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Vettel wins from pole in Malaysia, continuing perfect season

Two races, two pole positions, two wins. World Champion Sebastian Vettel couldn't have asked for a better 2011 season so far. The German looked in control at Sepang, managing the gap to Jenson Button and Nick Heidfeld.

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates on the podium after winning the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix

Vettel also claimed the Malaysian prize last year

Sebastian Vettel's Malaysian Grand Prix win on Sunday only looked in real danger at the first corner, but he received some unlikely covering fire from fellow countryman Nick Heidfeld.

As McLaren's Lewis Hamilton sniffed at the Formula One world champion's gearbox, Heidfeld charged around the outside in his Renault, distracting Hamilton from his battle for the lead, and temporarily securing second place.

Heidfeld's Renault couldn't keep pace with the leader in the early running. Vettel opened a gap of several seconds before the first round of pit stops and maintained this advantage throughout the race.

"Fantastic job, fantastic job! In the heat, we kept our heads cool," Vettel told his crew on the team radio after weaving across the finish line. "It's a pleasure, a pleasure every weekend to be with you, I'm loving it!"

The reigning champion has a maximum 50 points from the first two races; not to mention the qualifying bragging rights, having started both races from the front. Vettel has already opened a 24-point lead to his closest challenger, Jenson Button.

As winning constructor, Red Bull sent its design guru and technical director, Adrian Newey - the man behind the dominant Red Bull cars of the past two seasons - to join Vettel and share in the champagne on the podium.

Welcome back, Quick Nick

Renault Formula One driver Nick Heidfeld of Germany drives during the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix

Heidfeld impressed on his way back to the podium

McLaren's 2009 champion Jenson Button finished in second place, having managed his tires well in a hot race with a flurry of pit stops for fresh rubber.

Despite Vettel's victory, it was Renault's Nick Heidfeld, finishing third, who was arguably the German driver of the day. Heidfeld, after spending most of the 2010 season on the sidelines, last stood on a Formula One podium in Sepang at the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix, driving for BMW in the German manufacturer's last season in the sport.

After his lightning start, "Quick Nick" lost places in the first half of the race - but profited from a squabble between old nemeses Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso late on. First, Alonso collided with the rear of Hamilton's car, and was forced to pit for a new front wing. Hamilton, meanwhile, had been too hard on his tires defending against the Spaniard and soon became easy pickings for the much faster Heidfeld.

"In the dying laps, I had to hold a Red Bull behind me. That was no easy task either!" Heidfeld said of his battle with Mark Webber in the post-race press conference.

The Renault Lotus car has now secured two podiums in as many races, and is quickly emerging as a serious dark-horse contender after the top teams Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren.

Miserable Mercedes

Webber, who was missing his hybrid KERS power boost throughout the race, finished an impressive fourth after a woeful start. Red Bull's Aussie veteran also set the fastest lap of the race, again showing the speed of the RB7 car.

The Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Alonso came in fifth and sixth, ahead of Hamilton's McLaren in seventh.

However, both Hamilton and Alonso were penalized after the race for misconduct when scrapping against each other, with 20 seconds added to their finishing times. This time penalty did not affect Alonso's sixth place finish, but it bumped Hamilton down to eighth place.

German Formula One drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher pose in front of a F1 racecar

Rosberg and Schumacher have looked better for the press than on the track

Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi was promoted to seventh from his eighth place finish on the track. The Japanese driver showed excellent tire management skills to make only two pit stops. One of this year's debutantes, Paul di Resta, scored points in his second straight race, finishing 10th for Force India. Di Resta beat his more experienced German teammate Adrian Sutil to the final point.

Germany's legendary champion Michael Schumacher could only manage ninth, after a miserable weekend for the Mercedes team. Despite some spectacular tooth and nail battles with the young Kobayashi, Schumacher was ultimately fighting for scraps. His teammate Nico Rosberg had a poor start and spent the race mired in the midfield, finishing three places adrift of Schumacher.

Mercedes is yet to show the race-winning pace that the team had hoped for in pre-season - Schumacher's two points are the first the team has gathered so far this year.

Germany's sixth driver, Timo Glock, had an uneventful afternoon in his rather sluggish Virgin car; Glock was the 16th and last driver to reach the checkered flag.

Author: Mark Hallam

Editor: Sean Sinico

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