Vettel saves face for Ferrari after Raikkonen's misfortune

Vettel saves face for Ferrari after Raikkonen's misfortune

Vettel saves face for Ferrari after Raikkonen's misfortune

Fortunately for him, Mercedes looked vulnerable in Malaysia, with their race pace proving inferior to both the Ferraris and Red Bulls.

German Sebastian Vettel, who is second in the championship battle with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, was forced to start last on the grid - in 20th position - after failing to set a time in qualifying on Saturday.

Starting from the front after winning the qualifying, the Red Bull driver saw a commanding drive to soundly beat Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton by a hefty margin of 12.7 seconds. Gasly admitted, "I tried to do my best and pushed as hard as possible, but it was a really physical and tough race - my drink system didn't work properly, the water was going all over my face and not in my mouth! - so it felt like a long race..."

"I'm pretty sure that my vehicle would have been very good", said Raikkonen, whose last victory came at 2013's season-opening race in Australia driving for Lotus.

This time he is riding a run of good fortune, with an opening lap crash for Vettel in Singapore dealing the German a significant setback in a race that the Briton went on to win.

"On paper the Ferrari is the fastest auto, followed by the Red Bull and then us", the Austrian had observed after qualifying. This vehicle has been the quickest auto out there on many occasions. "At the moment is about keeping calm and trying to analyse it".

It could have been even worse for Vettel, however, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen failing to start after a loss of power on the way to the grid.

"We need to understand why we underperform on certain circuits and in certain ambient conditions".

Valtteri Bottas
GETTYValtteri Bottas has struggled to control his Mercedes in recent weeks

The team have struggled in the heat of Sepang in the past, notably in 2015 when Vettel won for Ferrari, but the W08 had led the way on similar circuits earlier this season which also featured fast, sweeping corners.

Whilst the decision of both Toto Wolff and Nikki Lauda in opting with the safer option of Valtteri Bottas as their number two has for the most paid handsome dividends from a team perspective, we have also seen why the Dutchman may have missed this particular boat.

Mercedes would ordinarily start favourite for Japan, particularly given its recent record at the track, but its struggles in Malaysia suggest it will likely find itself in a fight with Ferrari and Red Bull.

"On paper Suzuka should suit us", he said.

"I think he said when he left Ferrari that he was a Ferrari fan but today he didn't act like one".

Saturday's pole was the 70th of Hamilton's career and fifth in Malaysia, which is hosting its last F1 race on Sunday.

"We can not get distracted by the fact we got lucky again".

"We have hosted this for 19 years and I think we have seen some thrilling events", he told reporters at a news conference with Formula One Chief Executive Chase Carey, adding that an eventual return could not be ruled out.

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