Thursday, April 8, 2010

Red Bulls dominate

The young German surveyed the skies once more, received final instructions from his race engineer and climbed onboard his Renault-powered RB6.

Malaysia. The 3rd race of the season, 2 pole positions with the quickest car on the grid, the German mused. And yet he still had to finish a respectable race.

Bahrain was a disaster. He was P1 on Qualifying and leading more than half of the race schedule when a broken spark plug allowed 2 Ferraris and a McLaren to finish ahead of him. The race was his to lose, observers noted.

Australia was cruel. With 4 laps to go, the German crashed into a concrete barrier due a brake lock. The race was his again to lose. Fate can’t leave him be 3 times over, he thought.

His name was Sebastian Vettel, youngest Grand Prix winner at 22. The drenched Italian GP in Monza in 2008 while driving for Ferrari-powered sister team Toro Rosso was evident of his driving talent. And since transferring to the mother team— Red Bull Racing, replacing the retiring David Coulthard in 2009, Vettel showcased his competitive racing spirit. He has outpointed and outraced his fellow team mate Australian Mark Webber since.

The 2.4-liter V8 engines squeeled with Webber in P1 this time around and Vettel in P2. Anticipation overcame Vettel as one by one the red lights blinked 4, 3, 2, 1. Then the lights went out—a signal for the race to commence. Go!

The fans roared and 20 F1 cars raced to the first corner.

The Red Bulls claimed the first 2 positions but while Mark Webber was coming towards turn 1, a surging Vettel claimed his racing line and held the Australian, clipping the apex first. Webber gave chase. The turn was supposed to be his. But with the same specs in the same team, Webber could only pace Vettel and he settled in. This was going to be a 1-2 finish, assuming reliability issues were fixed.

And so the 57 laps in the sweltering heat of the Malaysian GP in Sepang was finally Sebatian Vettel’s first victory of the season. Red Bull's first 1-2. The German now places 2nd in points tied with double World Champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari at 37 points, 2 points adrift of Brazilian Felipe Massa also of Ferrari.

The chapter in the young German’s race calendar just got exciting. With 16 more races to go, he looks forward to battling it out with marquee names like fellow German 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, the English Champion duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren and of course, Red Bull’s closest competitor this early—the Ferraris of Alonso and Massa.

Next up: China.