Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Three-time defending Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel won Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix after a fierce battle with his Red Bull teammate, Mark Webber, late in the race.
Vettel, the pole sitter, was running second to Webber following the fourth and final round of pit stops. The two almost made contact while fighting for the lead on lap 46. They ran side-by-side for several turns before Vettel pulled ahead of Webber and then ran in front for the remaining 10 laps.
Vettel crossed the finish line 4.2 seconds ahead of Webber to claim his 27th career victory, which placed him in a tie with Jackie Stewart for sixth on the all-time F1 grand prix winners list.
"It was very close wheel-to-wheel racing," Vettel said. "I think there wasn't much room for either of us, so it was a tight battle. I probably was a little bit too keen too soon, because in terms of strategy, I was on the soft tire towards the end. I felt I had the upper hand in the end."
Vettel captured his third victory in the Malaysian GP. He also won it in 2010 and '11. The German finished 11th in the event last year.
After the race concluded, Webber had heated words with Vettel, claiming he disobeyed team orders. The two have been at odds with each other in the past, but after the Malaysian GP, their relationship has sunk to an all-time low.
"After the last stop, the team told me the race was over, so I turned the engine down to go to the end," Webber said. "I want to race as well, but in the end, the team made a decision, which we always say before the race is probably how it's going to be. We look after the tires and get the car to the end. But Seb made his own decisions today, and he'll have protection. So that's the way it goes."
Vettel said later during a post-race press conference that he owes Webber an apology.
"As you can see, I'm not entirely happy," Vettel noted. "I think I did a big mistake today. I think we should have stayed in the positions that we were in. I didn't ignore it on purpose, but I messed up in that situation and took the lead, which I can see now he's upset. I want to be honest at least and stick to the truth and apologize."
Vettel was not only in hot water with his teammate but his team boss, Christian Horner, as well. After both drivers nearly crashed, Horner said to Vettel over the team radio, "This is silly, Seb, come on."
Red Bull will have internal discussions to resolve the matter before the next grand prix, which will be on April 14 in Shanghai, China.
"What happened today is something that shouldn't have happened," Horner said after the race. "It's something that Sebastian has apologized for, and it's something that we will discuss internally as a team."
Vettel made his final stop on lap 43, while Webber came in for his last pit on the following lap. Webber rejoined in the lead but had Vettel on his side through the first couple of turns before he was able to pull away.
Webber held off Vettel for the next two laps before Vettel made his winning pass.
"Let's just say there were a lot of things going through my mind in the last 15 laps of the grand prix, lots of different reasons, not just from today but also from the past," Webber said. "We'll see what happens. We've got three weeks before the next race."
Lewis Hamilton continues to be impressive in his first season with Mercedes by finishing third in the Malaysian GP. Hamilton had a mishap during his first pit stop when he mistakenly drove into one of McLaren's stalls. He drove for McLaren for six seasons before joining Mercedes this year.
"For so many years, I was used to driving into the McLaren pits," Hamilton admitted. "I got it wrong, so a big apology to my team."
Nico Rosberg finished one spot behind his new teammate, Hamilton, in fourth. Rosberg was ordered by his team not to challenge Hamilton for position in the closing laps.
"It was disappointing for me having to hold position, but I understand the team's decision to safeguard our positions and to make sure both cars got to the end," Rosberg said.
While Felipe Massa gave Ferrari its best finish with a fifth-place run, his teammate, Fernando Alonso, had his day come to an abrupt end after the first lap. Alonso, who participated in his 200th career grand prix, clipped the back of Vettel and damaged the front wing on his Ferrari in turn two.
Alonso chose not to pit for repairs. His wing gave away after he crossed the start/finish line, causing him to drive off into the gravel.
Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Raikkonen began the season last week by winning the Australian Grand Prix.
Nico Hulkenberg from Sauber took the eighth spot, while McLaren's Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne from Toro Rosso completed the top-10.
Jenson Button from McLaren retired with a handful of laps remaining and wound up finishing 17th. Button had already fallen one lap behind after a mistake during his third pit stop. His right-front tire was not properly attached, as he came to a stop on pit lane. Button's crew sprinted to the car and pushed it back to make the repair.
With the win, Vettel moved atop the championship standings, as he has accumulated 40 points for the season. Raikkonen is second in points with 31, followed by Webber with 26 and 25 for Hamilton.