Friday 19 January 2018

F1: Vettel thunders to glory

Red Bull leave rivals high and dry with impressive one-two

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel on the podium. Photo: Getty Images
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel on the podium. Photo: Getty Images

Tom Cary

Sebastian Vettel performed his now customary leap off his flying drinks machine, indicated his 'No 1' status to the cameras with a furious bout of index finger-pumping and then, as he disappeared up a tunnel into the post-race control area, Red Bull's race winner jumped up and gave a little heel-click a la Gene Kelly in 'Singin' In The Rain'.

It is not known whether Vettel is a fan of classic musicals, but it would be nice to think that the young German was paying ironic tribute to the weather, which had played such a starring role in his ultimately comfortable victory.

For above him, contrary to all expectations, the Malaysian sky was clear, it was bone dry -- 32C and sticky as hell, but not a drop from the heavens. The downpours which so affected qualifying on Saturday, causing both McLarens and both Ferraris to start from near the back of the grid, had not materialised.

Without a chaos-inducing monsoon to muddle matters, Christian Horner's team were battling only their own reliability gremlins.

And from the moment Vettel, starting third, leapfrogged Mercedes' Nico Rosberg off the line and entered the first corner line astern with his team-mate Mark Webber, it was a fair bet that these two would motor off into the distance and claim a one-two.

And so it proved.

"What a day," Vettel said. "We had a magnificent car -- after passing Mark at the start I just had to watch the pace and look after the tyres.

"After the last two races it was important to stay relaxed and not panic so I am really pleased for me and the team."

If the battle at the front was routine, behind the Red Bulls an absorbing spectacle unfolded in which the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, and the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa chased, harried and scythed their way through the field.

It was tough to say which was the most impressive performance, but Alonso can consider himself hugely unfortunate since he stayed out the longest on hard tyres, hoping for the rain to come, battled all day with a faulty clutch and then suffered engine failure after a brave attempt to pass Button for eighth spot.

Hamilton's drive was of the same thrilling variety he produced in Melbourne the previous weekend, also in adverse circumstances.

Starting 20th on the grid, the 2008

world champion passed eight cars with consummate skill and, like Alonso, stayed out for over half the race to see whether rain might fall. When he eventually came in at the end of lap 29, he was in second place.

Hamilton re-emerged just ahead of Button in sixth but was then frustrated in his efforts to pass the Force India of his friend Adrian Sutil.

"I tried my best to get past him but he drove a fantastic race and he was faultless," Hamilton said. "But overall I am well happy with that. You couldn't ask for any more; 20th to sixth."

Button adopted a different strategy to that of his team-mate, coming in after just nine laps in an effort to make up time in clean air. But, he ran out of steam and rubber after reaching seventh position and then spent the last 20 laps fending off the Ferraris behind him. Massa, on fresher rubber, managed to pass him with 12 laps to go. Alonso, nursing his clutch problem, could not follow suit despite twice passing the Briton momentarily.

"The last 20 laps were so intense," Button said. "Incredible. Having those guys stuck up my a***. I didn't know Fernando's engine was going to go. He came up behind me and was hounding me lap after lap.

"Then I looked in my mirrors and saw smoke coming out of his engine so I just thought 'peace, for two laps' and could put the car in cruise control."

It was only a pity more spectators did not turn out to see this demonstration in the art of overtaking.

That would not have concerned Red Bull, who have stormed back into title contention in the most emphatic manner possible after two races in which they had the quickest car but failed to make it count.

Team principal Horner was clearly a relieved man. "With 20 laps to go, we asked them both to turn everything down and look after their engines and brakes -- and then they started turning the timesheets purple, going faster and racing each other, which shows how much notice they take of us," he joked.

"But seriously, leaving Melbourne was frustrating but thankfully this race was only seven days away and we leave here feeling a lot better."

Meanwhile, there was more disappointment for Michael Schumacher as the seven-time world champion retired on lap 10 after a nut dislodged itself from the rear left wheel of his Mercedes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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