• Malaysian Grand Prix

Vettel keeps his cool with victory at Sepang

Laurence Edmondson April 10, 2011

Sebastian Vettel made it two out of two in 2011 by taking a measured victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Jenson Button and Nick Heidfeld.

The world champion had to cope with three pit stops, spits of rain and a faulty KERS power boost, but still came out on top. He led every lap of the race with the exception of the ones around the pit stops and reacted well to pressure from the McLarens throughout the race.

The victory was made even sweeter by awful afternoons for potential title rivals Lewis Hamilton in eighth and Fernando Alonso in sixth. Hamilton was Vettel's closest opposition early in the race but his pace dropped off dramatically after he pitted for hard tyres at his second stop. With ten laps to go he was running in third but the car was struggling for grip and he fell into the clutches of his old adversary Alonso.

The Ferrari, with a failed DRS, closed on the McLaren lap after lap and Alonso saw his opportunity to in to turn four on lap 46. He positioned himself in Hamilton's slipstream but struggled with understeer as he did so and clobbered the McLaren's rear tyre with his front wing endplate. The resulting damage ruined Alonso's race and added to Hamilton's problems, forcing both cars to pit and drop back to their final finishing positions.

But further pain was to come as both drivers were penalised 20 seconds for their conduct. Hamilton's penalty was for changing his line more than once while defending position and dropped him to eighth behind Kamui Kobayashi. Alonso held onto sixth.

Meanwhile, Jenson Button and Nick Heidfeld, who made a lightning-fast start, quietly got on with their races and took full advantage to end up on the podium. Button got past Hamilton at his third and final pit stop after closing on his team-mate in the previous stint, but didn't have the pace to trouble Vettel at the end of the race.

Heidfeld had been running second at the start and fell back down the order early on as he pitted later for his first set of tyres. He came back through the field but had to hold off Mark Webber in the closing stages as the Red Bull recovered from a terrible start.

Webber's KERS was broken from the start and it cost him dearly off the line as he fell back to tenth. Coming back through the field took its toll on his tyres and he pitted four times compared to the top leaders' three stops. It looked like he had the pace to make a move stick on Heidfeld at the end but came up short when his DRS failed to activate on the penultimate lap. Felipe Massa finished 10.5 seconds behind Webber in fifth after a fairly straight forward race in which he spent more time defending position than attacking.

Rounding out the final two points positions behind Hamilton was Mercedes' Michael Schumacher and Force India's Paul di Resta. Both had eventful races, trading places as their race strategies unfolded.

Outside the top ten Adrian Sutil came back from a dreadful start to finish 11th, while Nico Rosberg seemed to enjoy no luck at all and finished 12th, one lap down. The Toro Rossos of Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari followed and, promisingly for Lotus, Heikki Kovalainen on a two-stop strategy finished just 0.4 seconds off Alguersuari.

Both Williams retired from the race for the second grand prix in a row with Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello ending their races in the team's garage. The most spectacular retirement of all, however, was Vitaly Petrov's. He got his Renault completely airborne after running wide and smashed the car's steering column on contact with the ground. The Russian had been running eighth but looked scrappy throughout the race and a completely different man to the one that took an accomplished podium in Australia two weeks ago.

Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010