After being robbed of a possible two victories in Bahrain and Australia due to technical problems, Sebastian Vettel finally, and convincingly, won in Malaysia.
As can always happen in this part of the world, the heavens opened before qualifying and instead of the rain easing during Q1, it got worse and worse meaning that any cars that didn’t venture out onto the circuit in the first part of the session were never going to set a competitive enough time to make it through to Q2.
The two teams that fell most foul of this though were the most experienced in the paddock: Ferrari and McLaren. With these two contenders safely at the back of the grid, the Red Bulls, which had qualified on pole (Webber) and third (Vettel), only had to worry about each other and perhaps the Mercedes of Rosberg that was also on the front row.
Webber produced a brilliant lap in Q3 to get pole, being the only one in the top ten to attempt intermediates rather than full wets, and finished more than a second faster than Rosberg. However, his opening corner wasn’t so brilliant as, thinking that there was no threat from Rosberg, he left a gap on the inside going into the first corner, which Vettel immediately dived through. The Australian tried his best through the following corners to regain the place, but the damage had been done. It must have been a hard pill for Webber to swallow knowing that he had gifted his team-mate the race so early on.
Apart from the pitstops the leading three of Vettel, Webber and Rosberg remained unchanged throughout the Grand Prix. Further back though was another matter. Hamilton drove a great race and was in typically good form overtaking almost ten cars within a few laps. Button on the other hand got stuck in traffic and after pitting very early to go onto the harder compound, he then had to endure nearly three quarters of the race on the tyres. Even with his famously smooth driving style, it was a tall order. Despite being very quick soon after pitting, the World Champion struggled near the end of the race and lost a place to Massa. He would have no doubt lost another to Alonso, even though the Spaniard had a gearbox problem, if the Ferrari had not blown up while trying to get past the McLaren.
The Malaysian Grand Prix confirmed a few matters which have been discussed in depth both on the Motor Sport site and on the rest of the Internet. Firstly, if the Red Bulls could finish a race without any trouble they would be devastatingly quick. They certainly were in Sepang and you got the impression that they probably had another second to give if they were being pushed. Secondly, Formula 1 racing without fuel stops isn’t as boring as Bahrain would suggest, nor is it as thrilling as a damp Australia suggested. The old issue remains: if the cars have such huge amounts of downforce, they will be very hard to overtake. You only need to look at Hamilton closing down on Sutil in the final stages of the race at a rate of nearly two seconds a lap only to get onto the tail of the Force India and have no hope of getting past.
This isn’t going to change in the near future, so for the time being let us admire a sublime race and deserved win by Vettel, rue Webber’s missed opportunity, enjoy the overtaking exploits of Hamilton and another great finish for Renault’s Kubica, and tip our cap to Alguersuari who looked very impressive on a Grand Prix track for one of the first times in his career.