After the first grand prix of the season last weekend in Melbourne, Australia, it appears that Sebastian Vettel's bid for another Formula One world championship might be a much tougher task than last year.
Jenson Button from McLaren had an impressive win in the Australian Grand Prix. Button started second but grabbed the lead from pole sitter and teammate Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap and then took command from there in the 58-lap season-opener.
Vettel qualified a disappointing sixth but rebounded with a strong second- place finish.
F1 now heads to Malaysia, where Vettel has won the last two years.
"It's good to go there off the back of Australia, and I hope we get another strong result," he said.
Vettel was untouchable during the 2011 season, as he led in the championship point standings from start (Australia) to finish (Brazil). At age 24, he became the youngest double champion in F1 history. Vettel ended his title season with 11 wins, 17 podium appearances and a record-breaking 15 poles.
Entering the second round of this season -- the Malaysian Grand Prix -- Vettel finds himself in an awkward position. He's not the points leader, which is the first time that's happened since the penultimate race of the 2010 season in Brazil.
"I think the [Australian GP] showed that there are several top teams in Formula One, and I think we can expect them to be fighting for victory in Malaysia," Button said. "Both Red Bull drivers were very quick in the race, and I think we can expect further strong challenges from Mercedes AMG and Lotus this weekend."
Button has performed well on the tricky 3.44-mile (5.543-kilometer) Sepang International Circuit, located near Kuala Lumpur. He won the Malaysian GP in 2009 and finished second in this event last year.
"Sepang is more of a high-speed circuit [than Melbourne]," Button said. "There are some fantastic sweeping corners here and, if the car's working properly, it's a real joy to drive.
"It's one of the toughest circuits on the calendar, because there's a real range of corners, cambers, a couple of blind apexes and a little bit of gradient. If the car's working against you, then it becomes painful, but when it's all switched on, it's just a great circuit to drive."
Button enters the race with a seven-point advantage over Vettel.
Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, March 25. Race: Malaysian Grand Prix. Site: Sepang International Circuit. Track: 5.543 km (3.444 miles), 15-turn, road course. Start Time: 4:00 a.m. (et). Laps: 56. Miles: 192.887. 2011 Winner: Sebastian Vettel. Television: Speed.