SEPANG, Malaysia — Even for a team that has become accustomed to disappointment in recent years, the outcome of Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix must have been a crushing one for Ferrari.
Sebastian Vettel, last year’s winner at the Sepang International Circuit, caused a collision at the first corner that ended his race – and incurred a grid penalty for next weekend’s race – while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished a distant and uncompetitive fourth.
But the worst outcome of all was that Red Bull won the race.
All season, Ferrari and Red Bull have closely fought to be the best of the rest behind Mercedes, but on the only two occasions in which Mercedes faltered, it was Red Bull that was there to capitalize with victories, while Ferrari is left staring at a second winless season in three years.
The race was over almost as soon as it had begun for Vettel. He saw a gap on the inside of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg at the first corner and went for it, but left his braking too late. The Ferrari touched the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, and then hit Rosberg’s car, sending the German into a spin that dropped him to the back of the field.
“I just got t-boned by a four-time world champion,” Rosberg said. “Out of control.”
Verstappen also pinned the blame for the collision entirely on Vettel.
“Sebastian just dived up the inside, went really deep, and there was definitely no space for that,” Verstappen said.
Vettel was left with a broken suspension and parked his Ferrari trackside, with this race over. It was a stark contrast to this event last season when he took his first victory for the Italian team.
It got worse after the race when he was slapped with a three grid-place penalty for next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
“I did my best under braking but I couldn’t avoid the impact,” Vettel said. “It was an unfortunate chain reaction which ruined my race and Nico’s one. I can’t do more than apologize to Nico, because the accident had nothing to do with him.”
Raikkonen was ahead of Rosberg, who had fought his way back up from 21st, when Rosberg pitted at the end of lap 31 of 56. Ferrari tried to cover off that strategy by bringing in Raikkonen the next lap, hoping he could keep the Mercedes behind him for the remaining 24 laps.
He did not manage six before Rosberg muscled past the Ferrari in an aggressive move that brought a ten-second time penalty from stewards. Raikkonen only had to remain within that ten seconds of Rosberg to inherit third place, but could not do so.
“The car was not too bad and the handling was quite OK, but the pure lap time was not there,” Raikkonen said. “We were missing speed and we never had the chance to challenge the cars in front.”