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

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”