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That New Car Feeling: Vettel Romps Home In Malaysia

Mercedes dominance? Not any more. Ferrari are back, and Seb Vettel is leading the charge as he wins in Malaysia.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Sepang is traditionally one of the more interesting races of the F1 season. It has weather variables that come along far more than any other circuit:

When it rains in Malaysia, it REALLY bloody rains. That pic above is from last year's race. This year it did the same in qualifying, which caught a bunch of drivers out and made for what one might call an "interesting" grid. The race, though, was something of a unique thing in F1 in recent years...it was exciting, closely contested and won on the track rather than through strategy or speed in the pits.

Most importantly, it wasn't won by a Mercedes. Nor was it won by a Red Bull. In fact, it was won by a car we haven't seen at the front of the grid for several years...the glorious red of the Prancing Horse.

Seb Vettel's move to Ferrari was one of the biggest news moments of last season in F1. He was clearly somewhat dissatisfied with Red Bull and perhaps felt he needed a new challenge-one that he's taken on with gusto in Maranello this season.

In Australia, the Ferraris just weren't as quick as the Silver Arrows, and it showed-with both Rosberg and Hamilton just driving away from the field.

In Malaysia, though, the red cars were up on the pace all weekend, with Vettel splitting the Mercedes cars in qualifying to take a front row spot alongside Hamilton, and then imperiously leading the field round for the majority of the race.

Perhaps the key ndicator of progress came in the final third, with the Mercedes of Hamilton simply unable to reel Vettel's car in in the expected fashion. The gap was 14 seconds after the final pit-stops, and seemed to drop and stabilise at around 10.

More interestingly still, we began to see evidence of Lewis Hamilton's bratty behaviour when things aren't going exactly as planned, with several fractious radio exchanges over strategy throughout the race. With the heat well and truly on in Sepang, Hamilton began to show signs that the Ferraris were making him sweat a little more than most rivals had at any point over the past two seasons.

This raises interesting points going forward, particularly for the next race or two. With the F1 circus travelling next to Shanghai for the Chinese GP, which will likely take place in similar, if slightly cooler, conditions, it'll be interesting to see how Mercedes adapt and also how Ferrari keep the momentum going.

For now, though, Vettel's win is great for Formula 1, because it at least hints that the formulaic "dominated by one team" championships that have become the norm in the past few years might be a trend that's slowly going away.