WORLD champion Sebastian Vettel extended his one hundred per cent start to the new season with an emphatic victory in Malaysia, but it was a day to forget for Britain’s Lewis Hamilton who derided his McLaren team’s race strategy as a “disaster”.
The 2008 world champion, starting from the front row of the grid, was passed by Renault’s Nick Heidfeld on the opening lap, and his attempt to regain lost ground was hindered by a slow pit stop, a slow set of tyres and a fourth pit stop.
Hamilton’s misery was compounded after the race when both he and long-time rival Fernando Alonso were handed 20-second penalties by race stewards as the duo scrapped for a podium finish with 10 laps remaining.
Both cars incurred minimal damage, but it was Hamilton who suffered the greater as a result of the punishment – he was relegated from seventh to eighth, while Alonso kept hold of sixth place. Even then, however, Hamilton placed the blame for a bad day at the office on his team, rather than his Spanish nemesis.
“That’s racing [the collision], but that wasn’t the biggest problem to me,” Hamilton said. “Our strategy wasn’t good. So the collision doesn’t really matter. I’m sure it wasn’t great for the car and its downforce, but really the strategy was the main impact.
“It was a disaster. It was a really terrible race. I had a shocking race to be honest, it was absolutely shocking. But that’s racing.”
Jenson Button finished runner-up to Vettel after a solid drive which moved him to second in the Drivers’ Championship, with Hamilton slipping down to third and 26 points behind the German pacesetter.
MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull 1h 37m 39s
2. Jenson Button, McLaren +3.2s
3. Nick Heidfeld, Renault +25.0 s
4. Mark Webber, Red Bull +26.3s
5. Felipe Massa, Ferrari +36.9s
6. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari +57.2s
7. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber +66.4s
8. Lewis , McLaren +66.9s
9. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP +84.8s
10. Paul Di Resta, Force India +91.5s