In the last outing around the tricky twists and long, long straights of Sepang, who has won the right to be crowned Master Malaysian Mongrel? Multiple Top Dog winner Daniel Ricciardo was a contender. Birthday boy wonder and deserved race winner Max Verstappen put in a very strong bid. But we all know Badger loves a good old-fashioned recovery drive, don’t we? Yes, our TD from KL is…
Everything was set up nicely. After his engine went AWOL before qualifying, poor old Vettel was starting the race dead last. Not good news for his championship chances, but potentially great news for us bleary-eyed devils tuning in on an early Sunday morn. And so it came to pass. Many passes, in fact. The Ferrari was expected to be rapid around Sepang and all eyes were on Seb to show us what it could really do. (No choice really after Kimi headed off for an early ice cream without even turning a wheel). Sebastian wasted no time making up ground; Badger blinked (okay, maybe I rested my eyes for a bit) and he was up to 11th by Lap 3 thanks to some nifty ’round the outside’ moves.
As any seasoned World Champion will tell you, there’s always the risk of getting snagged up in a midfield incident when you’re coming up through the field. But Vettel used his soft tyres brilliantly to gain position after position, reminding us all of the true pace of the Prancing Horse – and I’m sure using some choice German vocabulary ruing his engine fiasco from the previous day! By Lap 21 he was in 5th and all set to reel in next man up, Valtteri Bottas. Things were starting to get interesting. Could he actually get himself onto the podium? Not quite, as it goes, but he gave it a darn good shot.
After getting the undercut on Bottas after his pit stop, Vettel shot off after Daniel Ricciardo like a man possessed, catching the Australian by a second a lap – and snagging fastest lap honours along the way. There was a hairy moment on Lap 48 when he came up to lap his old mucker Fernando Alonso. Nando played nice with 3rd place man Ricciardo and let him through early doors. He made Seb wait a tad longer, prompting some vintage whinging over the radio with a ‘come on Alonso, really?!’
Suitably incensed, he almost got Danny Ric a lap later with a lunge around the outside of Turn 1. So close, and great to watch – but he couldn’t quite get the move done. By then, his tyres were done and he settled for 4th, a stonking gain of 16 places from lights out to chequered flag. Good work Mr V. Your Top Dog award is in the post.
A little word of warning
Our Seb was slightly fortunate to keep his Top Dog prize after a bizarre coming together with Lance Stroll on the cool down lap. It was a spectacularly careless incident and Sebastian was a bit too quick to point the finger of blame at the young Canadian. Lance was having none of it and brushed off the flak. (Perhaps he was wearing a full Vettel jacket!) So consider yourself duly warned, Sebastian. Badger’s got their eye on you. Any more silliness and it’s Auf Wiedersehen to any more Top Dog awards. Stay focused, take the fight to Lewis and give us the championship showdown we’re all dying to see.
Only one more week to wait for the next instalment of the 2017 Championship. Join Badger for all the latest happenings at Suzuka. Until then, sayonara.