Vettel battles to Malaysian Grand Prix win
24 March 2013 – Sebastian Vettel claimed victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix after a stunning but controversial battle with Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber. The German, whose triumph is his 27th in Formula 1, takes the championship lead as a result. Lewis Hamilton finished ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to complete the podium, while Melbourne winner Kimi Räikkönen came home seventh.
With a rain shower preceeding the 56-lap race, Intermediates were the only option as the lights went out. Vettel made a strong start to hold his pole advantage, but Webber found even more grip to move up to second from fifth on the grid. The Australian was a beneficiary of Fernando Alonso's early misjudgment, with the Ferrari driver tagging the back of Vettel's Red Bull at the second corner and damaging his front wing.
In an uncharacteristic manner, Alonso stayed out, with the wing dramatically breaking away along the pit-straight on the second lap. The two-time World Champion, contesting his 200th Grand Prix weekend, slid into the gravel trap and was left to lament what might have been. As the rest of the field lapped, the crossover point from Intermediates to slicks soon arrived. Webber made the best call, staying out one lap later than team-mate Vettel to assume the lead.
Webber came under increasing pressure as the race wore on, with Vettel repeatedly asking for clearance to make a move over his team radio system. With his appeal expectedly being rejected, Mercedes duo Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took advantage of the situation and closed in. Hamilton was able to jump Vettel at the third pit-stop phase as a result, but the pair ultimately slid back amid a late fuel-saving phase.
Webber, now on the Hard tyres, came out just ahead of Vettel for his final stint. The latter, who had already disposed of Hamilton on the Medium rubber, ignored messages from his Red Bull pit wall and quickly attacked for the lead. After initially failing to make a move stick, the German extracted the maximum from the two DRS zones, putting himself in a position to squeeze past at the second corner. He later pulled away, taking the chequered flag 4.2 seconds ahead of a disillusioned Webber.
Hamilton held on to third, but not without complaints from Rosberg who felt he was fast enough to take the position. Instead, Mercedes Team Principal ordered the two men to hold position until the chequered flag, leaving Rosberg visibly frustrated after the race. Behind the top four, there was a comfortable gap back to Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari, who pitted later than his rivals to surge through the field in the late stages. Jenson Button had looked set to claim the position, but a faulty pit-stop saw him slip well down the order before he retired his car with two laps remaning.
Lotus duo Romain Grosjean and Räikkönen were next up in sixth and seventh positions respectively, ahead of Nico Hülkenberg who completed his first race for Sauber. Sergio Pérez wound up ninth, with Jean-Éric Vergne completing the top ten. Jules Bianchi again finished as the lead driver in the battle at the back, securing a 13th place finish in his Marussia. In addition to Alonso's retirement, Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado ended their respective days early, with the Force India pair suffering wheel gun issues and the Williams driver's KERS unit failing.
As the championship moves on to China, Vettel sits at the top of the Drivers' standings with a total of 40 points to his name, nine ahead of nearest rival Räikkönen.
The third round of the 2013 season takes place in China from 12-14 April, with practice, qualifying and the race covered via the GPUpdate.net Live Report