his championship form, was back along with the revitalized Ferrari team.
Vettel’s victory was his fourth in Malaysia and his 40th career F1 win. Both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were fast right from the get go in practice. Raikkonen was top three in all of the practice sessions but was unable to transfer that advantage to the weather impacted qualifying session.
Raikkonen was caught out during Q2 as torrential rain limited running. Raikkoen was unable to post an early time quick enough to move into Q3. Vettel, on the other hand, did make Q3 and was able to grab a front row starting position alongside pole sitter Lewis Hamilton.
The long run pace of the Ferrari during practice matched the Mercedes and had the whole of Italy hopeful and crossing their fingers for a Ferrari miracle on race day.
An early safety car caused by a Marcus Ericsson spin on lap 4 brought strategy into play. Both Rosberg and Hamilton pitted while Vettel stayed out gaining the top position that he would hold for most of the day. Although this strategy gave Vettel an advantage it was the long range pace of the Ferrari that ultimately brought the German a hard earned victory.
Toto Wolff, Mercedes boss, pointed toward the overall pace of the Ferrari rather than strategy in explaining the race for Mercedes.
“We need to find out why we were struggling for long-run pace in these hot conditions because I think that is the main point to look at.”
Kimi Raikkonen could easily have joined Vettel on the podium had it not been for the qualifying error and a tire puncture after contact with Felipe Nasr of Sauber on the opening lap. Raikkonen drove through the pack, recovering the grab the fourth position again illustrating the strength of the total Ferrari package.
Teenager, Max Verstappen of Toro Rosso, showed why he was brought to Formula 1 at the young age of 17, becoming the youngest driver to score points in Formula 1 history. Verstappen secured a 7th place finish and will certainly be eyed by the larger teams as he continues to gain experience and secure points.
On the flip side, McLaren retired both cars from the Grand Prix. Jenson Button retired with a turbocharger issue while Fernando Alonso had an ERS cooling issue. Still, this was progress for the McLaren team who are taking tortoise steps toward becoming competitive.
What pain Alonso must be feeling as he is forced to watch rival Vettel steer the Resurgent Ferrari ship!
At days end, the Formula 1 paddock will leave Malaysia with Ferrari smack dab in the middle of a championship fight led by 4 time champion Sebastian Vettel.
“I have definitely missed not just the champagne but the top step,” he said. “So it’s great to come back after a tough season where I just didn’t get on top of the car.
“This year, the balance of the car seems to suit me and come my way and also Kimi [Raikkonen]’s way more than last year in general.
“The strategy was obviously ace, so big thanks to the guys.”
Vettel was loved at Red Bull Racing and seems to be taking a similar leadership role as his boyhood dream is coming true at Ferrari.
- Lewis Hamilton 43
- Sebastian Vettel 40
- Nico Rosberg 33
- Felipe Massa 20
- Kimi Raikkonen 12
- Felipe Nasr 10
- Valtteri Bottas 10
- Daniel Ricciardo 9
- Nico Hulkenberg 6
- Max Verstappen 6
- Carlos Sainz Jr. 6
- Marcus Ericsson 4
- Daniil Kvyat 2
- Sergio Perez 1
- Mercedes 76
- Ferrari 52
- Williams 30
- Sauber 14
- Toro Rosso 12
- Red Bull 11
- Force India 7