Hamilton delighted by early charge

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Nico Rosberg's race was, like Robert Kubica's behind him, so unobtrusive that neither stood out. But third place earned the Mercedes team their first podium of the season on sponsor Petronas' home ground.

"It's a fantastic result," the German said. "My start didn't go that well as I had a bit too much wheelspin and once I was in third place I knew it would be difficult to follow the two Red Bulls. I struggled a little with the option tyres in the first stint, which allowed Robert to stay quite close, but once we switched to the primes, we could manage the race home to third place."

Adrian Sutil and Lewis Hamilton enjoyed their first proper on-track dice since they were team-mates in Formula Three. "It was always close with Lewis but I knew that if I didn't make any mistakes I wouldn't have any problems," Sutil said. Hamilton relished a great start in which going down the inside into the first corner helped him make up many places from 20th on the grid. "I was able to keep going for much of the race on my first set of tyres, and even nearly got past Sebastian [Vettel] after his pit stop.

"After my own, I tried my best to get past Adrian, but he was very smart at getting clean exits and was too fast down the straights," Hamilton added. "He drove a fantastic race, faultless, in fact. From 20th on the grid, I think sixth was a brilliant result. We showed today that we were fast enough to compete with the guys at the very front. If we'd started farther up we could have had an even better result."

Team-mate Jenson Button was less fortunate, struggling on the softer option tyres and switching as early as the ninth lap to the harder prime rubber. "My first stint was very tough," he said. "I went for the outside at the first corner and as things turned out it wasn't the right place to be. So I fell back; I had no rear grip in the high-speed stuff, couldn't overtake, and lost lots of time, so I took the gamble to pit early and drop back into a clear track.

"I made up a lot of ground, but I was on the primes for so long that it became difficult to hold back cars that were two seconds a lap quicker than me. Felipe [Massa] eventually got past. Fernando [Alonso] tried a couple of times – the last time he went really deep into Turn One, but I managed to repass him on the exit – and then suddenly his engine was gone. We had a good fight."

Massa was delighted to lead the championship when he left Sepang: "All things considered, we did a good job in these first three races, as proved by the fact that we lead both championships." Alonso, however, was less chirpy. "This was a very difficult weekend," he explained. "We made a big mistake in yesterday's qualifying and my race was an uphill climb. I had a problem with the gearbox from the start and had to drive without the clutch for practically the whole race. Looking on the positive side, at least the engine failure only cost me two points; it would have been much worse if we had been in the lead."

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"It was at a left turn just outside the circuit. I'd been sitting at the traffic lights for a while, and as I was moving off I saw this car come by on the outside as I turned left and I saw who was driving it. It was Lewis. He gave it a bit of a powerslide, some wheelspin, but nothing too much. To be honest, I'd come up to the lights a bit quick myself. Then I saw this police car, which was parked there, and then all the Christmas tree lights lighting up. I would say when they pulled him over that they weren't too happy with him, but they weren't too unhappy, either. There weren't any other cars around."