Sebastian Vettel produced yet another superb drive to win today’s Malaysian Grand Prix, coming home comfortably clear of runner-up Jenson Button. Nick Heidfeld completed the podium in what was an engaging race, with battles and intrigue persisting throughout the 56 lap event. Here are Badger’s highlights.

 

Photo: Red Bull/Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Flawless Vettel

There’s only one place to start really, isn’t there? Sebastian Vettel produced a second flawless drive in two races – in fact you could call it three-in-three if you count the 2010 season closer – to take a commanding win in today’s grand prix. The young German looks every inch the world champion – cool, calm and collected behind the wheel of his Red Bull, it’s hard to see anyone stopping him so long as he keeps hammering the pole laps in on a Saturday afternoon. Today he coped well despite the loss of KERS and all-round pace in the middle phase of the race, and was able to cruise home as the challenge behind him faded. He won’t get the headlines he deserves, so comfortable was his win, but Seb is clearly reaching new levels.

The Renaults’ starts

For the second race in succession Renault enjoyed a superb start to the grand prix, with both Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov making up significant ground at the start. Quick Nick was the biggest winner, leaping from sixth on the grid to snatch second off Lewis Hamilton in to the opening sequence of corners. Petrov meanwhile jumped from P8 to fifth, continuing to impress after his Aussie heroics. But whilst both Renaults would run strongly for the remainder of the race their grand prix would eventually end in very different ways.

Spots of rain keeping the drivers on their toes

The mega thunderstorms Sepang can often conjure up didn’t appear today, but spots of rain between laps ten and 20 did provide an extra challenge for the drivers as they attempted to balance speed with stability in uncertain conditions. There were small mistakes as some got a little bit too hot in the ever so slightly moist conditions, with the drop off in tyres during this first stint providing an extra challenge.

 

Photo: Force India F1 Team

Kobayashi vs Schumacher – Fight!

Without doubt the best long-running battle of the day was seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and overtaking demon Kamui Kobayashi. The pair swapped positions several times throughout the race but – despite what you might expect from two drivers with reputations like this pair’s – there was no silly business. Their scraps were clean, fair and entertaining – pretty much all you could ask for! Kamui eventually emerged the victor, taking a eighth place finish with Michael ninth.

The battle that never was

The early-middle phase of the race saw a fascinating battle in the offing. With leader Sebastian Vettel seemingly lacking pace Lewis Hamilton was closing in behind him, whilst behind the Briton Fernando Alonso was lapping even faster. It looked like a three way battle for the lead between three world champions could be on the cards, but the titanic struggle never materialised as Vettel rediscovered his speed and his two rivals eventually came to blows. Still, it was a great prospect, and some times in Formula One anticipation is enough.

 

Photo: Red Bull/Clive Mason/Getty Images

The Rudderless Russian

After his superb drive in the Australian Grand Prix Vitaly Petrov returned to earth with an almighty bump today – one so hefty it popped his streering column out . The Russian actually drove a decent race, making a mega start (see above) and running a solid eighth with 4 laps to go, only to run wide in one of Sepang’s fast, sweeping corners. He then attempted to return to the circuit with his foot fully planted and at a ridiculously acute angle, launching him off a bump and in to the air. The thud as he hit the ground left his with the steering wheel useless in his hands, ending his race in spectacular fashion.

Paul makes his point (again)

He’s started two grand prix, out-qualified his team-mate for both and scored points in each. Paul di Resta is quickly showing the sort of ability that has carried him to several racing titles in the past, including the 2006 F3 Euro Series crown – did we mention that the man he beat that year was named Sebastian Vettel? The Scotsman’s Force India isn’t the fastest car in the pack, but so long as he continues to produce performances like this his stock will continue to rise. Top marks.

 

Photo: Force India F1 Team

Quick Nick’s record-breaking podium

A top drive from Nick Heidfeld landed the German his 13th career podium today, a result that puts him out alone as the man with the most F1 rostrum finishes without a race win. After a nightmarish Australian Grand Prix Heidfeld was back to his reliable self today, making a stellar start before running solidly through the race. He was promoted to fourth following Alonso’s misjudged pass on Lewis Hamilton, then picked off the ailing Brit before holding off Mark Webber to claim third. A fully deserved result, and proof if it were needed that he was the right man to replace the injured Robert Kubica.

 

Photo: Lotus Renault GP/Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic