Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (SportsNetwork.com) - Sebastian Vettel claimed his and Ferrari's first win in Formula One since 2013 after finishing well ahead of Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Vettel, in just his second race with Ferrari, started second but took the lead on lap 4 of this 56-lap race when Hamilton, the pole sitter, and Rosberg pitted under the safety car. Sauber's Marcus Ericsson spun into the gravel to force the deployment of the safety car. Vettel took command from there, capitalizing on a two-stop strategy compared to three stops for both Hamilton and Rosberg.
Vettel crossed the finish line 8.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton and 12.3 seconds in front of Rosberg at Sepang International Circuit for his 40th career F1 win but his first since the 2013 season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix (21 races ago). The German won 13 grand prix that season, including victories in the last nine races, to earn his fourth consecutive F1 world championship.
"It's been a while since I've been on the top (podium) step and obviously my first time with Scuderia Ferrari," an emotional Vettel said during the post- race podium ceremony. "I'm speechless. I've only got two races with the team, but I'm very, very happy and proud today. We beat them fair and square. It was a great achievement. I had a great car - so plenty of positives. I guess that's why I'm a bit emotional."
Ferrari's last victory occurred nearly two years ago with driver Fernando Alonso winning the Spanish Grand Prix. Vettel joined the Italian team and replaced Alonso this season after spending the past six years with Red Bull Racing.
"It was a big change, but the team welcomed me from the very first day," Vettel said of his move to Ferrari this year. "When the gate opened at Maranello (Ferrari's factory in Italy), it was like a dream come true."
Vettel won the Malaysian GP for a record fourth time. With the victory, he moved to within three points of Hamilton for the lead in the championship standings. Hamilton scored the win in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago and then placed second in Malaysia to give him 43 points for the season.
"Huge congratulations to Ferrari and to Sebastian. They did an amazing job," Hamilton said. "I gave it everything I could. Ferrari had good pace today. I knew coming into this weekend that they had made a step forward, but I didn't know how big. They were too fast for us today."
A Mercedes driver had won the last eight grand prix, a streak dating back to Sept. 7 in Italy.
"All I can say now on behalf of our team is, 'Game on, Ferrari'," Rosberg said.
Kimi Raikkonen, who is Vettel's teammate, started 11th and then had a puncture of his left-rear tire on the opening lap when he made contact with Felipe Nasr from Sauber, but Raikkonen rebounded nicely for a fourth-place finish.
Williams teammates Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa placed fifth and sixth, respectively, while Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen, at the age of 17, became the youngest points scorer in F1 history with a seventh-place finish. Verstappen's teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr. was eighth. The Red Bull duo of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top-10.
McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Alonso were forced to retire. Button suffered a loss of power after completing 41 laps, while Alonso experienced a technical problem 22 laps into the race. Honda is supplying engines for McLaren this year.
Alonso made his first start of the season after suffering a concussion during an accident in preseason testing last month in Barcelona.