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Malaysia analysis - Red Bull victorious, but not invincible 11 Apr 2011

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 10 April 2011 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren on the podium. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 10 April 2011 (L to R): Eric Boullier (FRA) Lotus Renault GP Team Principal celebrates with third placed Nick Heidfeld (GER) Lotus Renault GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 10 April 2011 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 150 Italia makes a pit stop for a front wing change. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 10 April 2011 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02 and Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C30 battle for position.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 10 April 2011

The good news for Red Bull’s rivals in Malaysia? The RB7 looks to have an Achilles heel in its KERS system. The bad news? Even without it, Sebastian Vettel won pretty much at will as he controlled the Sepang race throughout, continuing the perfect start to his title defence. McLaren pushed the blue cars hard all weekend, but ultimately couldn’t find the necessary pace. On top of that, they found themselves under pressure in the race from the fast-starting Renault team, who made it two podiums from two races courtesy of a revitalised Nick Heidfeld. We take a team-by-team look back at Sunday’s action…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, P1
Mark Webber, P4

The lap after his engineers told him not to use his KERS any more, Vettel set a fastest lap just to show how dominant the Red Bull RB7 still was in Malaysia. The only real challenge to him came from Heidfeld’s fast-starting Renault at the start. After that he controlled the gap to Hamilton and, later, Button, and won as he pleased to open his points lead to 24 over the latter. Webber dropped from third to ninth on the opening lap thanks to a KERS system that failed to deliver at the start, then had to run a four-stop strategy to get back into contention. It worked, and after numerous wheel-to-wheel fights and fastest lap, he just failed to grab third from Heidfeld.

Jenson Button, P2
Lewis Hamilton, P8

Hamilton kept Vettel under pressure in the second stints after getting held up behind Heidfeld in the first after losing out at the start. But after flat-spotting a set of soft tyres in qualifying he only had two for the race instead of the three of his rivals. That hurt him in the third stint, as his MP4-26 didn’t handle as well on the harder compound. He fended off Webber and Alonso towards the end, lost out to Heidfeld, then slid off and dropped to seventh with a fourth stop, Subsequently he was awarded a post-race 20s penalty for changing direction more than once while defending, dropping to eighth. Button, meanwhile, couldn’t keep up initially on the soft tyres but found his MP4-26 loved the harder compound. He moved ahead of Hamilton in his final stint and kept Vettel honest to the end after a superb, smooth performance reminiscent of Alain Prost at his best.

Nick Heidfeld, P3
Vitaly Petrov, Retired lap 53, accident

Both Renaults made demon starts. Heidfeld sprinted from sixth on the grid to second and stayed there until the first pit stops, confirming the R31’s Melbourne race pace. Later he came back at Hamilton with a vengeance, grabbing the final podium position at the start of lap 51 and defending it against determined attack from Webber. Petrov was headed for eighth when he slid off on the 53rd lap and broke his steering column mounting when he aviated over a kerb and had a very hard landing as he came back on track.

Felipe Massa, P5
Fernando Alonso, P6

Ferrari had better race pace, especially on the harder rubber, which was a much-needed fillip. Massa ran ahead of Alonso until a delay in his first stop, and came through for fifth in the end after the Spaniard’s challenge for Hamilton’s third place on lap 46 led to a wing-damaging collision which necessitated a fourth pit stop. Later he was penalised 20s for the collision, but it did not affect his sixth place.

Kamui Kobayashi, P7
Sergio Perez, Retired lap 24, impact/electrical failure

No after-race shocks for Sauber this time; at least, not to their detriment. Kobayashi drove brilliantly for eighth place, battling hard with Webber, Schumacher and Petrov, and that became seventh in a payback for Melbourne, when Hamilton got penalised. Perez wasn’t as strong this weekend, and retired after debris from Buemi’s Toro Rosso struck his C30’s undertray, set off its fire extinguisher and led to electrical shutdown.

Michael Schumacher, P9
Nico Rosberg, P12

Mercedes had an awful race. Both MGP W02s were reliable and their DRS wings worked, but they lacked pace. Schumacher had an off on his way to ninth place and the team’s first points of the year, while Rosberg simply never featured.

Force India
Paul di Resta, P10
Adrian Sutil, P11

Yet again di Resta ran ahead of Sutil and had a very strong three-stop race in which points were always a possibility. He couldn’t hold off Schumacher on fresher tyres towards the end, but still took another point for another 10th place. Sutil damaged his front wing hitting Barrichello on the third lap, necessitating one more pit stop than the two he planned.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, P13
Jaime Alguersuari, P14

Buemi was chasing Kobayashi and Schumacher and looking for points when he got hit with a 10s stop-and-go penalty for speeding in the pit lane, thanks to a malfunctioning limiter. He fought back to catch and re-pass Alguersuari, who was mystified why his STR6 was slow and had very high tyre degradation.

Heikki Kovalainen, P15
Jarno Trulli, Retired lap 32, clutch

Kovalainen had a great race and was right on Alguersuari’s tail by the finish, but Trulli had an anti-stall problem at the start, later locked up and slid off into the Turn One gravel after a pit stop, and then retired with a clutch problem.

Timo Glock, P16
Jerome D'Ambrosio, Retired lap 43, impact/power cut-out

Glock ran ahead of Trulli for a while before being overtaken, and said he had a trouble-free run to 16th. D’Ambrosio kept him honest, but impact with a hefty kerb triggered the power system cut-out after 42 laps.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Retired lap 47, rear wing problem
Narain Karthikeyan, Retired lap 15, water temperature

Having made the race comfortably, HRT got 60 laps crucial laps under their belt in what amounted to their first test session of the season. They withdrew Karthikeyan as a precaution when his engine temperatures hit the red zone, then Liuzzi a lot later with a rear wing problem.

Rubens Barrichello, Retired lap 23, hydraulics
Pastor Maldonado, Retired lap 9, misfire

Williams had an appalling time that began with a puncture for Barrichello on the third lap, courtesy of Sutil’s front wing, retirement for Maldonado six laps later with a misfire, and then retirement for the Brazilian with hydraulic failure on the 23rd lap. And they weren’t fast, either.

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