Sebastian Vettel Pushes his Name into the Title Race
What a morning and what a race. Huddled on the sofa this morning in the deary early hours I could not have anticipated how much today’s race was going to change the narrative of this season.
It’s probably too early to discount Nico as a purely number 2 driver or Vettel as the man for Lewis to beat but it does shake up the story we were all expecting for this season.
The Ferrari’s looked fast in practice and qualifying but I always suspected that Mercedes had more than they’d shown us in qualifying, so much so that until there was five or so laps left I genuinely didn’t think Vettel would hold on. But enough of narrative lets recap what happened in the heat of Malaysia.
Red Bull had to endure a torrid day as apparent brake troubles and a general lack of pace hampered the team in the race with both drivers finishing just inside the points.
The brake troubles were evident to everyone as the two cars deposited massive clouds of brake dust at Turn 1 and Turn 15.
The lack of pace for the Red Bull team is a worrying for the team going forward but they have the talent and the resources to catch up before the return to Europe.
At the very least there was no airing of dirty laundry this weekend between Horner and Renault as rumors of the latter buying one of the Red Bull teams continue to gather momentum.
Toro Rosso on the other hand enjoyed a much more beneficial day with both of their cars finishing in the points and ahead of their sister team. Carlos Sainz in particular enjoyed a good day of racing starting in P15 and finishing P8 having made the two stop strategy work.
While Verstappen was involved in some of the best overtaking and wheel to action on track. Verstappen finished P7 and became the youngest points scorer in the history of F1. While the team may never perform at a championship level I think that both of their drivers, in the near future, might do just that.
Mercedes along with Ferrari were the surprise of the race in that they didn’t have the pace today to chase down Vettel even with fresher tyres on (albeit the harder tyre).
Rosberg looks a shadow of the man who pushed Hamilton until the last race last year. He seems deflated and the constant refusal of his engineers to give him information in accordance with the new regulations seems to have him struggling for the confidence.
Whatever Nico’s issue he needs to find a way of putting himself in the mix otherwise with the confidence and the pace that Lewis is showing means he will be left way behind before he has a chance to compete for the title.
Williams had a respectable outing today in Bottas’ return race with the cars finishing in P5 and P6. However the team seem to be a bit down on themselves, probably because as they watch the Ferrari and Mercedes move away from them in terms of pace.
However as with Red Bull above Williams should have some significant car upgrades before the return to Europe. And with drivers of the caliber of Bottas and Massa it should only be a matter of time before the team is battling podiums.
Lotus looked to have some promising pace through the weekend but the race pace let them down. Maldonado retired after a puncture and running well down the order. Grosjean had an eventful day as he was battling through the midfield when he tried to go around the outside of Turn 12 and was spun off after contact with Perez. Perez and Hulkenburg were both handed 10 second time penalties which scuppered either of their chances of getting any points out of the race.
And finally we have the Saubers and Mclaren’s. Marcus Ericsson put an end to his race after a spin on lap 4 into turn 1 beached him on the gravel and brought out the safety car. Nasr too missed out on the points in a Sauber that didn’t benefit from the return of a full grid of cars to start this race.
Both Mclaren’s retired with apparent mechanical problems, but at least they also saw improvement in their pace over what they had in Australia. And Manor too saw improvement as one of their drivers actually managed to finish the race.