SEPANG, Malaysia — Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel extended his perfect start to the Formula One season by winning the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, making it back to back victories to begin the defence of his world title.
The pole sitter led throughout to win by 3.2 seconds from McLaren’s Jenson Button, with Renault’s Nick Heidfeld hanging on for third.
“I love what I do and I don’t think I could be happier at this stage,” Vettel said. “Two wins out of two is perfect, couldn’t be better, but there is still a very long way to go this season.”
Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber recovered from a poor start, using a four-stop strategy around the Sepang International circuit to claim fourth place, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa fifth.
Old rivals Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had a collision in the closing laps, for which both drivers were given 20-second penalties by stewards. Alonso retained sixth place, but Hamilton was dropped from seventh to eighth.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi inherited seventh place after Hamilton’s penalty, while Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher made a very late passing manoeuvr to take ninth from Force India’s Paul Di Resta, who took the last point in 10th.
Vettel’s 12th career victory was made more impressive by the malfunctioning of the KERS device on the Red Bull, with the German told midway through the race that he could no longer use the power-boost, even though it became operable again later.
“It was a little bit on-off during the race, so its something we have to work on,” Vettel said, although he praised KERS for enabling him to get to the first corner in the lead, saying “it saved our life today.”
Webber also had problems with KERS, dropping from third to ninth after just one lap. By contrast, both Renaults made storming starts, with Heidfeld moving from sixth to second by the second corner and Vitaly Petrov vaulting from eighth to fifth.
With rain surprisingly holding off throughout, the closing stages developed into a fight to see who could make their tires last longest. Button used his trademark tire management to claim second.
“It was a confusing race in a way, trying to understand the pitstops,” Button said. “The last stint, when we put the hard tire on, the car came alive.”
Heidfeld came under intense pressure in the final laps but managed to hold off Webber, delivering Renault its second straight podium finish, saying “I am grateful to finish third.”
The German, who was drafted into the team at short notice to replace the injured Robert Kubica this season, now has 13 career podium finishes but is still yet to win a race.