Vettel and Massa make biggest gains so far

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Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa have made the best starts to the new season compared to how they performed last year.

Both drivers have racked up 22 points more than they collected in the first two rounds of 2012.

Vettel’s controversial win in Malaysia has put him at the top of the drivers’ championship with 40 points – five more than last year’s early leader Fernando Alonso enjoyed at this stage.

Massa’s bright start to 2013 is in marked contrast to his troubled 2012 campaign. This time last year he was yet to score – twelve months on he is ahead of team mate Alonso in the championship.

Alonso’s failure to finish in Malaysia – a race he won last year – is an early setback for his championship prospects. He went into the season expecting a stronger start than he had with the troubled F2012:

“I’m confident I can start the season with a better car than the one we had in the first few months of last year, Alonso said in January.

“It was actually in the early races that we lost decisive points, when we had a car that was only good enough for seventh, as was the case in China or ninth in Bahrain.”

This year it’s McLaren who’ve started the season with an uncompetitive car, meaning Jenson Button and Sergio Perez are the drivers who have lost the most points compared to 2012. Here’s a full table for all the drivers.

Position Driver Points Change
1 Sebastian Vettel 40 +22
2 Kimi Raikkonen 31 +15
3 Mark Webber 26 +2
4 Lewis Hamilton 25 -5
5 Felipe Massa 22 +22
6 Fernando Alonso 18 -17
7 Nico Rosberg 12 +12
8 Romain Grosjean 9 +9
9 Adrian Sutil 6 +6
10 Paul di Resta 4 -3
11 Nico Hulkenberg 4 +2
12 Sergio Perez 2 -20
13 Jenson Button 2 -23
14 Jean-Eric Vergne 1 -3

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “