Sebastian Vettel wins contentious Malaysian GP

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Sebastian Vettel has won the Malaysian Grand Prix following a thrilling battle with teammate Mark Webber, which may have damaged the inter-team relations as the German driver did not heed the advice of his team to slow down. However, the 1-2 finish for Red Bull gives them the lead in both championships after Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso retired on lap two of the race.

Mercedes ran strongly to finish in third and fourth, with Lewis Hamilton coming under pressure from Nico Rosberg towards the end of the race, whilst all was not lost for Ferrari as Felipe Massa came home in P5.

The race started in wet conditions, with all of the drivers opting for intermediate tires, but soon after Alonso’s retirement the track dried out, allowing the teams to pit and take on dry tires. Having pitted a few laps earlier than Webber, Vettel gave up the advantage to his teammate, with the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Hamilton also vying for the lead after the first round of stops. McLaren took advantage of the drying track and Jenson Button moved up into P5 behind the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers.

Despite coming under pressure from Vettel and Hamilton, Webber managed to hold on to the lead until the final round of stops, when he came out only just ahead of his teammate. Vettel tried a move into turn four, but he failed to make the pass stick. However, soon after, he charged past his teammate as the RB9s got too close for comfort. Team principal Christian Horner even told Vettel that the move was “silly,” requiring a lengthy explanation after the race.

However, Vettel put the criticism behind him to claim his 27th Grand Prix victory, four seconds ahead of an evidently frustrated Mark Webber. Lotus was caught out by the weather, and Kimi Raikkonen ventured off the track on more than one occasion, but he recovered to finish P7 just behind his teammate. Nico Hulkenberg scored his first points of the season in 8th, as did Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne who completed the points. A botched pit stop for Jenson Button cost him all chances of points, and he retired with two laps remaining.

The race saw a four-way fight for the win, showing that Mercedes are capable of exceeding their own expectations this season. Although Red Bull will be pleased with the result, the bitter rivalry between Vettel and Webber could be set to boil over just two races in to the 2013 season.

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Malaysian Grand Prix – Race Classification

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault Winner 25 points

2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault +4.2 secs 18 points

3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +12.1 secs 15 points

4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +12.6 secs 12 points

5 Felipe Massa Ferrari +25.6 secs 10 points

6 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault +35.5 secs 8 points

7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault +48.4 secs 6 points

8 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari +53.0 secs 4 points

9 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes +72.3 secs 2 points

10 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari +87.1 secs 1 point

11 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault +88.6 secs

12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari +1 Lap

13 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth +1 Lap

14 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault +1 Lap

15 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault +1 Lap

16 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth +2 Laps

17 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes +3 Laps

18 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari +5 Laps

Ret Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault

Ret Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes

Ret Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes

Ret Fernando Alonso Ferrari

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
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At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

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