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Victorious Vettel dents Mercedes Armour

A lot of people, including myself, thought that after watching the opening race in Australia that it was going to be another Mercedes dominated season. However, Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari have given F1 fans hope of an exciting season after one of the best drives I have ever seen from Vettel. I know this is saying a lot given the fact he has 40 career victories to his name, but these were during his dominating time at Red Bull (excluding his maiden Toro Rosso victory). He was driving the best car and was expected to win week in week out; which he did. I know some of his drives for Red Bull were tremendous, but his drive in Malaysia was the best for me.

Nobody was expected to get near Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg all weekend, but from Friday there was something that suggested that Vettel could at least hassle the two Mercedes drivers. With him also being able to split the pair in qualifying, the signs were there that he could get near them in the race. The most refreshing thing about this was that Vettel beat the two Mercedes on pace, not luck. I would say however, that had Mercedes not messed up Hamilton’s strategy, it may have been a lot closer, although Hamilton has said that it wasn’t his strategy that cost him victory. The Mercedes tyre woes of the past seemed to hurt them as well during the race. Vettel managed his tyres superbly throughout the race going long during his first stint, whilst the Mercedes pair pitted under the safety car. Hamilton was then heard complaining of his tyres going off very early into his stints, whereas Vettel didn’t mention his tyres once. I don’t think we should get too carried away by this however, as I believe Mercedes will still be the team to beat all season. The massive temperatures may have contributed to the tyre worries, but don’t doubt that Ferrari have made a huge step forward and could maybe give Mercedes a run for their money.

Wheel-to-Wheel Action

A significant stand out during the Malaysian GP was the amount of wheel-to-wheel action that we saw up and down the field. This was a far cry from the Australian GP where there was a lack of action all afternoon. From the second the lights went out in Malaysia, there was action galore; in none more so then the two Toro Rosso drivers of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Yet again the Red Bull junior program has produced two fantastic talents, and this was evident throughout the weekend. Verstappen equalled his dad’s (Jos Verstappen) best ever qualifying of 6th in just his second race. He had a slow start, initially going backwards to meet Sainz in a midfield battle. Sainz had a bad qualifying but shot up the field and was running as high as 4th. The pair were fantastic and drove with brilliant maturity and looked so comfortable.


Kimi Raikkonen was also displaying brilliant wheel-to-wheel action, but it’s what you would expect from a former World Champion. Nevertheless it was fantastic viewing and, considering he was running last at one point after suffering a puncture, shows how good a drive it was from him. The two Force India drivers were involved in close quarter action as well, as Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were both penalised for collisions on track. Hulkenberg collided with Dani Kyvat at turn two and was harshly, in my opinion, given a 10 second time penalty. Perez’s penalty though was probably justified, as he collided with Romain Grosjean and spun the Lotus driver off the track. The action seen all over the grid made for a very entertaining race.

Mixed feelings at McLaren

Fernando Alonso competed in his first race for McLaren since the Brazilian GP back in 2007. He hasn’t been in the car since his mysterious testing accident in Barcelona, which caused him to miss the opening round in Australia. To put it bluntly, this new McLaren with the Honda power unit is poor in comparison to that of the Mercedes unit. In Australia, Jenson Button was 5 seconds off the pace with reserve driver Kevin Magnusson not even making it to the grid. Fast-forward two weeks though, and McLaren seem to have taken huge strides already, which is a relief for the team and fans alike. Okay, so they still aren’t close to the Mercedes, Ferrari or Renault power units, but there was a definite improvement that was clear to see in Malaysia. They weren’t as far off the pace as in Australia, and even gave some competition to the Force Indias and Saubers. Unfortunately neither car made it to the end of the race, as both suffered from mechanical issues that forced them to stop. Both drivers seemed very upbeat about the car, which is very good to see. I am sure throughout the season the car will improve massively, and sooner or later McLaren Honda will be back at the front of the grid where it belongs.

Report courtesy of Simon Gray

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