Lewis Hamilton's pole-to-flag victory on Sunday ahead of team
mate Nico Rosberg looked comfortable in the scorching Sepang
sunshine, but quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel had
managed to split the pair in a wet qualifying session.
The German Red Bull driver fell behind Rosberg before the first
corner on race day in Malaysia but managed to push his
compatriot for long periods before the gap widened in the final
stages of the 56-lap race.
Vettel's 15 points for third place were Red Bull's first of the
season and a jump in the right direction for a team that looked
in disarray during winter testing after their Renault power unit
suffered reliability woes.
"The last day of testing was four weeks ago or something and
they were absolutely nowhere and now he (Vettel) was right in
the back of me, pushing me," Rosberg told reporters after moving
further clear in the drivers standings ahead of Hamilton.
"The way they've ramped up their pace, very impressive, so we
need to keep on it to keep our advantage."
Rosberg leads the drivers championship on 43 points, ahead of
Hamilton (25) and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso (24).
Vettel's team mate, Daniel Ricciardo, also showed promising
signs before a botched pit stop, damaged front wing and
punctured tire led to him retiring on lap 49.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was optimistic that
they had made progress in bridging the gap on the Formula One
"Considering where we were a month ago, to be on the podium with
Sebastian in Malaysia in a dry race, is an incredible
performance," he said.
"We knew that we had some ground to catch up to the Mercedes, so
to finish as close as Sebastian did today was a really positive
performance and, while we know we've got a lot of work to do, we
can begin to realize the scale of our challenge."
"ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN"
Adding fuel to the Renault-powered revival was Russian rookie
Danil Kvyat grabbing 10th to give Toro Rosso a second weekend of
points after both he and team mate Jean-Eric Vergne's top 10
finishes in Australia.
Even struggling Lotus managed to finish a race, with Romain
Grosjean ending in 11th in Malaysia.
However, they were all second best to Mercedes, whose pace on
the quick Sepang straights was too much for the Red Bulls.
With similarly long straights awaiting them in Manama before
they head to another Hermann Tilke designed circuit in China
after that, Horner was thinking small in the short term.
"Their advantage in Bahrain will obviously be bigger than it was
here because that is a very powered dominated circuit," he said.
"For Bahrain, I don't think there is going to be a solution and
it doesn't tend to rain much in Bahrain so we are obviously
going to try and make us much progress as we can in the week and
hopefully we can nudge a bit closer to them.
"A lot of the issues are software related so hopefully the steps
can be made and we can close that gap down."
For that reason, Hamilton knew it was vital to take advantage
before the pack inevitably caught up, much like Jenson Button
did en route to winning the 2009 championship with Brawn when
his six race victories came in the first seven races.
Hamilton is also wary of allowing complacency to creep into the
team, who claimed their first one-two since 1955.
Mercedes suffered reliability problems in the season-opening
race which forced Hamilton to retire early after qualifying on
pole in Melbourne.
"It's great to see Mercedes leading the championship but we know
that we have to make these early races pay," the Briton said
after his 23rd career win.
"Anything can happen, as we saw in Australia."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.