Impeccable Vettel triumphs in Malaysia

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The Independent Online

Sebastian Vettel maintained his perfect start to the new Formula One season with another crushing victory in Malaysia.

The reigning world champion has so far been impeccable over the past two weeks, with none of his rivals able to hold a candle to the German and his Red Bull team.

The margin on this occasion around Sepang may only have been just over three seconds to McLaren's Jenson Button, but it was by no means any less emphatic.

Taking the end of last season into consideration, Vettel has now won four races in a row, and five of the last six grands prix overall.

Today's triumph was also the 12th of his career, and second in succession at this Far East circuit.

Behind Button, who has now moved up to second in the standings, albeit already 24 points down on Vettel, Renault's Nick Heidfeld grabbed third ahead of the second Red Bull of Mark Webber.

Even without the torrential rain that had been forecast in the run-up to this race, it was still a chaotic grand prix.

The decisive factor was tyre degradation, and that was despite the fact it was a much cooler day at Sepang, with track temperatures 17 degrees Celsius less than yesterday.

There were spots of rain and dark clouds in the air as the field took to the grid ahead of the formation lap.

But the threat of a downpour was apparently four kilometres away, leading to a dry race in air temperatures of 28 degrees Celsius that was dominated by the expected proliferation of pit stops.

New tyre manufacturer Pirelli's tyres are designed to degrade far more quickly than those of predecessor Bridgestone, whose rubber was virtually bulletproof.

The one constant, however, was Vettel, who again made an unruffled getaway from his fifth pole position in the last six races, leaving those behind him to squabble over the minor placings.

With the exception of two of the 56 laps when he gave up the lead in the first two rounds of pit stops, Vettel led every one of the other 54, totally dominating again.

That was despite the fact he was categorically told on lap 30 not to use his KERS power-booster, the system again proving faulty as was the case in Australia when he did not utilise it all weekend.

Vettel still enjoyed another brilliant victory, and this just as easy as not once was he ever put under any significant pressure.

Instead, behind him, his rivals jostled, harried and hustled for the other places, with team-mate Webber up and down the standings like a yo-yo.

That was primarily due to a miserable start that saw the Australian drop from his third place on the grid to ninth by the end of the first corner.

It was a disaster from which he never truly recovered, ultimately finishing fourth after a four-stop strategy, narrowly behind Heidfeld as Renault were again on the podium for the second successive race.

That podium place could have been Lewis Hamilton's at any point, but he suffered a failure with his DRS at one stage that left him without speed on the start-finish straight.

Instead, the Briton was left prone to attack late on, and at one stage was run into by old rival Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.

It was a stupid mistake from the Spaniard, who lost the left end of his front wing as he hit Hamilton's right-rear tyre as he too could have grabbed a place in the top three.

Instead, Hamilton was left to run home in seventh, with Alonso just ahead of him and Felipe Massa fifth in the other Ferrari.

Kamui Kobayashi, who only made two stops in his Sauber was eighth, thanks to a spectacular crash involving Renault's Vitaly Petrov.

The Russian ran wide at a corner on lap 54, hitting a kerb that propelled him into the air, and as he crash-landed back on track it jolted loose the steering wheel.

Even without the most important of driving aids, Petrov managed to come to a stop, albeit crashing into a polystyrene advertising board.

Michael Schumacher netted two points for Mercedes in ninth, with Force India's Paul di Resta again collecting another point for a second successive 10th-placed finish.