A new force to be reck­oned with


Se­bas­tian Vet­tel’s move to Fer­rari pays div­i­dends for both driver and team, with a long-over­due win

As the crews dis­man­tled their garages, a few hours af­ter the close of the 17th run­ning of the Malaysian Grand Prix, a Pirelli em­ployee was stack­ing tyres onto a trol­ley. De­spite the in­tense en­ergy-sap­ping heat and hu­mid­ity in this equa­to­rial re­gion of the world, he was smil­ing through the sweat. “A good day for Italy,” he said. “Molto bene.”

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel had tri­umphed at the wheel of his Fer­rari – a ma­chine that had been gen­tle on its Pirelli rub­ber – to take an emo­tional 40th grand prix win of his ca­reer, in only his sec­ond race for the Scud­e­ria.

It had been 35 races since Il Canto degli Ital­iani had last rung out dur­ing an F1 podium cer­e­mony and new team boss Mau­r­izio Ar­riv­abene was singing his heart out with the rest of the team on the siz­zling pit­lane as­phalt be­low the rostrum.

On the podium Fer­rari’s op­er­a­tions direc­tor, Diego Ioverno, col­lected the tro­phy on be­half of the team; it was a gen­er­ous of­fer­ing from Ar­riv­abene, not putting him­self rst af­ter such an im­pres­sive turn­around in the team’s for­tunes.

From the rst run­ning on Fri­day af­ter­noon it was clear the Fer­rari was able to ex­tend the life of the medium com­pound (op­tion) tyres, de­spite the blis­ter­ing track tem­per­a­tures. At their en­gi­neer­ing meet­ing on Sun­day morn­ing, they de­cided to com­mit to a two-stop strat­egy. Only the Toro Rosso of Car­los Sainz Jr and the Force In­dia of Ser­gio Pérez did like­wise; ev­ery­one else opted for three stops, although Nasr was forced into four af­ter he punc­tured Kimi Räikkö­nen’s Fer­rari on the open­ing lap.

Across the rest of the eld, teams strug­gled with tyre degra­da­tion in the ex­treme 60°C track tem­per­a­tures. In par­tic­u­lar, the Mercedes that had dom­i­nated the sea­son-opener in Australia two weeks be­fore couldn’t live up to the pace of Vet­tel’s Fer­rari. As the 56-lap race un­folded, Ar­riv­abene re­mained calm.

“I’ve been asked why I was not laugh­ing or show­ing emo­tions. That’s be­cause I was think­ing of the morn­ing’s brieng and con­cen­trat­ing on the data com­ing to us,” he said post-race. “Dur­ing the race, it was be­com­ing clear that we could do some­thing in­ter­est­ing, but I have to say the dis­ci­pline of the guys was amaz­ing. Ev­ery­thing was work­ing like a Swiss watch, but in this case it was a per­fect Ital­ian watch.”

When an early Safety Car was de­ployed for the re­cov­ery of Mar­cus Eric­s­son’s beached Sauber in the Turn 1 gravel trap, Fer­rari kept Vet­tel out (com­mit­ted as they were to two stops) while the ma­jor­ity of the eld – in­clud­ing the two Mercedes driv­ers – pit­ted. From the lead, Hamil­ton slipped down the or­der and had to ght past the other non-stop­pers; Hülken­berg, Gros­jean, Sainz Jr and Pérez. But af­ter his stop

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