Sepang: Five things we learned from the Malaysian Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel upset Mercedes to claim his first win for Ferrari:
- Not just about the car for Vettel
Despite dozens of victories, Sebastian Vettel failed to convince everyone he was Formula One's best driver when he strode to four world titles with Red Bull. After all, wasn't he the lead driver in what was F1's dominant team? The questions grew more pointed when he finished well behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in his final season for Red Bull last year, before joining Ferrari. But Vettel has proved he can thrive in another garage apart from Red Bull's. After placing third in Melbourne, and splitting the Mercedes in Malaysian qualifying, he resumed his old position at the head of the field on Sunday, and never looked back. The question now for Vettel, and Ferrari, is whether the feat can be repeated in less extreme conditions than scorching Sepang.
Malaysian GP. Pic/ AFP
- Italians can be calm too
A picture of calm at the Ferrari controls contrasted with near-panic at Mercedes with screaming over the radio and a farcical "miscommunication" when Lewis Hamilton was asked whether he'd consider pitting for fourth time (Vettel only stopped twice). Ferrari, under new team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, worked out their plan on Sunday morning and executed it to the letter, despite an early safety car and a puncture for Kimi Raikkonen, who fought from the back of the field to finish fourth. "Everybody was working like a Swiss watch -- but in this case it was a perfect Italian watch," smiled Arrivabene. The new approach augurs well for Ferrari, and also raises questions about Mercedes' performance under pressure. "There's no panic but we were in a new situation we haven't encountered for a while, that we were not in control of things," admitted Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
- Alonso is not the happiest man in the world
Fernando Alonso raised eyebrows pre-race when he claimed he was the "one of the happiest people in the world" since rejoining McLaren. That accolade certainly now fits for Vettel, who has won in only his second race for Ferrari -- after replacing Alonso at the Italian team. Alonso won't admit it, but he may be feeling some regret at his decision to quit Maranello at a time when Ferrari is on the up and McLaren are hitting rock-bottom. An early retirement in Malaysia, his first race for the team, will not help his mood. It completed a torrid week for the Spaniard who was at odds with McLaren when he blamed an as-yet-unidentified steering problem for his crash in testing which ruled him out of the season-opener in Australia.
- Formula One is not so hard
Either Max Verstappen is a genius or Formula One driving is not as hard as it looks. For a 17-year-old, barely legal to drive in his home country, to jump into a Toro Rosso and finish seventh in only his second race is extraordinary. Certainly the Dutch teenager, now F1's youngest ever points-scorer, has grown up around motorsport and under the tutelage of his father, ex-Formula One driver Jos. But with young, fresh-faced pilots increasingly common in F1, you wonder whether the cars are really as complicated as they look.
- F1 is not dead yet
It was a gift from the Formula One gods but Sunday's thrilling race lifted the storm clouds gathering over the sport, at least temporarily. Teams and races, along with viewers, have been dropping like flies, prompting much hand-wringing and complaining among the sport's protagonists. A resurgence by Ferrari, if sustained, will do much to regenerate interest among fans who had resigned themselves to a long season of dominance by Mercedes. Formula One's problems are far from over but at least it has given a reminder of its potential to excite and absorb.