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Maldonado says Lotus close behind Ferrari, Williams

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Pastor Maldonado believes his Lotus team is not far away behind the pack chasing the dominant Mercedes team ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Lotus had a frustrating Australian Grand Prix, as Maldonado crashed out at the start and teammate Romain Grosjean retired on the opening lap.
But both had shown promising pace on Saturday, putting their cars in the top ten.
Maldonado believes Ferrari and Williams are just a few tenths ahead of Lotus.
"We will need three or four races to see the real potential of each car, except for Mercedes," said Maldonado.
"The rest of the teams... Ferrari made a huge step forward, Williams is still there, and I hope to be right behind them at the moment and in the near future try to close the gap.
"They are not far away. I think we need a few tenths, three or four tenths, just to be there. We have a solid car. We'll see.
"We are working quite hard. We are competing against bigger teams than us but on the other hand we can see a very compact group right behind Mercedes. It's good competition."
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Upgrades coming
The Venezuelan said Lotus has a significant upgrade package that could make its debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
"We are expecting some bits. They will arrive as soon as they are ready. We have a new package which maybe will be very important for us. On paper is never as clear as on track, but we are expecting something good.
"Maybe before Barcelona. We'll see.
"If we are a bit late we will get it for Barcelona for sure. Let's say Bahrain, but as soon as we can get some new bits in the car that will be very positive."
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Another season ahead, will it be better than the last? I'm certainly hoping there will be less politics involved but that's just wishful thinking! Perhaps I will post less on such issues moving forwa

Bernie's really damaging the sport. He's so far behind the times it's impossible to listen to anything he has to say. Just looking at the way other sports leagues have grown over the past 20 years com

I disagree Massa only had one line to of the pits Hulkenburg saw him and could have avoided the contact and still passed Massa as he was on cold tyres. Good race though

Massa expecting another close fight with Ferrari

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Felipe Massa hopes Williams might be able to sneak ahead.

Felipe Massa anticipates another close battle between Williams and Ferrari for 'best of the rest' role in Malaysia, but he says it's impossible to tell who might have the upper hand.
The Italian team had the edge in Melbourne, but Massa hopes that at a very different track Williams might be able to sneak ahead.
“I think maybe we finished in a good shape in the Barcelona testing compared to Ferrari, but maybe in the first race they had a little bit extra margin compared to us,” he said. “I hope here we can be better. For sure if we improve two-tenths from circuit to circuit it can change already the situation, especially when you have a very close fight with a team.
“I hope it can be a better track for us. We are really working very hard on the car to improve some details that maybe we saw in the first race that we can improve in the set-up and everything.
“It's a track [where] the temperature affects the performance a lot, so if you can keep the car in the closed direction in terms of bodywork maybe you lose less downforce because of the temperature. There are a few details in terms of lap time that we are talking about, but it#'s very difficult to answer in a proper way. We need to wait and see how we start, how the car feels in the first testing, and how we see the other teams.”
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Massa says that Ferrari's improvement in straightline speed compared to last year has been a game changer.
“We don't have the advantage on the straights any more. The only thing that Ferrari showed they improved massively is the engine. They have a much better system, a much better engine, compared to last year. Last year we had a car where we were losing in the corners, we had less downforce than Ferrari but we were gaining on the straights. For sure our car this year is much better in terms of downforce, it's much better in the corners compared to last year.
“This time we don't have this difference on the straight any more, and we know that the aerodynamics are a big point, which we need to work as strong as we can, because we know we're fighting with a top team, and with a team which has a big possibility financially as well to develop the car. We know how tight is the fight, but I'm really looking forward that we can do it.”
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Red Bull boss Horner admits equalisation 'not right' for Formula 1

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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has admitted his call for equalisation in Formula 1 is unlikely to become reality and is "probably not" right for the sport.
Horner suggested that governing body the FIA should consider using a mechanism within the regulations to close up the competitive order in F1, following a dominant one-two finish for Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the Australian Grand Prix.
Red Bull's motorsport advisor Helmut Marko even suggested the Austrian firm could quit the sport entirely if nothing is done.
In an exclusive interview with AUTOSPORT, Horner admitted the calls for Mercedes to be pegged back were born of frustration at Red Bull-Renault's current lack of competitiveness.
"When you're in a scenario like we are, where you have very limited influence over the engine - we're effectively a customer - it's frustrating when your competitiveness is compromised and you don't have control over that," Horner told AUTOSPORT.
"Is that [equalisation] likely to happen? Of course it's not. Is it fundamentally right for it to happen? Probably not either.
"I was frustrated with the situation, but we also have a fairly unhealthy situation if you've got huge disparity between the different power units.
"The problem with where we're at at the moment is that the technology is pretty immature.
"The investment required by Renault to match Mercedes is enormous."
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Rosberg leads the way as Hamilton fails to set at time

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A sweet and sour start to the Malaysian GP weekend for Mercedes, as Lewis Hamilton’s car failure offset Nico Rosberg’s fastest time.
Hamilton pulled off in his Mercedes W06 with an engine problem at Turn 5 just before the 30-minute mark, having not set a laptime.
“Something’s happened, lost power,” he said over the radio.
“There was a click in the rear, the gears still worked, I just pulled over and stopped like you told me to. I would’ve made it back.”
He was then told by his race engineer: “We had no telemetry. We’re worried about this as it’s a race engine.”
Hamilton’s car was brought back to the pits on a truck. Each driver is only allowed to use four engines for the entire season.
Rosberg also hit trouble when he ran wide at the Turn 5 hairpin early on, spending quite a while on the astroturf runoff. He recovered to work his way down to a 1:40.124, as teams stuck to the hard-compound Pirelli tyre in this session.
Ferrari raises its game
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen also ran wide during his opening run, this time at Turn 14. He was second fastest with a 1:40.497, just 0.373s off Rosberg’s pace and half a second clear of teammate Sebastian Vettel in third.
Romain Grosjean was fourth quickest for Lotus on 1:41.543, just ahead of the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr.
Red Bull’s woes continued, although Daniel Ricciardo set the sixth fastest time. The Aussie complained: “Understeer through the medium stuff, but traction is still very weak.”
Daniil Kvyat ran wide at Turn 5, and reported of a loss of power. “Something strange is going on with the braking and under power,” said the Russian, who was ninth.
Valtteri Bottas seemed to have no reaction to the back trouble that forced him to miss the Australian GP, and was eighth fastest for Williams, two tenths clear of teammate Felipe Massa in 11th and struggled with his drinks tube coming adrift. “That would be a disaster in the race!” he quipped.
Alonso back on track
Fernando Alonso returned to the cockpit of his McLaren-Honda for the first time since his Barcelona testing accident, showing he meant business by going straight into a flying lap on his opening run. He had a slight moment at the high-speed Turn 12, and outpaced teammate Jenson Button by 0.3s on his way to 14th fastest time.
Ferrari junior Raffaele Marciello made his FP1 debut for Sauber, lapping Melbourne star Felipe Nasr’s Ferrari-powered machine within a half a second of 10th-placed teammate Marcus Ericsson on his way to 13th.
Manor Marussia completes 16 laps
Will Stevens put the first lap on a Manor Marussia F1 car, after the team didn’t run in Australia, with teammate Roberto Merhi also going out on track. They were both way off the pace, with Stevens 6.5s off Rosberg as they both completed eight laps.
As it was in Melbourne, Force India was off the pace and mired towards the bottom of the times.
Nico Hulkenberg in 15th complained: “Driveability is really poor”, while Sergio Perez just kept his car on the track after a lairy moment under braking for Turn 5 and was even slower.
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Vettel: Ferrari better than 2014 Red Bull

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Sebastian Vettel says he is much happier with this year's Ferrari than he was with the 2014 Red Bull, a car he struggled to come to terms with.

The four-time champion said ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix that his performance in Australia provided proof that Ferrari has made good progress.
Vettel was Mercedes' closest challenger in Melbourne, finishing third, albeit far behind race winner Lewis Hamilton.
"I think it's natural that the cars make a step forward, and to be honest since the first day I felt quite happy," he said.
"Last year's car I was obviously struggling a little bit here and there, and not entirely happy.
"Whereas with this year's car, and the Ferrari of this year, since the first day I was reasonably happy with the balance we have in the car.
"We know that we have to improve, but in terms of what I can feel and what I can do I was quite happy."
New tyres helping
"I think maybe also the rear tyres helped a little bit, obviously they made a bit of a change over the winter. In general I think I like the flow the car had.
"Last year that was a bit of a problem here and there. In the end you get used to it and you drive it as quick as you can or at least as quick as you think you can."
Regarding this year's pecking order he said: "I think the favourites are clear, just look at the gap from Australia, and then after that I think it will be very close.
"We'll try to obviously confirm the results and the impression we left in Australia, so we try to make sure that we establish ourselves in a similar position, ideally a little bit closer to Mercedes, and ideally a little bit further away from Williams, but I expect it to be very, very close, especially between us and Williams.
"And also Red Bull I think it's a question of timer, when they will come back. At the moment I think they are struggling a bit. I think behind Mercedes it will be very, very close."
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MALAYSIA QUALIFYING: HAMILTON TOPS AS VETTEL SPLITS MERCS

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The skies opened up over Sepang midway through qualifying to set up a compelling Q3, which saw Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton scrape into pole position ahead of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel who took the fight to the reigning world champions and was rewarded with second place on the grid.
Hamilton did the business with his first flying lap of 1:49.834 on Pirelli intermediates, at that point he was over 1.5 seconds faster than anyone. Vettel meanwhile bolted on a new set of inters and stormed around Sepang a mere 0.074 of a second adrift of top spot and signalling his intent to the Silver Arrows camp, whose Nico Rosberg was third.
In advance of the start of qualifying race control put the chances of rain falling during the session at 60 per cent and as the cars prepared to go out for the start of Q1, the skies above Sepang became ominously dark.
Q1 passed without showers, however, and Lewis Hamilton claimed top spot with a lap of 1:39.269 on the medium tyre. Rosberg was second, just over a tenth behind his team-mate, while third place went to Sebastian Vettel, whose time of 1:39.814 was set on hard tyres.
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Two other drivers, Bottas in P5 and Raikkonen in P9 also only used hard tyres in the opening session. Fourth place went to Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. Lotus’ Romain Grosjean was sixth ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson
Eliminated from the session in Q1 were Sauber’s Felipe Nasr in 15th place, the McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso and the Manors of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens. Stevens took no part in the session owing to a fuel pressure problem. Merhi, meanwhile, finished with a best time of 1:46.67. That was more than 7.4s adrift of Hamilton’s best and put the Manor driver outside the 107% of P1 time needed to race.
The start of Q2 saw a flurry of activity as teams dashed to get their drivers out on track as the threat of rain grew.
The first drops began to fall five minutes into the segment and the rush to put in a good lap. As conditions became undriveable a number of drivers were caught out, chief among them Raikkonen. The Ferrari driver finished in P11 with a time of 1:42.173, four tenths behind Ericsson who secured the final Q3 berth.
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Behind Raikonen in P12 was Pastor Maldonado and the Venezuelan was followed, respectively, by the Force Indias of Nico Hullkenberg and Sergio Perez. Sainz, too, was caught out and the Spaniard’s good work in Q1 was undone by missed timing as the storm clouds closed in. The Toro Rosso driver qualified in P15.
With torrential rain sweeping across the circuit Q2 elapsed without further action and then race control announced that the start of Q3 would be delayed by at least 15 minutes.
The stoppage eventually extended to 35 minutes but at 6.15pm local time the final top-10 shootout began, with all 10 drivers taking to the track to test the conditions.
Vettel set the first timed lap of the session a 1:53.178, but that was quickly beaten by the Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg, with the Briton heading the list with a time of 1:49.834. Max Verstappen was fourth for Toro Rosso after the first flying laps ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.
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Hamilton’s final lap was no better than his opening run but with Rosberg only improving marginally, Hamilton’s first flyer was enough to secure his 40th career pole position.
It was Vettel who stole some of the day’s thunder, his final lap improvement to 1:49.908 putting him on the front row for the first time since Hungary last year and leaving him just seven hundredths of a second adrift of Hamilton.
Fourth behind Rosberg was Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat, with Toro Rosso teenager Max Verstappen an impressive sixth. Seventh place went to Williams’ Felipe Massa with Lotus’ Romain Grosjean eighth. The final top 10 places went to Valtteri Bottas in the second Williams and Ericsson in the Sauber.
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VETTEL BACK TO HIS VERY BEST WITH FERRARI

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Sebastian Vettel showed how much he is enjoying life at Ferrari by whooping with delight at securing second on the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday and punching the air at the post-qualifying news conference.
The four-time world champion cut a forlorn figure in his last season at Red Bull, struggling with an underperforming car and beaten regularly by new team mate Daniel Ricciardo before jumping ship to Ferrari in search of his old spark.
The German’s debut race was an encouraging third place behind the dominant Mercedes duo in Melbourne and after splitting world champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in Malaysian qualifying, he can again dream of wins.
“The result puts us in a good position for tomorrow. I think the target for Sunday is to extract the best race we can and then we go from there,” Vettel told reporters after missing out on pole by just 0.074 seconds at a rainy Sepang.
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“The nature of the track suits our car well and I expect nothing else than to be very strong tomorrow, but you never know about the conditions,” he added.
“There is rain in the air that can hit you at the right time but also make it go all wrong, you just never know.”
Despite his show of exuberance, Vettel was quick to play down the car’s pace but hopeful of giving Mercedes plenty to think about.
“Let’s keep our feet on the ground as in the end, we have to look after ourselves,” he said. ”
“Mercedes is very strong and has an advantage, but it would be nice to give them a hard time tomorrow, it has been a bit too chilled for them in the last months.”
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Before Saturday, Ferrari — the sport’s most successful team — had not qualified on the front row since Brazilian Felipe Massa in Malaysia in 2013.
Their joy on Saturday was tempered by Kimi Raikkonen’s disappointment after he became stuck behind Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber in a mad dash to beat a downpour and missed out on a top 10 grid position.
“It was simply a bad time to go out, we should have been out earlier. I did try to pass Ericsson but he was there trying to do his job; it’s not an unlucky situation but it was a mistake,” Raikkonen said.
“Tomorrow, we’ll try to climb some positions, for sure we have the speed but we are quite far from the front and when you start in this position is not going to be an easy race.”
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VERSTAPPEN: I DROVE GO-KART LINES AND IT PAID OFF

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Max Verstappen made quite a splash on his Formula 1 debut in Australia and the 17-year-old showed off his wet-weather skills in Malaysia on Saturday as he steered his Toro Rosso to sixth on the starting grid,and his karting experience paid off on the day.
The youngest driver to start a Formula One race showed all the maturity of a veteran to overcome a tropical downpour and find the right lines in the final session to secure the best starting position by a teenager since 1961.
“I studied the lines from last year so that helped me already a bit,” the Dutch youngster said after matching his father and former F1 racer Jos’s career best qualifying position.
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“I think the most important thing is to just stay cool and do your lap,” he told Sky television. “It was a good start for me as I always enjoy driving in the rain. All in all, I can be really happy about getting P6.”
Verstappen explained that the conditions were similar to those he had experienced early on in his racing career.
“It’s kind of go-kart lines. In the braking, you go a bit off line and then you cut across. I did exactly the same. I only had three laps so didn’t have a lot of time to see where I had to go. It paid off,” he added.
Father Jos, who had two podium finishes in a Formula One career spanning eight years and achieved his best grid position of sixth with Benetton at the 1994 Belgian Grand Prix, was not surprised by his son’s achievement.
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“I am very proud of that. He has to do a lot better than I did in my career,” he said. “I try to help him everywhere possible. I speak to him a little bit before he goes out. I’m just here to think for him as well because of his little experience.”
“But he has to do it himself. He did an incredible job and I’m happy with what he’s doing. But there are still a lot of things to learn.”
Verstappen remains on course to become Formula 1’s youngest ever points scorer on Sunday after the disappointment of missing out on his debut in Melbourne two weeks ago.
He was sitting in ninth place there when an engine failure ended his race. The highest grid placing by a teenager in Formula One was a front row start for 19-year-old Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez on his debut with Ferrari at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix.
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ECCLESTONE: I WOULD BE DELIGHTED IF RED BULL TOOK OVER F1

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Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has welcomed reports Red Bull might be looking at buying Formula 1 from current owners CVC.
Some journalists have speculated there is more than meets the eye to the former world champions’ mischief-making in past weeks, including bemoaning Mercedes’ dominance, criticising rules that are “killing” the sport, and threatening to quit.
Publications including Auto Motor und Sport, Blick and Osterreich have all reported rumours that Red Bull mogul and billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz is looking to sell Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso and “take over from CVC as the main shareholder of formula one”.
“I would be delighted,” F1 supremo Ecclestone told a group of selected reporters in Malaysia. “They (CVC) would be as well. Their business is buying and selling companies, so if somebody comes along with a good offer then I’m sure they’d sell. They’d have to.”
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Christian Horner, a traditional ally of Ecclestone’s and team boss of the premier Red Bull team, said on Friday: “I mean, Red Bull don’t run formula one.”
He had been asked by a journalist at Sepang what Red Bull would do to change F1 if it did promote the sport.
“Red Bull promotes events, it promotes championships and has done so successfully,” said Horner, explaining that he thinks the sporting and technical rules “are driving the costs far too high”.
“I think to get those under control needs a fundamental look at what formula one is and what does formula one need to be in the future,” he added.
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Kimi: We got it wrong

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Kimi Raikkonen was left high and dry in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix with the team getting their strategy wrong in the rain.
While his team-mate Sebastian Vettel managed to prevent another Mercedes front-row lock out with an excellent P2, Raikkonen was knocked out in Q2 after the heavens opened up.
With the rain threatening at the start of Q2, there was a big scramble for track position as drivers wanted to get a good timed lap in before the conditions deteriorated.
Unfortunately Raikkonen found himself in the middle of several drivers and his lap was only good enough for P11, resulting in him failing to make it through to Q3.
Although disappointed, the 2007 World Champion was pretty philosophical about the incident.
"We got it wrong. We should have been out earlier but that is how it is," he said.
"The lap time is there or thereabouts so we expected to be strong in qualifying. We finally find some speed and this happens, that's part of the game but it is disappointing."
He added: "We will see what happens in the race, but it was wrong time, simple as that. I tried to overtake [sauber's Marcus Ericsson] because he was in front of me, I couldn’t slow down because there were people pushing me forward. In my mind, we just got the timing wrong."
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Alonso hails McLaren's 'fantastic' progress

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Fernando Alonso says McLaren's form in Malaysia is "better than he anticipated", but adds they are still under-performing.
After missing out at the Australian GP due to a concussion, the Spaniard finally made his 2015 debut at Sepang this weekend, but the team failed to make it through to Q2.
However, McLaren have clearly taken a few steps forward as they were further off the pace at the season opener in Melbourne.
Alonso believes they have improved by as much as 1.5s in the two weeks and he was once again upbeat after Saturday's qualifying session.
"Our form today wasn’t unexpected, but I think our performance so far this weekend has maybe been better than I’d have anticipated before arriving here in Malaysia," he said.
"In fact, I’d say the progress we’ve made since Australia has been fantastic – we’re much closer to the cars in front now – but we’re still under-performing and we still need to improve.
"However, the steps we’re taking with the car show a lot of progress, so I’m optimistic that I won’t be qualifying in Q1 for that much longer. If it rains tomorrow, it’ll be another learning process for the team."
The double World Champion will start 18th on the grid as he was beaten by his team-mate Jenson Button.
"For me, too, the start procedure, the formation lap, the pit-stops – they’ll all be firsts for me as I wasn’t able to practise any of them in Australia," he said.
"That makes me feel confident that there’s a lot more to come in the next few weeks. This isn’t an ideal position from which to start the race, but I’m fully aware that McLaren-Honda is a long-term project: we want to beat Mercedes, and to do that you need time, and to be prepared to take your chances as they come."
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Manor to race, Grosjean hit with penalty

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Manor will make their 2015 race debut at Sepang on Sunday after they were cleared by stewards while Romain Grosjean has received a two-place penalty.
Roberto Merhi qualified P19 ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, but his time was outside the 107% mark while his team-mate Will Stevens failed to make it out for qualifying due to fuel system problem.
However, the stewards have ruled that both will be allowed to start the race.
Spaniard Merhi, who is competing in his first full grand prix weekend, had a spin on his second flying lap.
"In the three sessions Will has shown that the car is thereabouts on pace, while I had a spin in FP3 today so, along with yesterday, I have not been able to achieve the consistent running I wanted to for the team," he said.
"Coming into this, our first weekend on track, we were aware that we have a lot of hard work to do and that this is just the start. So although we are disappointed for the qualifying result, we have to keep focus on what we have achieved to be here and to be able to begin our development."
Meanwhile, Lotus driver Grosjean qualified P8, but he has been handed two-place grid penalty for a "pit lane infraction" during Q2 as his he didn't leave the pit exit in the same order in the queue as when he arrived.
He will thus move to P10 with Valtteri Bottas and Marcus Ericsson gaining a place each.
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Sainz 'very disappointed'

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Carlos Sainz has vowed to learn from his own mistakes after a lock up on his one flying lap in Q2 cost him a place in the final shoot-out.
Although Sainz appeared to have the pace in his Toro Rosso to book a top ten position on the Sepang grid, a lock up on his flying lap in Q2 meant he was P15 when the rain came.
Quickly turning into a deluge, Sainz and his rivals were unable to run again and the rookie driver was left down in 15th place.
"Very disappointed," the Spaniard told the BBC.
"Q3 today was more than possible, even something more than getting through into Q3 - a good qualifying position.
"We did a big step forward from FP3 to qualy. We were looking very good, very sharp.
"But I have to say I made a rookie error in Turn 14, I locked up as a bit of rain started to drizzle.
"I went a bit straight and I lost that qualy lap."
He added: "These things can happen if you are a rookie and I'll learn from that mistake and keep moving forward."
Asked if he was looking forward to making up positions on Sunday he said: "You can only imagine."
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Button 'happy' with step forward

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Despite McLaren failing for a second consecutive race to get both cars out of Q1, Jenson Button insists they made a "massive step forward" at Sepang.
Neither Button nor his returning team-mate Fernando Alonso were able to make any inroads during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Finishing 17th and 18th respectively, for the second race in a row a McLaren did not feature in part two of qualifying.
However, the British racer is confident McLaren-Honda are moving forward as this time around the team-mates were only 2.3 and 2.4s off the pace respectively.
"It was easier than the last race," the Brit revealed to the BBC.
"If you look at everything this weekend we have had no issues in terms of while we've been running which is good.
"There is a massive step forward in performance. Yes we have not been able to challenge the other cars in qualifying but it is a lot closer than in Australia.
"And I think our race pace is better than our qualifying pace so it is an improvement.
"We should be happy with the step but we know there is a long way to go still."
He added: "For me it was weird out there because it was very difficult to get tyre temperature.
"First sector I really struggled on every run I did but the last two were good so that is positive."
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Williams F1 team says tyre error hampered qualifying

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The Williams Formula 1 team's disappointing performance in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix was a result of not operating the tyres correctly, according to performance chief Rob Smedley.
Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were seventh and ninth fastest respectively, although the Finn will move up a position thanks to Romain Grosjean's two-place grid penalty.
While Smedley was not explicit about the nature of the team's error, both drivers indicated that tyre pressures were too high, leading to overheating problems.
Smedley admitted that this was "more than likely" the problem that led to the lead Williams being 2.639 seconds off Lewis Hamilton's pole time.
"The main problem is that we haven't operated the tyre correctly," said Smedley when asked by AUTOSPORT about the tyre troubles.
"Certainly, there's enough evidence of what we did wrong but it needs more analysis.
"What we were trying to do was to make sure that we didn't have any warm-up problems, which has been an Achilles' Heel in the wet in the past... and we didn't have any warm-up problems."
Smedley stressed that the decision to start Q3 on wet rubber, rather than intermediates, was not a factor in the team's underachievement.
"When we were watching the safety car [under the red flag] you could see it was going to clear pretty quickly," said Smedley.
"It was between extreme and intermediate at that point and the main cell of rain was gone by then so the track was never going to be at its best at the start of the session.
"So it was a decision of little consequence, even if it looks like a big decision to the outside world.
"The important bit is that you are on the right tyre at the right time and if you look at what we did from that respect, being on the inter and being the last to pit, apart from Grosjean, we did a reasonable job."
NO INHERENT CAR WEAKNESS
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Smedley also torpedoed suggestions that the team's 2014 weakness in wet conditions had carried over.
He underlined that its qualifying performance was as a consequence of the tyre mistake, not any inherent limitations in the car.
"We are 2.6s off pole position and there is not 2.6s of deficit in the car, so it means that we have done something wrong," he said.
"There's nothing wrong with the aerodynamics of the car, there's nothing wrong with the mechanical car, we don't lack downforce, it's not that we have a very efficient car with low downforce and little drag because in the dry we go through high-speed corners faster than everybody else.
"So there is nothing wrong with the car and I won't accept that as an excuse.
"It's for the work that goes on prior to sessions like that because you don't make decision on the spur of the moment."
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Vettel: Ferrari better than 2014 Red Bull

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Sebastian Vettel says he is much happier with this year's Ferrari than he was with the 2014 Red Bull, a car he struggled to come to terms with.

The four-time champion said ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix that his performance in Australia provided proof that Ferrari has made good progress.
Vettel was Mercedes' closest challenger in Melbourne, finishing third, albeit far behind race winner Lewis Hamilton.
"I think it's natural that the cars make a step forward, and to be honest since the first day I felt quite happy," he said.
"Last year's car I was obviously struggling a little bit here and there, and not entirely happy.
"Whereas with this year's car, and the Ferrari of this year, since the first day I was reasonably happy with the balance we have in the car.
"We know that we have to improve, but in terms of what I can feel and what I can do I was quite happy."
New tyres helping
"I think maybe also the rear tyres helped a little bit, obviously they made a bit of a change over the winter. In general I think I like the flow the car had.
"Last year that was a bit of a problem here and there. In the end you get used to it and you drive it as quick as you can or at least as quick as you think you can."
Regarding this year's pecking order he said: "I think the favourites are clear, just look at the gap from Australia, and then after that I think it will be very close.
"We'll try to obviously confirm the results and the impression we left in Australia, so we try to make sure that we establish ourselves in a similar position, ideally a little bit closer to Mercedes, and ideally a little bit further away from Williams, but I expect it to be very, very close, especially between us and Williams.
"And also Red Bull I think it's a question of timer, when they will come back. At the moment I think they are struggling a bit. I think behind Mercedes it will be very, very close."

There is no doubt the Ferrari this year is better than the Red Bull last year. Malaysia has proven him right.

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Not a Ferrari fan but kudos to them for a great race. Respect to Ferrari for putting their heads down and getting to work thus earning this victory vs crying and whining for legislation. Glad to see McLaren-Honda is progressing but it's going to be a long season.

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I was actually giggling when Seb crossed the finish line in front of both Mercs. It would have been great to see *anyone* beat the Silver Arrows, but it was particularly sweet to see Sebastian do it. He drove that Ferrari like a boss and you could see/hear Hamilton and Mercedes getting rattled - not accustomed to chasing another team, I guess. I hope to see the Scuderia and Vettel on the top step of the podium with regularity the season. Some serious competition for Mercedes will actually make this season entertaining... unlike last season.

Good race. Great win!

Cheers,

Greg

Sent from my DROID RAZR HD using Tapatalk

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Finally a Ferarri win after two years!!!! I loved Hamilton's radio traffic with his engineers. Now we will see how good he and Nico really are with some competition!

I am disappointed in Team Red Bull and their brake issues. Daniel Ricciardo had one of the best starts I have seen in a long time and he couldn't hold it. They need to get their [email protected] together!

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Some serious competition for Mercedes will actually make this season entertaining... unlike last season.

Absolutely right. That race was just fun to watch. Last year I would basically have the races on in the background; this race had me interested the entire time.

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I was actually giggling when Seb crossed the finish line in front of both Mercs. It would have been great to see *anyone* beat the Silver Arrows, but it was particularly sweet to see Sebastian do it. He drove that Ferrari like a boss and you could see/hear Hamilton and Mercedes getting rattled - not accustomed to chasing another team, I guess. I hope to see the Scuderia and Vettel on the top step of the podium with regularity the season. Some serious competition for Mercedes will actually make this season entertaining... unlike last season.

Good race. Great win!

Cheers,

Greg

Sent from my DROID RAZR HD using Tapatalk

I'm a huge Mercedes fan (Rosberg and Merc in general) however I was immensely happy to see Ferrari there at the front to mix it all up. As usual, Hamilton and his attitude over the radio left you sitting there wondering why no one else behaves this way...

As for the race, I normally dislike the Malaysian GP but this race was brilliant in every sense, loved it, so many battles, hard to keep track of. Full respect for Williams (Another team I follow) allowing Bottas and Massa battle it out. ok.gif

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BRILLIANT VETTEL THUMPS MERCEDES IN MALAYSIAN HEAT

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Sebastian Vettel powered his Ferrari to victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix, trouncing the dominant Mercedes team in the process and returning the legendary Italian marque to the top step of the podium for the first time since Barcelona 2013 and with it cementing the Maurizio Arrivabane led new era at Maranello.
It was a huge result for Vettel, his 40th grand prix victory, his fourth at Sepang, his first since Brazil 2013 and perhaps most significantly his first as a Ferrari driver. The cherry on the cake for the German must have been when he powered past to lap the two Red Bulls in the final stages of the race
For the Italian outfit the triumph justifies the winter revolution which saw Sergio Marchionne take control of the team, ousting Luca di Montezemolo and wielding the axe as Marlboro man Arrivabene rode in to take over the reigns. The rewards have come sooner than most anticipated.
It is also the first victory for Ferrari’s new era V6 turbo power unit, and the first race in over a year where Mercedes were beaten fair and square during a grand prix – although some will argue that the Mercedes strategists got their sums wrong on this hot day in Malaysia.
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The result will no doubt inject new interest in this year’s Formula 1 championship contest as two weeks earlier, at the season opener in Melbourne it appeared that the year may well become another season of Silver Arrows domination. And for it to be broken by the sport’s most popular team is a script not even Bernie Ecclestone would have dared to conjure.
Vettel said on the podium, “Last year was not a good year for me, it was a great car but I struggled to extract performance from it. This car suits me very well. It has been a while since I’ve been on top step and obviously the first time with Ferrari. I’m speechless. I’m happy and proud of today. We beat them fair and square and it is a special day – that is why I am emotional.”
“It was a big change last year but the team welcomed me from the very first day. When the gate opened at Maranello it was like a dream come true. The last time I was there I watched Michael Schumacher over the fence and now I’m driving that red car,” added the Ferrari driver.
On a day where they showed the first ***** in their armour, Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg appeared bewildered, if not shell shocked, as they entered the pre-podium room and then alighted onto the podium itself.
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During the race Hamilton questioned his team’s decision to put him on the harder tyres for his last stint and was audibly irate as it dawned on him that victory had escaped him this time around.
Nevertheless he was magnanimous afterwards, “Huge congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian – I gave it everything I could but their pace was excellent. We knew that Ferrari had made a step but didn’t know how big – they were too quick today.”
Rosberg, who was on the back foot from the moment he had to queue briefly behind his teammate when they all rushed into the pits for a tyre change when the safety car came out, eventually finished third and said afterwards, “All I can say on behalf of my team is ‘game on Ferrari’. Not sure about exact details of our strategy – it was complex out there. I’m sure we did a good job. But congratulations to Sebastian.”
Final word to Ferrari technical director James Allison who has been instrumental in the team’s turnaround, “After the difficulties of last year, the amount of effort that has gone in to try turn it around is extraordinary. This sport is mainly misery, then now and again you get an incredible rush which makes all the misery well worth it. It makes you feel utterly fantastic.”
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Crowning a strong day for Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen overcame a tough qualifying session and an early puncture to finish fourth, well clear of Williams pair Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.
Toro Rosso rookies Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz impressed in tough conditions and often going toe-to-toe with rivals, to finish seventh and eighth to beat the senior Red Bull duo of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo who ended ninth and tenth respectively.
McLaren put a positive spin on a poor day as both Fernando Alonso, back in action after missing the season-opener following a pre-season crash, and Jenson Button retired from the race.
After two races, Hamilton leads the driver’s standings on 43 points, Vettel sits second on 40, with Rosberg on 33 and Massa on 20.
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