Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari sprung a surprise by taking victory at the Sepang International Circuit. A perfect strategy call, strong tyre management and a fast car meant the four-time world champion was able to score his 40th career victory.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg came home a slightly distant second and third for Mercedes. It was a frantic race, with some fantastic battles throughout the field, and was much more exciting than the 2015 season opener in Australia. Here are 10 memorable moments from the Malaysian Grand Prix:
1. Hamilton leads the way
19 cars lined up on the grid, with Manor Marussia F1’s Will Stevens failing to start the race due to a fuel system issue. Hamilton had a strong start to retain the lead into Turn 1, and despite a good launch, Rosberg failed to get the jump on Vettel.
Further back, there was plenty of overtaking in the opening few laps, although it was far from clean, with Pastor Maldonado and Kimi Raikkonen both suffering punctures in the early stages.
Marcus Ericsson spun his Sauber at Turn 1 on lap four, after a clumsy attempted overtake. This brought out the new F1 2015 Safety Car – the stunning Mercedes AMG GT – and prompted around half of the field to pit for a fresh set of tyres, including Hamilton and Rosberg.
With the field being mixed up during the Safety Car period, there was plenty of overtaking as faster cars moved past those who had yet to stop. Vettel quickly opened up a good lead while Hamilton and Rosberg slowly progressed through the slower cars.
4. McLaren suffers double retirement
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button both retired from the Malaysian Grand Prix due to power unit issues. However, McLaren’s pace was considerably better than it was in Australia and the drivers were actually able to battle at the back of the midfield. The car looks decent in the corners but is clearly losing out on the straights.
The two Force India drivers were both caught up in collisions mid-way through the race. Nico Hulkenberg hit Daniil Kvyat after a cheeky overtaking attempt at Turn 2, while Sergio Perez spun Romain Grosjean at the high-speed Turn 12, after the Lotus driver attempted a brave move around the outside.
6. Strategy proves decisive
Strategy played a hugely important role in deciding the Malaysian Grand Prix winner. Ferrari got it spot on, but the car also proved to be incredibly fast. Vettel pitted twice with two stints on the mediums and a final stint on the hard compound tyre. The SF15-T was kind on its tyres and Vettel put in a supreme, error-free drive.
Mercedes made a slightly late switch to a three-stop race, having pitted under the Safety Car. It proved to be the wrong decision and putting Hamilton back out on track on the hard tyre for the final stint didn’t help his recovery.
7. Team-mate battles
We got to see some fantastic battles between team-mates in the final part of the race. The two Toro Rosso drivers fought hard for seventh place, with 17-year-old Max Verstappen eventually winning the scrap.
One year on from being told “Valtteri is faster than you”, Felipe Massa tried hard to keep Valtteri Bottas behind him in the last few laps. The two rubbed wheels through the opening few corners, but the Finn eventually moved ahead. Perez and Hulkenberg were also involved in a close battle.
8. What a difference a winter makes...
Many questioned whether Vettel’s move to Ferrari would provide him with a better opportunity of winning than at Red Bull. The German proved that he made the right decision, and even lapped the two RB11s of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat in the closing stages. That must have been extremely satisfying.
9. Vettel takes the win…
Vettel crossed the line to take the Malaysian Grand Prix victory, scoring his first win for Ferrari and the 40th of his career. It was a great drive and proved that we could see someone challenge Mercedes in 2015.
Hamilton and Rosberg completed the podium, with Raikkonen recovering to fourth. Bottas and Massa were fifth and sixth, with Verstappen becoming F1’s youngest ever points scorer in seventh. Sainz Jr, Kvyat and Ricciardo completed the top 10.
10. …and couldn't hide his emotions
The race winner was clearly emotional and overjoyed with the result. He looked close to tears in the post-race podium room, and said after collecting his trophy:
“It’s been a while – I haven’t been on the top step. My first time obviously with Scuderia Ferrari. I’m speechless… Obviously a big change over the winter and the welcome that the team gave me has just been fantastic. I’ve only done two races, but it’s really a great atmosphere. [I’m] proud of today. We beat [Mercedes] fair and square. A great achievement, we have a great car. It is a bit emotional.”