Vettel cruises to Malaysian GP win

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel remained perfect in the 2011 Formula One season with an impressive win in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

Vettel, who kicked off the season with a victory in the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, started on the pole and quickly pulled away from the field. Lewis Hamilton from McLaren started second, but Lotus Renault GP's Nick Heidfeld overtook Hamilton on the opening lap. Vettel only relinquished the lead when he pitted during the 56-lap race at Sepang International Circuit.

"I thought I had a really good start, and then I saw Lewis [Hamilton] lining up behind me quickly, but then I was surprised going into turn one when all of the sudden I saw something black in my mirror," said Vettel, who has won the last four grand prix, including the final two rounds in 2010. "I knew it was a Lotus, so I realized it was Nick [Heidfeld]. For the first stint, it was a good thing that happened, because I was able to pull away lap by lap. I thought this grand prix was quite different than what we saw two weeks ago."

Vettel crossed the finish line 3.2 seconds ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button to notch his 12th career F1 win. The 23-year-old German also won the Malaysian GP last year.

"It was kind of a confusing race in a way, trying to understand the pit stops and looking after the tires during the stints," Button said. "It was pretty tricky. During the last stint when we put the prime tire on, the car came alive."

After a disappointing performance in Australia, Heidfeld, who is substituting for the injured Robert Kubica at Lotus Renault, rebounded with a third-place finish. It was Heidfeld's first podium appearance in two years.

"I tried to do the best I could, but Sebastian was quite a bit quicker," Heidfeld said.

Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, overcame a poor start to finish fourth. Webber started third but quickly fell back in the field on the first lap.

Both Vettel and Webber had to ditch their KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) when the device in their Red Bull cars was not working properly in the early going. Red Bull used the device for the first time this season.

Felipe Massa from Ferrari finished fifth. Massa's teammate, Fernando Alonso, took the sixth spot, and Hamilton finished one spot behind Alonso in seventh.

With 10 laps remaining, Alonso clipped the back of Hamilton and sustained damage to his front wing, forcing him to pit unexpectedly. Hamilton also had to pit several laps later after he had lost pace due to old tires.

"This is racing, I guess," Hamilton said. "My tires were done at the end. It was just one of those days."

Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, Michael Schumacher from Mercedes GP and Force India's Paul di Resta finished eighth through 10th, respectively.

Vitaly Petrov from Renault finished 17th after claiming his first F1 podium finish in Australia. Petrov had been running eighth with less than five laps to go when he ran off course. His car hit the curb and then went airborne, creating damage to his steering column.

With the win, Vettel padded his early-season lead to 24 points over Button and 26 ahead of Hamilton.


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