SEPANG, Malaysia, April 5 (Reuters) - Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel heads to a happy hunting ground in China looking every bit a future world champion after a dominating display at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Vettel cruised at Sepang after blitzing past pole-sitting team mate Mark Webber and the second-placed Mercedes of Nico Rosberg before the first turn in Sunday’s race, never looking back in recording his sixth career win.
With Vettel’s main rivals at McLaren and Ferrari unable to challenge him after misjudging the Malaysian rain in qualifying, the German showed Australian team mate Webber who was boss.
The 25 points he earned for the victory moved him third in the drivers standings, two points behind leader Felipe Massa of Ferrari and level with the Brazilian’s team mate Fernando Alonso.
With the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks time there is a strong chance the German will take the lead in the drivers championship, although the 22-year-old is taking nothing for granted.
“Last year is last year, this year is this year,” said Vettel, who earned his first win for the team in China last year.
“Hopefully we will have the same result in China,” he told reporters after his victory at Sepang.
“Every race is a new challenge. Into the first race (in Bahrain) I think we were pretty quick. Ferrari was very quick and in Melbourne all of a sudden we were kind of back.”
Vettel, last year’s championship runner-up behind Jenson Button, showed his pace by qualifying on pole for the opening two races in Bahrain and Australia but was robbed of victory after mechanical problems hit the car he has labelled “Luscious Liz”.
“After two races where we didn’t finish where we wanted,” Vettel said. “It’s crucial not to panic in that moment and stay relaxed as it’s a long season.”
Reliability issues seemed to be again haunting Red Bull after Webber was forced out of Friday’s second practice session but a switch of engine for qualifying did the trick as he claimed pole.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner hailed his drivers’ display and spoke up his team’s chances after two disappointing races.
“Obviously we’ve had frustrations in the first two races but the team has stayed focused. Both cars behaved impeccably so it puts us right back in the championship and gives everyone a lot of confidence.”
Engine problems, however, did affect the Ferrari of double world champion Alonso, who drove for the majority of the 56-lap race with a broken gearbox and no clutch before retiring on the penultimate lap to relinquish his championship lead.
“We are not too worried at the moment,” the former McLaren and Renault driver said.
“It’s a very long championship and we are capable of improving the car a lot.”
McLaren’s 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton was also positive about his team’s chances are storming through the field to finish sixth after starting the race in 20th.
“I couldn’t ask for any more to be honest. So we’ll take forward a lot of positives with us into the next race.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)