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Vettel keeps cool in all-action Malaysian Grand Prix
Vettel keeps cool in all-action Malaysian Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Apr 2011   |  11:36 am GMT  |  261 comments

Sebastian Vettel maintained his 100% success record this season with another win from pole position in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Jenson Button finished second and moves into that position in the championship, while Nick Heidfeld gave Renault a second consecutive podium, one which was again based on a sensational start.

Vettel leads (Red Bull, Getty)

The race gave a very vivid example of F1 2011 style with the DRS adjustable wing and the high wear Pirelli tyres leading to a lot of overtaking, some of it absolutely thrilling. We had three cars abreast into the final corner at one point and a very spirited battle between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso for a podium which led to contact. Neither man ended up on the podium, Alonso had to pit for a new front wing, while Hamilton’s fourth set of tyres gave him real problems and he had to make a fourth stop, which dropped him down to seventh.

But despite Vettel’s smiles, it was a day when reliability issues at Red Bull raised their head again with both drivers unable to use KERS during the course of the race, a big disadvantage. The importance of KERS was highlighted by the failure on Mark Webber’s car at the start, which lost him positions at the start and then made his chances of recovering more difficult. He was carrying the extra weight of the system with none of the performance. Later in the race the same was true of Vettel.

Despite a few spots of rain after a dozen laps, the conditions were dry, with track temperature of 31 degrees, but the humidity was an incredible 88%.

At the start, Vettel got away cleanly, Hamilton was boxed in behind him and this allowed Heidfeld to sweep around the outside into second place from sixth on the grid. Behind them Webber had a poor start and with no KERS available to him, he was swamped by other cars. Both Ferraris went through, with Massa getting past Alonso in the process.

Webber fought with Kobayashi for 9th place, the Japanese enjoying a straight line speed advantage over the Australian thanks to his KERS. It was very frustrating for Webber.

With rain on its way, drivers were told to look after their tyres, so as not to need to stop before coming in for wet tyres. In the end they all gave up waiting for rain.

On lap 11 Webber was forced to pit for slick tyres, his first stop of four on the day. He took a different strategy from his rivals, partly because he is heavier on his tyres. It was a good recovery from 9th on the opening lap to finish fourth.

Hamilton pitted on lap 14, but then rain started to fall. Luckily for him Red Bull pitted Vettel a lap later for dry tyres as did Jenson Button. Alonso came in on lap 15.

Kobayashi ran long on the first stint, running second around lap 17. It set him up for a two stop strategy, one less than everyone else and a strong finish in 8th place, using the Sauber’s gentle action on the tyres to good effect.

Vettel drove a measured race at the front, maintaining his margin, keeping his lap times consistent and fast while managing the tyres and the engine revs. Behind him a lot changed over the course of the race. Any one of five drivers could have joined him on the podium and for most of the race it looked like it would be Hamilton plus either Alonso or Button. But Hamilton had a series of problems, including a collision with Alonso, which knocked the front wing off the Ferrari.

Although the result for Ferrari wasn’t what they had hoped for they will draw encouragement from having competed with McLaren and one of the Red Bulls after their lack of pace in Australia and in qualifying at Sepang.

“Today we were fighting wheel to wheel with the McLarens and with Webber so that was a nice surprise,” said Alonso, who added that the collision with Hamilton was due to his DRS wing not working on the straights, forcing him to race Hamilton in the corners. He was called to the stewards after the race and had 20 seconds added to his race time so he dropped to sixth. Hamilton was similarly punished, so Alonso stayed sixth, Kobayashi was classified 7th with Hamilton 8th.

Hamilton pitted earlier than he needed to on occasions, he still had good pace when he came in at least twice. He lost a place to Button with a slow second stop. He also took a different strategy in terms of switching to the hard tyre at the second stop. His pace on a second set of hard tyres in the later stages of the race was not good and he lost ground, being passed by Heidfeld and Webber and needing a fourth stop. We’ll analyse his strategy decisions more closely in the next couple of days.

No doubt a major talking point from the weekend is the amount of overtaking and the more ‘chaotic’ style of racing. Purists will argue that a lot of the passing was artificial – caused by the new DRS wings, KERS and the on-off nature of the Pirelli tyres. I thought it was entertaining, if rather hard to follow at times. But if the Bridgestone years were like being in a sweet shop and getting only the odd goody, today does feel like having eaten all you can see. There was a bit too much going on.

But I imagine that new fans of the sport and people finding it for the first time will say, “F1’s pretty cool isn’t it?”

Vettel thought it was pretty cool and well he might. He now has twice as many points as his nearest challenger. “A great day,” said Vettel. “It was quite different to what we saw two weeks ago with the tyres. It was difficult (to judge the stops). Lewis had a problem and I realised Jenson was behind and I could comfortably control the gap. I love what I do and I couldn’t be happier. KERS is something we have to work on, it was crucial at the start and it gave us what we needed there, but we had a problem and had to turn it off. We cannot stop pushing, things were much closer here than in Australia.”

Button finished second, having managed a 19 lap final stint on the hard tyres. It was McLaren’s 200th podium in partnership with Mercedes.

1. Vettel Red Bull 1h37:39.832
2. Button McLaren + 3.261
3. Heidfeld Renault + 25.075
4. Webber Red Bull + 26.384
5. Massa Ferrari + 36.958
6. Alonso Ferrari + 37.248 (& 20 sec penalty)
7. Kobayashi Sauber + 1:07.239
8. Hamilton McLaren + 49.957
9. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:24.896
10. Di Resta Force India + 1:31.563
11. Sutil Force India + 1:45.000
12. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap
13. Buemi Toro Rosso + 1 lap
14. Alguersuari Toro Rosso + 1 lap
15. Kovalainen Lotus + 1 lap
16. Glock Virgin + 2 laps
17. Petrov Renault + 4 laps

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James, you commented earlier after Australia that the Ferrari is hard on its tyres, yet after this race Fernando Alonso said:

“We wear maybe a little bit less the tyres than the others, so we can keep more consistent laps and here was a very good feeling.”

I think Australia was a one-off. Traditionally the Ferrari has been very kind to its tyres. Your thoughts?



You wrote a time ago that RBR may using quasi-KERS because of lighter batteries. Do you know how many laps they need to charge fully theirs batteries?

Are you aware to what extend RBR car’s exhaust differs from Renault one?

I could see that rear wings’ moving part has different size in each team. Could you provide us closer analysis which team’s wing is the most effective one?

Thank in advance

Best regards


RBR deny the start only KERS, but that is how Vettel ended up using it yesterday and his start in Australia was pretty tidy too. I don’t know, there’s something that doesn’t add up there. The whisper I got in Melbourne was a strong one


James, it seems to me that the DRS & KERS are somewhat artificial means of overtaking, but when we see some great racing by two great drivers (Alonso & Hamilton) the moves are penalized. Surely this is not the racing people want to see?


why bother racing!

RE The Alonso/Hamilton penalty. wtf? why? The FIA has gone to all the trouble of artificially improving “the show” with DRS and KERS not to mention all the other bits and bobs being banned and/or tweaked… and then when we get 2 bitter rivals banging wheel to wheel they penalise them! wtf!??? seriously?


Two races down it already seems like one of those Schumacher years when the likes of Montoya Kimi and co were fighting for the second best place.

I hope I am proved wrong though!


You are right, it does look like one of those Schumy years, but I want to see how Vettel will do in a race where he doesn’t start from pole..or just a race where he has to overtake couple of front runners. At the moment, all he is doing is run in clean air.

He overtook only JB in Australia, and that was with fresh tyres and arguably on the outside of the track. In Malayasia he only overtook Massa, again on fresh tyres with Massa on very used tyres (I think it was just before Massa had to go get a fresh set).

I am rly looking forward to a race where leaders will at least 4-5 times.


1. I hate to say this but it looks like Brawn GP is a one trick pony 🙁

2. Also, I am mystified by Webber’s misfortunes. His car truly is letting him down.

Tom from Adelaide

Just want to add my name to the list of people left disappointed by the poor stewardship.

That the most entertaining battle of the event can be ruined by post race decisions is very sad. Last time I checked, this was supposed to be a race. Let them race!

Probably more disappointing though is the precedent it sets for the rest of the season. Will every car making contact with another be given a 20 second penalty? What was so bad about Alonso’s move?

And to suggest that you can only change line once on an enormously long straight when the guy behind has DRS? Stupid. This needs to be addressed, otherwise we will quickly become fans of a very boring sport. We want to see Alonso battle his way past Hamilton, not press a few buttons and cruise past whilst Hamilton is stuck in the bus lane. Sure the DRS is good in that it improves overtaking opportunities, but to leave the guy in front (who by rights is in front for a very good reason) as completely defenseless is mind bogglingly stupid.

James, do you have any channels to voice just how annoyed a lot of fans are by this lame-duck decision?


I think the Hamilton / Alonso penalty was ridiculous, and I think most of the fans on here agree (regardless of their loyalties).

If the FIA are working so hard to promote better racing then it is absolutely mad that they penalise for the slightest indescrepancy.

There have been far worse cases of weaving in the past that have gone uninvestigated let alone punished. Correct me if im wrong, is the one move rule not an unofficial one between the drivers anyway? On a straight as long as the one at Malaysia you should be allowed to try and break the tow. My only rule would be to penalise reckless driving (like Scumi on Barrichello at Hungary).

Same goes for Alonso, he made a mistake. That mistake was due to the understeer he was experiencing.

In terms of collisions, penalties should be issued for dangerous or malicious acts on the track and nothing else. If we continue like this the drivers will be afraid to make moves incase, god forbid, they bang wheels and get a penalty.

Since they introduced the former driver on the panel I think the stewards decisions have generally been better, but they are still very inconsistant from race to race. They should have the same panel for every race, at least if the decisions are mad they should be consistently mad.


Yes. It’s noted



Please note that I think that, all things considered, DRS is a good thing for F1 racing at this moment, mainly for compensating for the same-level-of-artificiality slipstreaming inefficiency.

The bloody cars have become (too much like) inverted airplanes. That being the result of a generally accepted technical evolution, it doesn’t make the aerodynamically-determined lack of overtaking less artificial.

Also, stewarding will always create controversy mainly because of the identity of the drivers affected, not necessarily the decisions.

Subjectivity affects the judgment of both the giving and the receiving ends 🙂

Waiting for your (balanced as usual) strategy analysis.



Could you maybe also clarify something for a lot of fans here.

What is the difference between the moves Hamilton did and got penalised and the moves Vettel did at the start and for which he did not get penalised.

Is there a difference or was something the stewards missed?

A lot of people here asked about this, and would be great if someone like you with lots of experience and better understanding of the rules then us could explain.

Thank you!


It’s always been a tricky one, differentiating a block at the start from one during the race. This is something Schumacher used to exploit and it was looked at in his Ferrari years. They clarified what had always been a gentleman’s agreement into FIA regulation this season regarding blocking. I think it’s hard to enforce at the start because there is so much movement throughout the field on the run to Turn 1. Where do you start/stop in picking out who to penalise? It’s one for the drivers’ briefing in Shanghai


Sorry, but I certainly don’t think the red cars were as fast or even close to McLaren during the race. Race-pace wise they are closer than in qualifying, but if it wasn’t for McLarens (i.e. Lewis’) problems on the tyres, they would still had comfortably finished in front of them, Alonso or not. The reds at present, are fighting for 5and 6th places with the Renaults


I have been wondering if the Ferrari race pace is a temperature issue. In free practice and qualifying track temp was nearly 50, whilst in the race it was around 30


Great comments and discussion all. As a Webber fan, shame the kers failure prevented him from fighting with the lead group. Otherwise it seemed he was going to be in the mix this race.

Were there drs problems late in the race? seemed not to be used/working when gaps <1 sec ?

I was puzzled about Lewis pitting with 3 laps to go, surely he would have been better off limping home from there?

Great to see Nick up the front too.


Why did Hamilton struggle so much with tyres? Too hard on them? If so, I think that’s a sad day for F1 when we are forced to accept that the tortoise has superceded the hare as the racing maxim.


Hi James,

I’m a bit puzzled by the Hamilton penalty. How would you explain the difference between his ‘making more than one change of direction’ while defending against Alonso, and Vettel’s defense of his position going into the first corner of the race ?

I think I understand the rule, and having viewed the BBC highlights a few times, the latter example looks rather more blatant to me than the former (on my reckoning, three changes of direction to block Hamilton).


What do you think ?


Yeah, got distracted (sorry about that – I know moderation time is precious) and forgot to mention Williams’ weekendus horribilis and Cosworth’s lack of points so far this season. After LRGP, Williams is an F1 team I like the most (probably because I started following F1 in the 1990s as a kiddo).

A real shame, they worked so hard with the revolutionary gearbox and the whole rear-end package. Even Rubens with his massive experience can’t make it happen, maybe keeping Hulk would’ve been a better option because young and hungry for success guys can often do more good than a veteran driver who seems to be a safe bet at first glance but who’s a little bit stuck trying to figure out what to do next with his life after F1 life. We want points for Williams, we want podiums for Williams.


2011 is a year for DRS – wonder if Bernie owns the trademark yet!

in cricket is Decision Review System, DRS

F1 has the rear wing, DRS,

soon football players will be calling DRS to the TV ref.


Very disappointed in the stewards today. There was absolutely no need to give Alonso a penalty – he damaged his car which should have been punishment enough. I hope this is not the start of a return to the ridiculous stewards decisions we were getting back in 2008.


F1 is ultra boring now… DRS has killed it completely for me.

If only we could get Nascar or Indy cars to go circuit only (NO OVALS!), then we might see a race worth watching one day.

A complete borefest that put me into coma.


DRS is good. It help car that have closing pace can overtake each other. In the past two closing pace cars can not overtake due to the second car have bad air flow, this lead to a lot fast cars stuck behind slow car and make F1 boring.


I don’t think there should be any penalty for causing a collision unless it was deliberate. If it looks deliberate, like a Senna or Schumacher or Piquet incident, then now they can look at the telemetry and work out if someone should be punished. But for all other accidents they’re not deliberate, they’re a result of racing. There’s as much chance of the overtaking driver being damaged as the person they’re passing (like Alonso today). That’s racing, it’s what they’re supposed to do. I just don’t understand the rule.

I also think they should be allowed two moves in defence, because that’s as fun to watch as someone overtaking. I think they’ve got it wrong about overtaking. DRS is rubbish. There’s nothing good about overtaking in itself, what’s fun is watching someone trying to overtake and someone else defending – it’s the battle. What was frustrating before wasn’t really the lack of changes of position, is was the lack of attempts at overtaking. The problem was that a driver would just sit behind another for a whole race. I know DRS is intended to fix that, but there are better solutions that preserve the battle, including one they’ve actually done (making the tyres more variable). Personally, I think they should resurface all tracks with less grippy tarmac, like Melbourne’s. But with DRS all overtaking is devalued. Alonso and Hamilton’s was the best bit of the grand prix today, because it was a proper battle with Alonso’s wing not working. Then they go and penalise them for it.


For those asking about Lewis doing two stints on hard/prime tyres, Martin Whitmarsh claims (and I am quoting from http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2011/4/11918.html) that “We weren’t able to give him a second stint on option tyres today because they’d been damaged in qualifying yesterday”.

I am perplexed because Jenson & Lewis did the same amount of runs on identical tyres during qualifying.


This is not true as Lewis did 2 runs (Prime & Option) during Q2, whilst Button only did one run (Option).


He flat spotted a set



Can you mix a set of tyres? By that I mean if you say flat spot the right front on a set of options can you take a good right front from another set to replace it?

I realise this probably wouldnt be a good idea even if you could do it (uneven wear, balance etc) but im interested to know.




at turn 9 during q2 right?


Yep, a pretty entertaining result from the mix of Pirellis with CURSE and DR. S… whatever his name was. Seriously, ’twas the best race at Sepang, best ever! Maybe it was slightly artificial but it resembled DTM at a place like Norisring with lots of spectacular moves.

Team quotes were quite entertaining today: virtually everyone claims the race could’ve been better, most drivers from P4 onwards used the word “podium” – the usual story of “only if…”. But even Button admitted it would’ve been very hard to catch Seb. What can happen now is a silly mistake from either RBR or VET, like the one Mika had at Monza back in 1999. Or maybe we’ll have a nice battle for the win next time in made in China.


Great race! However, F1 is going the wrong direction on ONLY 1 ACCOUNT!! STEWARDING….20secs penalties for Alonso and Lewis??? What are they thinking?? They are ridiculous. really. The are making F1 a completely sterilised and ULTRA-SUPER-STUPID sport. “Dangerous” driving for Lewis?? and then another 20s for Alonso for a PURE RACING INCIDENT??? and the biggest success of the stewards through the past few years is that they have managed to create a whole generation of people who will start to play smart by looking closely at the replays trying to find something to excuse the stewards for their decisions….what a shame…


In the last half an hour I have learned that the penalty to Hamilton was for illegally and repeatedly changing direction in a straight in order to avoid Alonso’s overtaking him. That offence was made a lap before Alonso clashed with Hamilton in the curbs. It seems to me that the stewards have then made a foolish justice. May be the stewards were compelled to punish Hamilton due to the fact that the rule under which Hamilton was punished had been strengthened for this season because of Hamilton’s tendency to act that way in the past. After punishing Hamilton, may be the stewards had to compensate punishing Alonso as well. Given the eventual result of both manoeuvres, the punishments were inutile but for Hamilton. That said, I have to say also that I admire both drivers.


What a great race! I just wish that some of the battling is for the lead of the race rather than way down the field. Out of interest can anyone remember last time there was an overtake for the lead of a race, by that I mean the guy in second overtaking the guy in first, not during pitstops when they are out of position or off the start. Off the top of my head I can only think of Vettels Ill fated attempt on Webber at Turkey last year.

DRS was something I was in two minds about at thte start of the season. I think I like it now. My fear was that overtaking would be too easy. This is not the case as the drivers still had to work in turn 1 to make it stick. My gripe is the systems unreliability, several drivers couldnt get theirs to work. I suppose this is the teams fault but I feel that for a “contrived” system thats only operable under such specific conditions that it is very bad if a driver cant use it.

On that subject I dont think it is contrived, yes I suppose it is a little artificial but as one of the commentators pointed out at Australia the fact that the cars are designed in such a way to discard hot turbulent air so that a following car is disadvantaged is artificial. Whats wrong with having somethign artificial to counteract something thats artificial? Two negatives make a positive last time I checked 😉

I would like to see the rule makers experiment with it. How about giving each driver a limit of uses per race say 10 or 20 uses but at any point? Just an idea but I was thinking of what Coulthard was saying on the turbo eras boost button. Yes you could hit the button and breeze past but you couldnt do it very often or you would run out of fuel (or blow the engine) and the other guy could retaliate if he wanted to. The risk is you may end up that two drivers use theirs at the same time for all their allocation (much like they seem to be doing with KERS) but on the other hand they may not.

Anyone got an idea on why the Renaults are so fast off the line and out of the corners? I remember back in their heyday with Alonso they were like than but was that not down to their mass dampers which I believe were banned?


The Renault engine is superior to the others in low-end torque (but suffers in high-end power). They’ve always been faster out of the corners for this reason and, provided they don’t have wheelspin or bog the engine, this will translate to being quick off the line. If Red Bull get their KERS sorted out they will walk away with this season, imo.


Yes but it just seems to be the Renault car not the Red Bull that starts like a rocket ship.


Good idea the limited number of DRS use. But it has to be limited to around 5 times. It will make it tasty. Should I use it now or should I wait to have a better exit from the hairpin.


Great race. Really exciting. However, I do hope it’s over (at least for some time) of Vettel’s wins. It’s already getting boring! 😉

Such a shame about Ferrari – they had a bad qualifying session, but they seemed much better with their race pace and both drivers had good races (though Alonso should really think about his starts. How come he’s always the one who gets blocked by somebody on the start?! You probably all know by now he’s my favourite driver, but I’m always nervous at the start because there’s always something wrong with him lately…).

Anyway, one thing came to my mind concerning Alonso’s and Hamilton’s penalties:

They bring all those DRS and KERS systems to make the races more exciting and to fascilitate overtaking. But this is still a bit artificial (though it works apparently)… and then there are two drivers who want to (or have to;-) )fight it out without these systems and they are being penalised for it. I know that Hamilton changed his direction a few times (so don’t attack me for that), but I didn’t (and I’m an Alonso fan!) think it was that bad. And yes – Alonso did cause the collision, but he was in fact practically penalised for it when he demaged his front wing and had to pit again which ruined his podium chances. What I saw were two great drivers having a fierce and exciting battle. And its ending was a simple race incident IMHO. And I want to see battles like that more often, not just pressing a button on the straight and closing the gap to be able to overtake. This is my totally biased and personal opinion of course, but I’m disappointed that they were both penalised for doing something they should be doing and for something we all want to see :).


Spot on!

Let racing drivers do what they are supposed to do – use ‘their’ skill to race each other!


I agree with you on almost everything. I think that Hamilton deserved his penalty because he has done to Petrov last year on the same circuit and the clarification came as a consequence. DON’T WAVE, MOVE ONLY ONCE. But he couldn’t afford to let Alonso pass easily and weaved, so he had to pay.

As for Alonso, the pain was inflicted to him. It’s as if you sentence someone to death because he tried to commit suicide.

One point you made and which is extremely relevant is the poor starts of Alonso. It’s a habit with him and that can’t be down to luck. He has a poor start strategy and needs to work on it.


I see one more problem with that: compliance with the rules and handing penalties should be consistent throughout the whole season. So from now on the stewards should be looking carefully at every single incident. We all know that isn’t going to happen and it can cause lots of discontent from various teams and drivers when they feel that somebody should get a penalty, but he didn’t. I can almost already see people using this exemple when questioning decisions not to punish someone in the future ;-).

Re starts: from China on I’m not watching first minute of the race – I just can’t watch Alonso messing it up again. And maybe I’ll get surprised one day and see him higher than he started once I open my eyes? 😉


By the way, we need to watch a race together:-)


Could be done one day ;-).


Still don’t like DRS. US viewers heard Hobbsie say ‘DRS and Tilke tracks are made for each other’. What did he mean – you can’t pass on a Tilke track without a JATO assist? Or both are loads o merde?

I vote the latter.


I think Petrov had JATO pack strapped on 😉


Me too!

Tyres with (reasonably) high degradation OK, even KERS I can put up with as at least it is a level playing field,

but DRS is just too gimmicky and makes the racing too artificial.

The only time a driver can demonstrate any level of skill with DRS is in qualifying when they can use it whenever possible – i.e. the better drivers will have the ability to use it more/earlier at the same time as keeping the car under control!


I don’t believe for one minute Red Bull’s KERS failed to work with Seb.

Absolute rubbish, but brilliant mind games by Red Bull – a job well done.

Just as I don’t believe Mark is going to be given a fair crack at this championship.

Totally unnecessary penalties by the stewards. If you are going to be harsh about weaving/blocking, then they should have punished Vettel for his weaving at the start and Hamilton. Inconsistent decision making by the stewards, nothing new I guess.

I’m surprise more wasn’t made at the DREADFUL decision making by McLaren for Lewis’s stops. I have no idea why the chose the strategy they did for him. Lewis needs to learn to say no. Pretty average 2nd place for Button, as ever the useful points back up plan for McLaren. The perfect no.2


Button was pitting one lap after Hamilton. He didn’t need 4 stops did he?


Finally, just to add, that accident by Petrov was horrible. Reminds me in some ways of Senna’s accident, Petrov was lucky there was pretty of run off area.


Why give Fernando and Lewis a penalty? Why? We want racing! That’s the point!


Schumacher was comfortably better than Rosberg. Just a shame that Mercedes is so poor he could only finish 9th.

I fear it’s becoming clear than 2009 was very much an anomaly for that team (thanks to the double diffuser) and they’ve reverted back to their BAR/Honda performances.

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