By Daniel Wilson.
Sebastian Vettel took a shock first win for Ferrari and ended a run of eight consecutive wins for Mercedes by storming to victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The four time world champion made his tyres last longer to hold off Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg after Marcus Ericsson’s beached Sauber brought out the safety car in the opening stages.
The Silver Arrows pitted but Vettel didn’t, allowing him to romp away while Lewis and Nico were making their way through the traffic.
The soaring temperatures meant tyre life was critical for everyone, but Vettel was able to manage them beautifully to execute a two-stop strategy and finish 8.5 seconds clear of Hamilton to claim Ferrari’s first win since Spain 2013.
Kimi Raikkonen also drove a great race to end up fourth, despite starting 11th and suffering a puncture in the early part of the race.
The result means Lewis has only a three point lead over Vettel and 10 points over Rosberg in the championship, with the prancing horse now settled into second in the constructors.
The Williams team showed they are still behind Ferrari as Valterri Bottas battled past his teammate into 5th place, ahead of the Toro Rosso’s of Sainz and Verstappen, who becomes the youngest ever driver to score points in F1.
A difficult weekend for Red Bull never improved as Kvyat beat Ricciardo to 9th place, with the two struggling with braking issues throughout the grand prix.
The two McLaren Honda’s were forced to retire mid-way through the race with power unit issues as their quest for points continues this season.
So, does the result for Vettel present a serious challenge for Mercedes and their drivers for the championship this season?
Well, it’s difficult to say. Today shows the Ferrari is much better at managing its tyres in hot conditions, meaning it could pose a serious threat in places like Bahrain, Singapore and Mexico. However, it remains to be seen how they will manage in cooler places like China and throughout the European season.
Nevertheless, the team are certainly best of the rest, and if their form continues, that may be a phrase reserved for Mercedes.
Can Vettel fight for a fifth world title?
Did Mercedes get their strategy wrong?
Is Max Verstappen a future world champion?
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