Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was in a class of his own as the world champion won a dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix. McLaren’s Jenson Button was runner-up to go second in the championship and Renault’s Nick Heidfeld was third.
Vettel won the season-opener in Australia and has now claimed fourth successive victories after two at the end of the 2010 season to clinch the title.
Scot Paul di Resta picked up his second point with 10th for Force India behind Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes. Vettel ran a sensible race, handling his tyres well on Sepang’s blistering circuit and coping with intermittent use of the Kers power-boost system in the second half of the race. The German comfortably collected the 12th grand prix win of his career to stretch his championship lead to 24 points.
Vettel made a smooth start, pulling clear of the pack as Hamilton, on the dirtier side of the circuit, struggled to retain second place and, running into turns one and two, was passed on the outside by Heidfeld.
At the same time, Webber was beset by problems as his car suffered a pre-race KERS failure and cost him seven places at the start.
“We could control it, but it was never easy. When Jenson was behind me I could control the gap.” Vettel said.
“It was a tough race,” said Webber. “You get killed on the long runs without KERS and it’s tough to clear people.”
Alonso had to pit for a new front wing, while Hamilton labored on the damaged tire, and was passed by Heidfeld and Webber before pitting with three laps to go.
In the constructors’ standings, Red Bull lead with 72 points ahead of McLaren on 50, ahead of the next race in a week’s time in China.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner paid tribute to a nerveless performance from Vettel, who is still only 23.
“I think Sebastian was the coolest guy out there — his composure, the way he controlled the race, the way he looked after his tyres,” Horner said.