Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sebastian Vettel is Sepang Singing After Qualifying in Malaysia

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

The Formula 1 season started in Australia one weekend ago. The Lotus-Renault of Kimi Raikkonen pulled off a smart start to the 2013 season by saving tires enabling him to conduct one less pit stop during the event. Pre-season favourites Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing were on podium but clearly wanted more when inaugurating their 2013 competitive tour. After the unpredictable start of the 2012 season which saw seven unique winners in the first seven races, its hard to revise any predictions heading into the second round of this young Formula 1 year.

Held at the 5.543-kilometer Sepang International Circuit, the 15th annual Malaysian Grand Prix started with practice. Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber posted fastest time in the first session on Friday. In the second practice, Kimi Raikkonen was at the top of the speed chart eager to prove that the victory for the Lotus F1 Team in Australia was not a fluke. Webber's three-time World Champion teammate Sebastian Vettel was quickest on Saturday concluding three practice sessions with no obvious clue to a dominating driver for either the Malaysia Grand Prix or the 2013 Formula 1 season.

Unlike the Australian Grand Prix where intense rain in Melbourne succeeded in delaying qualifying to hours prior to the main event, the full time trial wrapped up as scheduled. However, similar to opening round, weather would play a key part in the outcome of Saturday.

In the Q1 session, Adrian Sutil claimed the advantage on time around the Sepang International Circuit. Though the strength of Sutil's Force India-Mercedes was impressive, attention for many Formula 1 observers was directed deeper in the Q1 session order. Running on harder compound Pirelli tires in the early stage, the Red Bull Racing cars of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were on the edge of transferring into Q2. The Red Bull Racing organization's goal through qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix was to preserve tires for race day; This strategy would work out unexpectedly as qualifying at Malaysia continued.

Repeating the chorus heard during qualifying for the first 2013 Formula 1 race in Australia, rain began soaking the Sepang International Circuit course. Making a noticeable impact in the second-half of the Q2 session, several drivers ended the 10-minute time trial in a precarious position. Force India driver Paul di Resta, struggling to break into the top-10 late in Q2, spun his car as his slick tires skated on the wet track. Undamaged, the Force India-Mercedes continued but was unable to crack the Q3 into the finalists.   

On intermediate compound tires, the final Q3 session proceeded. The wet race track slowed the ten remaining Formula 1 cars by roughly 12 seconds from their fastest time in the previous Q2 round. Final seconds of Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying would decide the outcome for the second 2013 Formula 1 race's starting grid. After the Red Bull Racing team's slow start to qualifying, Sebastian Vettel would fly forward to claim pole. Repeating a feat he accomplished in the opening 2013 qualifying session, Vettel captured his 38th career Formula 1 pole with a time of 1 minute, 49.674 seconds.

Over nine-tenth of a second slower than the Red Bull-Renault racecar, the Ferraris claimed the next two spots for the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix start. Felipe Massa recorded a faster time than Fernando Alonso for the front row start for Sunday's main race. For Mercedes AMG, Lewis Hamilton was the previous year's pole winner on the Sepang International Circuit. Mark Webber sits fifth on the race starting grid joined in the third row by the second Mercedes AMG car of Nico Rosberg.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

Kimi Raikkonen is demoted from seventh place to tenth when race stewards ruled he impeded a hot lap of Nico Rosberg during qualifying. The judgement allows drivers Jenson Button, Adrian Sutil and Sergio Perez to leapfrog the Lotus-Renault on the grid.

A 56-lap event, the Malaysian Grand Prix is set to roll-off at 4 PM local time (4 AM in the Eastern time zone).

2013 Formula 1
Malaysian Grand Prix
Starting Lineup

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
2 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari
3 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
4 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
5 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault
6 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
7 5 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
8 15 Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes-Benz
9 6 Sergio Perez McLaren Mercedes-Benz
10 7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault
11 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
12 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber Ferrari
13 19 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
14 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
15 14 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes-Benz
16 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1 Renault
17 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
18 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
19 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia Cosworth
20 20 Charles Pic Caterham Renault
21 23 Max Chilton Marussia Cosworth
22 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham Renault

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