Updated: April 12, 2011 17:16 IST

Red Bull's Vettel wins Malaysian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, giving the world champion back to back wins to open the season.

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.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had a collision in the closing laps that dropped them down to sixth and seventh respectively.

Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi took eighth place, while Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher made a very late passing maneuver 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 it, 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 appeared to have 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, saying later “I am grateful to finish third.”

One of the major talking points of the race was a collision between old rivals Hamilton and Alonso with 10 laps to go. The Ferrari driver tried a switchback passing move on Hamilton but did not quite measure the distance correctly, and snapped off the left endplate of his front wing by nudging Hamilton’s right rear tire.

Alonso had to pit for a new front wing, while Hamilton struggled thereafter as his tires degraded, and was passed by Heidfeld then Webber before admitting defeat and pitting for new rubber with only three laps left.

Heidfeld’s third place gave Renault consecutive podium finishes. Petrov, who was third in Australia, had a spectacular end to his race, running wide over the grass and hitting a drainage ditch which launched him through the air, across the track, and into a brake distance marker.

There is only a one—week gap to the third race of the season, in Shanghai, where McLaren will be hoping to make another step toward matching the Red Bulls.

“We have seen how clear it is much closer than in Australia, so we see how things can change, so we have to keep pushing,” Vettel said.

Button said “we can’t let the Red Bulls have it their own way for much longer {hbox}” we want to challenge these guys.”

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