An emotional Sebastian Vettel struggled to contain his delight after his “dream” victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix yesterday.
Vettel grew up idolising his fellow German Michael Schumacher, who won five of his seven Formula One titles with Ferrari, and went some small way to emulating him by securing victory for the Italian team at Sepang in only his second race for them after a frustrating final year at Red Bull in 2014.
The win was no fluke either as the four-time champion finished 8.5 seconds clear of 2014 championship winner Lewis Hamilton, whose Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg was a further four seconds back.
Vettel was reduced to tears as the German and Italian anthems played and he later said: “This feels incredible. When I was on the podium, to look down and see the guys, it was an incredible atmosphere.
“I can only recall from the victories Fernando (Alonso) had with Ferrari, and recall especially the victories Michael celebrated with the team – I think there were one or two! – it’s incredible.
“To become part of that team is something special. It makes me very happy, obviously.
“Last year was tough, with this the first win for more than a year now.
This win, it has been my dream. When I grew up, Michael was my hero and for all of us – I speak for all of the kids at the go-kart track at the time in Germany – we were looking up to him.”
After Mercedes’ easy one-two a fortnight ago in Australia, arguably no one saw this coming, but now the German giants have a fight on their hands to hold on to the constructors’ and drivers’ championships.
The win was Ferrari’s first in 35 grands prix, stretching back to the 2013 race in Spain when Alonso – now with McLaren – was at the wheel.
Vettel added: “I shouldn’t say it, but I was shitting myself the last couple of laps because this thought was coming into my head.
“I was looking at the top of the chassis and thinking ’This is a red car, you’re about to win’. Then I thought ‘Okay, stop thinking that, otherwise you’ll miss the next apex or something’. So it was really a great relief when I crossed the chequered flag.”
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen could arguably have joined Vettel in the top three but for a lap-one puncture, with the Finn finishing fourth.
Behind Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa in fifth and sixth, Max Verstappen created F1 history by becoming the youngest person to score points, at the age of 17 years 180 days by claiming seventh in his Toro Rosso.
As for Alonso, who quit Ferrari last year to join struggling McLaren, he retired after 21 laps with an ERS cooling problem.
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