After hearing about Mercedes domination, and controversies among sponsors for the last two weeks, Sebastian Vettel in only his second race for Scuderia Ferrari, gave a new flavor to formula one racing as the four time world champion won his maiden race for his new team Sunday afternoon, with a 8.5 second win over Lewis Hamilton at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang, Malaysia. Nico Rosberg was third.
“Grande gara, bella macchina! (A great race and a beautiful car). Sorry for starting to speak in Italian,” Vettel exclaimed. “But today is such a special day for me. I don’t really know what to say, I am speechless. It’s not only one childhood dream that becomes true, it seems to be many dreams together. It was amazing to look down from the podium and see the mechanics, the engineers, the whole team and listen to the German and Italian anthems. The atmosphere in the team has always been great, but it’s just getting better and better. For today, the important thing is for all of us to enjoy this moment together and celebrate. I did not swap teams that much in the past, so winning for a new team is always a relief.”
Although Vettel was ready for the start of the race on the front row, Manor pilot Will Stevens was not, as the Briton had his fuel system fail on his car and could not line up on the grid. The start was clean and Hamilton as he has done jumped out into the lead. However, at that moment, both Pastor Maldonado and Kimi Raikkonen suffered punctures with the former having his caused by accidentally striking Sauber driver Felipe Nasr on the opening lap.
On the fourth lap, Marcus Ericsson, the other Sauber pilot, took the end of the first turn too late and beached his car into the gravel, becoming the first driver out of the race. The incident brought out the safety car, but as Hamilton took his car into the pits, Vettel decided to stay out. When the safety car returned to the pits, Vettel found himself in the lead and Hamilton was placed down in 8th.
By lap 12, Vettel kept a 10 second led ahead of a charging Hamilton, and both drivers came into the pits twice more during the race, exchanging leads throughout the day. But Vettel on lap 39, managed to pass Rosberg first, and then passed Hamilton for the last time just when the Briton was coming into the pits for his last stop. Hamilton managed to regain second place, but the wrong set of tires were put on his Mercedes and could not catch Vettel, giving the German his first win and Ferrari’s in two years.
For the rest of the grid, Raikkonen overcame his puncture to finish fourth; while Williams drivers Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa placed fifth and sixth, respectively. Another group of drivers placing in back of one another were Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. in seventh and eighth, with the latter becoming the first driver at age 17 to place in the points. Red Bull drivers rounded out the grid with Dani Kvyat in ninth and Daniel Ricciardo in tenth.
Vettel, who was stunned and relieved in only his second race for his new team, came up with his 40th career win on a track he has won three times before.
“Since I joined Ferrari I felt incredibly welcome and together we have worked to improve things.” He added. “The potential, as I always said, is huge, it’s good to see what a step forward we did over the winter. There were a lot of changes in the background (including one driver…) which never make things easy, but everyone saw the positives of that. It just doesn’t compare to last year, when the car was also good but I couldn’t get on top of it. With Ferrari I had a good feeling right from the start. This is a special day, it has been a while since both I and team won for the last time. I’d like to be in the same position at every race, but we must be realistic, Mercedes were a bit struggling today but they have a great package and our target is to make the gap smaller at every Grand Prix and make sure that we are the team right behind them”.
Vettel now trails Hamilton by three points going into the next race in Shanghai, China, which Takes place on April 12th.