After more than a year, 4-time Formula-one world champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany returned to the top podium finish at the second F1 race of 2015 season at Sepang racing circuit in Malaysia. In the entire 2014 F1 season, all talks were concerned with Mercedes and their two drivers. They dominated as a team and as individual drivers with Lewis Hamilton taking the championship Cake. Sebastian Vettel and others were never in news because Mercedes consigned everyone to the margins. Towards the end of 2014, Vettel announced he was leaving Red Bull and going over to Ferrari but the news didn’t immediately signify Vettel’s comeback to big time F1 success in any foreseeable future because machines acquired superiority over human skills. Mercedes left every car maker far behind. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo won three races at Canadian, Hungarian and Belgian GPs and the best that Sebastian Vettel could manage was third place at Malaysian GP, Third at Canadian GP, second at Singapore GP and third at the Japanese GP. Therefore, when the celebrated German finished ahead of 11-race 2014 winner Lewis Hamilton, he couldn’t check his emotions. At Ferrari headquarters Maranello, the joy of the bosses and other big-wigs knew no bounds as their new recruit justified their faith reposed in Vettel as he brought Ferrari’s first F1 victory after 34 races. Hamilton lost his lead place pretty early as Vettel raced away and when it all ended, the German’s lead on Hamilton was 8.5 seconds. An emotional Sebastian Vettel broke down and wept openly as he celebrated his victory in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. With Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen managing to finish fourth, despite starting in 11th place, it turned out to be a triumphant afternoon for Ferrari. Raikkonen had also suffered a puncture that pushed him too far back on the field but he still pulled back marvelously to finish ahead of Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
In the qualifying, Lewis Hamilton had taken the pole position for the 40th time in his F1 career. Vettel had finished second on the grid behind the reigning champion amid an unnecessary farce created by Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. At a post-qualifying press conference, Rosberg posed as a journalist and asked Hamilton;“There are a lot of comments on Twitter saying Nico blocked you, is that true he blocked you on your second timed lap?” Hamilton looked amused but still replied: “I think you should probably ask him, I think he’ll have a good opinion on that.” As the assembled journalists laughed, an apparently stung Rosberg shook his head and, despite the evidence, twice said; “That’s not funny.” Rosberg had already abandoned his lap, but did not move aside as Hamilton came past, forcing him off the racing line. This did not affect the Briton’s position as his performance during the previous lap had already guaranteed him the top pole position. The incident, however, signified the existing continuity of their tense relationship on the F1 tracks.
On race day, Sebastian Vettel began behind Hamilton with a winless 2014 F1 season but turned the tables on the Mercedes team with an early lead. The competition acquired a decisive turn in the fourth lap, when the safety car came out. Marcus Ericsson’s car had spun into the gravel on Turn One and Hamilton and Rosberg used the opportunity to go to the pits for changing to hard tyres as they premised that the rubber would help them in the grueling heat of Sepang. Vettel had the sense of going on with medium tyres until lap 17 and the strategy paid his out in the end. Hamilton pitted again on lap 25 for medium rubber he should have known that high temperature would necessitate another change later. While Vettel also had to stop once after the seventeenth lap, Hamilton’s three visits to the pits gave the German an edge and he raced away to finish 8.5 seconds ahead of the British driver. In the end, the Malaysian GP turned out to be a thrilling affair with plenty of overtakes, lots of strategies vying with each other and a fresh winner. Lots of F1 fans, who had been losing their faith in F1’s existing business model, found solace in the fact that the sport still had the capacity to thrill.
In the murderous Sepang Circuit heat, Sebastian Vettel was the coolest man and his two-stop strategy made a huge difference in the end. The track was so hot that three cars were required to pit four times for fresh tyres and Hamilton and Rosberg, who finished second and third; went to the pits three times for tyre changes. At the end, when Vettel took the flag he cried, “Ferrari is back! Grazie, grazie.” He was so overcome by emotions that tears rolled down from his eyes and even Hamilton admitted that Sebastian and Ferrari did a great job today.
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