Sebastian Vettel has admitted that he is on top of the world both mathematically and emotionally after taking his second victory in as many races in F1 2011 in this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang – as he thanked countryman Nick Heidfeld for making his life a whole lot easier at the start...
Having stolen pole position away from right underneath McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton's nose at the end of qualifying in Kuala Lumpur – his fifth from the last six outings – Vettel then made a textbook getaway when the starting lights went out today to vault straight into the lead, and he was aided substantially by Heidfeld's extraordinary move to sweep right the way around the outside of both McLarens and both Ferraris to snatch second place from sixth on the grid.
With the Lotus Renault GP R31 good, but palpably not a match for the Red Bull Racing RB7, Heidfeld's ability to consistently fend off Hamilton's advances enabled Vettel to build up a handy margin early on – and also meant he never really came under pressure even when his tyres began to fade and his KERS faltered in the second half of the race. When he needed to turn up the wick, he did it, and in a supremely cool, calm and composed display in conditions about as hot as they come, the young German was in truth in control the whole way through.
“The start was crucial,” the 23-year-old reflected. “I thought it was a very good start, but then I saw Lewis lining up behind me. I was surprised going into Turn One, as all of a sudden I saw something black in my mirrors – I knew it was a Lotus [Renault GP]. For the first stint, that was a good thing to happen, as I could pull away lap-by-lap.
“The entire race was quite different to what we saw two weeks ago – it was a lot closer, and there were more pit-stops due to the tyres. With the stops, you don't want to be first in, as you want to make as few stops as possible, but also you don't want someone else to go in, get an advantage with new tyres and undercut you.
“It wasn't an easy race, but in the last section Lewis had a problem, and then I had Jenson [Button] behind. I'm very pleased with today's result. I love what I do, and I don't think I could be happier at this stage. It's been close here, so we need to keep cool and keep pushing, but the guys know this is the way forward, so I'm not worried. For today, we will enjoy it and be very proud.”
One man who is palpably 'very proud' indeed of Vettel is RBR team principal Christian Horner, who confessed that in Sepang's sweltering heat and humidity and with the threat of rain omnipresent, the sport's youngest-ever title-winner handled everything with seasoned aplomb – and his reward is a 24-point advantage in the drivers' standings heading next to the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, where two years ago he claimed the energy drinks-backed outfit's maiden grand prix victory.
“A fantastic result for Sebastian,” underlined the Englishman. “It was a great performance, and he controlled the race in a very mature manner. It was also superb pit work from the guys in very demanding temperatures – all seven pit-stops were executed brilliantly.
“I think Sebastian was the coolest guy here today; his composure in the car and the way he controlled the race, looked after the tyres, did what he needed to when he had to...it was a really mature drive by him. He's so young; we forget that he's only 23 years of age still – he can only just rent a hire car! He's learning and gaining more experience, though – and he just continues to get better.”
“What a race from Sebastian!” concurred Cyril Dumont, from Red Bull's engine-supplier, Renault. “It was a really solid effort and really intelligent in terms of management. The second race, and a second win is a really good result. It was great for Renault, too – we got three engines in the top four places, so well done to them.”