If you’ve DVR’d Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, but haven’t had time to watch it yet, stop reading now. Or don’t, because if you caught the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, you already know how this one turned out. Just like last month, it was a Red Bull – McLaren Mercedes – Renault finish, but at least the second and third place teams had the courtesy to send different drivers to the podium in Malaysia. Red Bull Renault’s Sebastian Vettel was once again unbeatable, and not by a small margin. In fact, unless other teams can figure out how to gain two or three seconds per lap, the 2011 F1 season will be no more exciting than watching Sebastian Vettel pace the field at venue after venue.
A failure of his KERS system gave Mark Webber a horrendous start, and dropped the Red Bull driver from third on the grid to mid-pack by turn one. Renault replacement driver Nick Heidfeld, sitting in for the injured Robert Kubica, had a spectacular start and beat McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to the second position by the first corner. By the end of lap one, Sebastian Vettel had once again opened up a sizable lead on the field, and never received a serious challenge for the lead. When the checkered flag dropped, Vettel took the win, followed by McLaren Mercedes’ Jenson Button and Renault’s Nick Heidfeld in third. Tire problems relegated Hamilton to an eighth place finish, and Red Bull Renault’s Mark Webber managed a respectable fourth place finish despite his disastrous start.
The race’s most exciting moment came when the steering failed on Vitaly Petrov’s Renault. The malfunction caused Petrov to get airborne off a bump in the run-off area; it didn’t look all that impressive from the in-car camera, but trackside footage showed Petrov getting X-Games style air in his Renault. It’s believed that his steering failure was the result of earlier contact, and not the result of a design flaw with the Renault chassis.