SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE MALAYSIAN GP FOR RED BULL
Red Bull overcame their reliability issues as Sebastian Vettel headed a one-two in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Vettel, whose car cost him potential wins in Bahrain and Australia, overtook team-mate and pole-setter Mark Webber at the start and held on to triumph.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg took third while the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were sixth and eighth.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa leads the championship after finishing seventh as team-mate Fernando Alonso retired.
Massa is now two points ahead of Alonso, who is level on points with Vettel but heads him in the standings due to a stronger results countback.
Rosberg and Button are both two points back on 35, four ahead of Hamilton and five in front of Renault's Robert Kubica, who again impressed to finish fourth after coming second in Australia.
Despite losing his position at the head of the grid, Webber drove an excellent race – he produced the fastest lap (one minute 37.054 seconds) – to move up to eighth in the championship.
“The first part of the race is critical and the first sector I had a little wheel spin on the way to Turn One and gave Seb a big tow,” said the Australian.
“The spirit and chemistry in our team is awesome and we fought well today. Seb got the better of it but it could have gone either way. Great result for the team, we executed a beautiful weekend.”
It was a first one-two for Red Bull since the final race of the 2009 season, the team finally getting their reward for consistently being the fastest car on the grid this season.
A broken spark plug did for Vettel in Bahrain and the German had a wheel failure in Melboune, while Webber's engine failed during Friday's practice session for this grand prix.
But they had no such problems on race day at the Sepang Circuit and will be full of confidence ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix on 16-18 April.
Malaysian GP – Top three drivers
“I realised straight away I had a good start, I was able to gain, gain, gain and I had a good advantage,” said Vettel. “I took the chance into Turn One, it was very late but I took it.
“It's good that we can fight each other but you should keep the respect and I am glad that we have done that, I am sure Mark would do the same as I did.
“After that we had the same pace but I was able to stay in front. We had a magnificent car – I just had to watch the pace and look after the tyres.
“It was a very good result for us especially after two races where we didn't finish where we wanted to be. It was important to stay relaxed and not panic so I am really pleased for me and the team.”
There was, however, more disappointment for Michael Schumacher as the seven-time world champion retired on lap 10 after a nut dislodged itself from the rear left wheel of his Mercedes.
“I lost a wheel nut basically so there was no more drive left,” the German, who had climbed from eighth to sixth when he was forced off, told BBC Radio 5 live. “It's very unusual for us to have a reliability problem.
Horner revels in 'brilliant Red Bull result'
“We were in good position I was pacing myself, and although it is a long race it was all looking OK.”
The strategic errors made by Ferrari and McLaren during Saturday's rain-affected qualifying meant Alonso and Massa started 19th and 21st respectively, with Button and Hamilton 17th and 20th.
But while Vettel was busy passing Webber on Turn 1, all four were making moves of their own and Hamilton, in particular, seemed to be picking off victims at will.
The 2008 champion, along with both Ferraris, was one of the few drivers to start the race on hard tyres but the call paid off as all three put themselves in strong positions.
Reigning world champion Button had been sent out on soft tyres but pitted on lap nine for the hard variation and instantly began to hunt down his rivals with several new fastest laps.
Ferrari seemed to be gambling on pre-race forecasts of heavy rain coming to fruition because they kept their drivers out on the hard tyres while most other teams were bringing their men in for a fresh set.
Hamilton and Button happy with positive drives
The Italian team's plight was not aided when Alonso's car developed a downshift problem due to a broken clutch, which made overtaking near-impossible.
With the likes of Rosberg, Kubica and Sutil, who secured an excellent fifth-place finish for Force India, maintaining the pressure up front with some scintillating laps, Ferrari and McLaren acted.
Hamilton stopped for soft tyres on lap 31 and Alonso was the final man to pit on 37, but Hamilton could not make it past Sutil and Alonso's broken clutch put paid to his chances.
Vettel, meanwhile, was scorching down the straights and mastering the fast and slow corners. He had used the open track and clean air to open up a 4.8secs advantage over Webber and the Australia was a further 8.6secs in front of Rosberg.
The game was up for the Ferraris and McLarens, Button producing increasingly slow laps on ageing tyres and Alonso seeing his engine blow on lap 55 after trying to pass the world champion.
By this point Vettel was cruising towards the chequered flag.
There was improved showing from the new teams as Virgin completed a race for the first while Lotus and Hispania brought both drivers home.
It was also a day to remember for Torro Tosso's Jamie Alguersuari and Nico Hulkenberg of Williams, both of whom scored world championship points for the first time.