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Malaysia race analysis - Red Bull back in the hunt 05 Apr 2010

Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing in parc ferme. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 4 April 2010 Race action.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 4 April 2010 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 4 April 2010 Jaime Alguersuari (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR5 battles with Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 4 April 2010 Lucas di Grassi (BRA) Virgin Racing 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 4 April 2010

With three pole positions from the opening three races of 2010, the pace of the RB6 has never been in doubt, but on Sunday in Malaysia Red Bull finally put to bed the reliability issues that have hampered their season so far, as Sebastian Vettel stormed to his first win of the year. Coupled with Mark Webber’s second place, the result means the Milton Keynes-based team are very much back in the fight for the title.

It was tougher day for fellow contenders Ferrari and McLaren. Although all four of their star drivers admirably fought their way through the field following their trying qualifying performances, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button had to be content with a combined haul of just 12 points, while Fernando Alonso’s engine troubles will be a cause for concern in Maranello. We take a team-by-team look at Sunday’s events…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, P1
Mark Webber, P2

Red Bull desperately needed to win this one, and they did. They dominated it. Once Vettel passed Webber at the start the die was cast, and they ran home an easy one-two without any reliability issues. The result moves Vettel into title contention again, and put Red Bull into third place in the constructors’ championship with 61 points to Ferrari’s 76 and McLaren’s 66. A great result, which delivered on all the promise the RB6 has shown this season.

Mercedes GP
Nico Rosberg, P3
Michael Schumacher, Retired Lap 10, loose wheelnut

Schumacher retired early on with a loose left rear wheel nut, but after losing a place to Vettel at the start Rosberg struggled initially on the option Bridgestone tyre before consolidating the team’s first podium of the season with a smooth and unflustered performance.

Robert Kubica, P4
Vitaly Petrov, Retired Lap 33, gearbox

Kubica made up important places on Hulkenberg and Sutil at the start, and thereafter managed to consolidate fourth place. He didn’t have the pace to challenge Rosberg, but nor was he under any pressure from Sutil. Petrov repassed Hamilton going into Turn One on Lap Six, and was then prevented from doing the same thing a lap later when Hamilton weaved all over the main straight. Unfortunately, his chances of scoring points evaporated after 33 laps when his R30 slowed with a gearbox problem.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, P5
Vitantonio Liuzzi, Retired Lap 13, loss of power

Sutil drove an excellent race devoid of mistakes, and proved more than capable of holding his own against his former Formula Three team mate Hamilton when the McLaren driver seemed poised to snatch fifth place. It was a great performance that made up for his disappointments in Bahrain and Australia. Liuzzi’s chances of scoring points were dashed after 13 laps when his Mercedes engine began to lose power.

Lewis Hamilton, P6
Jenson Button, P8

Hamilton made a brilliant start to move from 20th to 12th at the end of the opening lap, then steadily moved up to second place behind Vettel (whom he very nearly passed during the German’s tyre stop) before dropping back to sixth after his own stop. Thereafter he couldn’t find a way past Sutil. Button struggled with rear-end grip on the soft rubber and switched to the harder compound after nine laps, which left him to complete the remaining 47 laps on the same set of tyres. He couldn’t keep Massa at bay, but successfully defended eighth place against Alonso.

Felipe Massa, P7
Fernando Alonso, Retired Lap 55, engine, P13

Where Hamilton stormed away at the start, Massa and Alonso were more cautious and became embroiled in a fight for 14th place with Button. Eventually they moved up as others pitted, and were fast once they made their tyre stops on to the softer compound. Massa dumped Button once he found a way past, but try as he might Alonso could not make a move stick and lost his championship lead when the engine blew up on the penultimate lap. Ferrari still lead the constructors’ championship, however.

Toro Rosso
Jaime Alguersuari, P9
Sebastien Buemi, P11

Alguersuari drove another feisty race and thoroughly deserved his first two championship points after passing Hulkenberg round the outside. Buemi damaged his front wing on the opening lap after a brush with Kobayashi, but once it was changed in his second tyre stop he was able to set the race’s third fastest lap.

Nico Hulkenberg, P10
Rubens Barrichello, P12

Hulkenberg sounded glum for a man who’d just scored a world championship point in only his third Grand Prix, but he said his Williams simply isn’t quick enough yet. Barrichello was very lucky to get away unscathed when his FW32 bogged down at the start and everybody avoided him. Thereafter the team tried a different two-stop strategy of soft, hard, hard, but it didn’t work.

Lucas di Grassi, P14
Timo Glock, Retired Lap 3, spin

Glock went out early after getting into trouble under braking and spinning into Trulli. But Di Grassi kept going, suffered little when Kovalainen whacked his front wing in a passing move that didn’t come off, and was able to ‘win’ the newcomers’ honours even though from the 28th lap he had to go into fuel conservation mode not just because of the VR-01’s acknowledged lack of fuel capacity but also because of pick-up problems.

Karun Chandhok, P15
Bruno Senna, P16

Chandhok drove a great race and was delighted to finish another Grand Prix. Senna enjoyed overtaking a Ferrari at the start when he got ahead of Alonso briefly, but said that his had been a tough race that would have been slightly easier if he’d been able to pit stop a lap sooner than he did to ditch his soft Bridgestones. He also reported braking issues. Overall, the team were very pleased to score their first two-car finish after only three races.

Jarno Trulli, P17
Heikki Kovalainen, Not classified

Lotus desperately wanted to shine on home ground, but Trulli was the innocent victim when Glock spun on lap three. That delayed him, while Kovalainen had an adventure of his own trying to pass Di Grassi. That damaged his left rear tyre, and later he ran into hydraulic issues which, after a lengthy pit stop, left him unclassified.

BMW Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, Retired Lap 9, engine
Pedro de la Rosa, Did not start, engine

It seemed that things could not get worse for Sauber when De la Rosa failed to make it round the grid formation lap due to a pneumatic failure in his Ferrari engine. Then Kobayashi, running 11th ahead of points’ scorer Alguersuari, suffered a similar failure after nine laps.