Standings: Vettel 1, Webber 1
Fans and pundits will argue for a lengthy period about who was right and who was wrong during the latter stages of the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, but name-calling and accusations will answer little. Though Vettel secured pole by a clear margin (The German was nine tenths ahead of second-place qualifier Massa and an enormous 2.55 seconds in front of his team-mate), it was Webber who delivered the goods for the most part on Sunday. Taking advantage of an unusually strong start and a better strategy than that of his team-mate, Webber’s lead reached over four seconds mid-way through the event while Vettel repaired the damage his early pit-stop had caused. The controversial overtake may have given Vettel seven important points, but Webber seemed at home in front of the Malaysian crowd and his performance will no doubt have provided him a boost to last until the Chinese Grand Prix.
Standings: Alonso 1, Massa 1
Massa out-qualified his team-mate for the second race in a row and at the chequered flag propped himself four points ahead of Alonso. The Brazilian suffered from a terrible start and fell well down the points-paying positions, but was reprieved for his mistakes when Alonso exited the Grand Prix a little over a lap later. Massa showed strong form in the latter stages of 2012 and has definitely brought it into 2013. If he can continue to hold himself strongly against Alonso, there’ll surely be head scratching going on in Maranello; the next few races are vital to the Brazilian as he shows he can maintain a fight against Alonso.
Standings: Button 2, Perez 0
Button showed himself strongly throughout the weekend, out-qualifying his team-mate initially and then holding his place well up the order for a lengthy part of the race. A pit-stop mishap forced the Britton out of the race, but he’d already shown his supremacy over his young team-mate by that point. The Perez signing met with great enthusiasm from McLaren, but Sergio has done little to prove he’s the one to take over from Button when he decides to hang up his helmet. The newcomer’s race-craft needs to improve quickly if he wishes to not be left well in the dark by Button.
Standings: Raikkonen 1, Grosjean 1
Kimi Raikkonen’s chances of tasting champagne took a blow on Saturday when he was pushed back to tenth on the grid after being reprimanded for blocking Nico Rosberg in qualifying. His race didn’t go much better and saw him wrestling the car throughout the 56 laps to finish 13 seconds behind his much-improved team-mate.
Grosjean’s qualifying performance on Saturday was less than inspiring, but he made up for it on the Sunday. He hasn’t made up for his shocking performance in Melbourne, but he’s shown he’s not going to be a walk-over in 2013.
Standings: Rosberg 0, Hamilton 2
I stand to be criticised here and sympathise with Rosberg after being ordered to hold station behind his team-mate in the latter stages of the race, but Ross Brawn’s decision is not the fault of Lewis Hamilton. The 2008 World Champion put his car in front of Rosberg at the most important time in the race – before the final pit-stops – and if Nico had managed to put himself ahead of Hamilton, you can only assume he would have been assured the same respect. The Mercedes looked very strong in Malaysia and the team can only hope for a repeat performance of the 2012 race in two weeks. Rosberg has shown he’s able to put up a fight against Hamilton and don’t be surprised if the roles are reversed in Shanghai.
Standings: Hulkenberg 1, Gutierrez 1
Hulkenberg made up for his non-start in Melbourne by delivering the goods in Sepang. A strong start placed him well within the points and a dramatic fight with the Lotus of Raikkonen showed he’d lost none of his flare during the off-season. Gutierrez qualified faster than his team-mate in Q1 but ended up nine-tenths behind at the conclusion of the second session. Hulkenberg is no slouch and Gutierrez should take a lot of strength from coming so close to his team-mate in only his second event. The Mexican’s race was very much that of a rookie learning the ropes and while his team-mate shone in the top-8, Esteban struggled in the mid-pack. Though he benefitted from a few retirements, Guteirrez might soon show his strength against Hulkenberg.
Paul di Resta
Standings: di Resta 1, Sutil 1
Di Resta’s race was virtually redemption for his failure to come near Sutil in Melbourne. The two drivers suffered dearly for Force India’s wheel nut issues (and eventually saw them both retire), but the Scot had a certain something over his team-mate in Malaysia. Sutil shone in qualifying while his team-mate suffered with issues throughout the second session. He may have come out ahead in Malaysia, but if di Resta hopes to keep his drive at Force India for very long, he’s going to need to start matching Sutil in every session – especially qualifying.
Standings: Maldonado 1, Bottas 1
Williams’s issues continued in Malaysia and their two drivers failed to make it any further than Q1. Though Maldonado took the lead in qualifying, it was Bottas who came out of the race without having made any silly errors. Pastor held his position off the line while Valtteri struggled with backmarkers, but the Venezuellan made a costly error one-third of the way through the race and ventured off-track, losing some of his front wing in the process. He was ordered to stop his car in response to a KERS issue late in the race, but Williams’s woes looked as if they were to continue for the final ten laps of the event. Bottas profited nicely from a number of retirements and would surely not have finished in 11th had six cars ahead of him not been forced to exit the race early. Is Pastor struggling under the pressure of a strong team-mate? The designated number-one driver will want to settle the score before it gets out of hand.
Standings: Vergne 1, Ricciardo 1
Qualifying was very reminiscent of 2012 for the STR duo, with Ricciardo setting a time close to half-a-second faster than Vergne’s best. The Australian ran strong in the race, fighting with Grosjean and Raikkonen for a lengthy period before dropping out with the second exhaust failure in as many weeks. His car suffered from damage sustained after having gone off the track in the damp conditions before the start of the race and Ricciardo will be very disappointed to have let Vergne steal the team’s first points of 2013. Jean-Eric showed a strong knowledge of the Pirelli tyres and pushed the STR8 from what looked like a low-order result into a solid tenth position. Had it not been for a mistake on the final lap in Melbourne, he could have been two points ahead of his team-mate by now.
Standings: Pic 2, van der Garde 0
Pic maintained his lead over van der Garde simply by keeping ahead of his team-mate throughout the weekend. He may have out-qualified his team-mate by 6 tenths on Saturday, but the pair’s fastest laps were half as close. Giedo’s debut started poorly in Melbourne, but he’s taken a step forward in Malaysia. If he can continue to build on his performances, the European season might be closer between the two.
Standings: Bianchi 2, Chilton 0
For the second race in succession, Bianchi put Chilton firmly behind him. Having out-qualified Max by 1.2 seconds, he again finished a lap ahead of the Briton and recorded Marussia’s best result of 2013 when he finished 12th. Jules’s fastest lap was some seven tenths faster than his team-mates and having the team confirm their confidence in the Frenchman will have done nothing to hurt his confidence. A Ferrari driver of many years, Bianchi is using his experience to good use early in the season and Chilton needs to come to terms with the MR02 post haste if he has any chance of keeping his ride for the rest of the year, let alone for 2014.