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Inside Line: Vettel’s most important win

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Victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix will go down as one of the most important, if not the most important of Sebastian Vettel’s career, not because it is his first as a Ferrari driver but because it has finally given him the credibility that the previous 39 grand prix victories did not.

Prior to that memorable day in the heat of Sepang, many of Vettel’s detractors claimed he was not capable of winning in anything other than the best car, which he supposedly had during the four year period in which he won his quartet of world titles with Red Bull.

Rewinding to his first win in 2008 at the rain soaked Italian Grand Prix, on that day the Adrian Newey penned Toro Rosso STR3 was very good, but it still took a fine drive to take that victory – it was his 22nd F1 race.

In 2010 Vettel won the title in a car which was not head and shoulders better than the rest, he simply kept his cool and rose to the occasion to steal the title in Abu Dhabi from the sport’s acknowledged master: Fernando Alonso and his own teammate Mark Webber.

Sebastian Vettel

In 2011 and 2013 Newey’s genius concocted cars that suited Vettel down to the ground and those particular world titles were a cake walk for the German. He still had to deliver and one can hardly criticise a driver who makes the most of a superb car.

In 2012 Vettel was made to work hard for his third title, and only a flurry of wins late in the season allowed him to take the big prize by a mere three points. Sure the Red Bull RB8 came good from Singapore onward, but it still took nerve, skill and determination to win those decisive four races in a row.

What about 2014? Sure it won’t go down as his best and there really are no excuses. But the true measure of a great sportsman is not only how they perform at their peak, but also how they recover from the troughs which they all sink into from time to time.

Formula 1 history is dotted with legendary drivers winning in dominant cars, but few of them attracted as much disdain as Vettel did from fans – and his rivals – who begrudged his success.

Vettel Red Bull world champion

Even with four world titles under his belt when he departed Red Bull, there were the doubters. Few expected early fireworks at Ferrari, but now in the wake of a superb weekend in Malaysia many have had to hold up their hands and say: I was wrong.

It has been refreshing to soak in the sentiment of true Formula 1 fans post-Malaysia, including many comments made here on Grand Prix 247, who have acknowledged they were wrong and have accepted that Vettel is special, is the real deal.

Prior to that race at Sepang the general consensus was that Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are the only two modern generation drivers who can win without the best car. Now you can add Vettel’s name to that short list.

Perhaps it is early days to trumpet a Ferrari revival amid Mercedes domination, but this is the first crack in the Silver Arrows armoury and oozing out is the blood red of Ferrari instigated by their renaissance man. And let’s be honest the sport needs the Reds to be up there for obvious reasons…

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Sunday, 29 March 2015 will go down as the day when millions of true Formula 1 fans, grudgingly or not, have had to dish out the respect that Vettel has for so long deserved but been denied.

Here are some of the choice post-Malaysia soundbites:

Sebastian Vettel: “To be honest – and I shouldn’t say – but I was shitting myself the last couple of laps because the thoughts were coming into my head. I was looking at the top of the chassis and thinking: This is a red car and you are about to win!”

Lewis Hamilton: “Huge congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian, they did an amazing job. Jeez, they had some good pace. I gave it everything I could, we did as a team. We knew coming into this weekend that they had made a step, we didn’t know how big but they were too fast for us today.”

Christian Horner: “It is fantastic for him – it was classic Sebastian Vettel. He made the tyres work, on a different strategy, Ferrari had tremendous durability. And then once Sebastian is in the lead we’ve seen so many times what he is capable of. He’s got his feel back and his confidence is high. Hopefully we can give him a harder time soon.”

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Niki Lauda: “I was surprised by the pace of the Ferrari at the end but Vettel did an incredible job. They were unbeatable. They had the right pit stop strategy and Vettel’s speed was outstanding.”

Toto Wolff: “We were beaten fair and square by Ferrari and Sebastian, who did a fantastic job, and I’m not sure we could have matched their long run pace at any point. They took a well-deserved win.”

Byron Young: “Remarkable result by Sebastian Vettel really given the expectation on his shoulders as a Ferrari driver.”

David Coulthard: “Thoroughly well deserved by Vettel and Ferrari. An incredible performance. They have trounced the opposition with this performance.”

Joe Alexander: “Vettel was brilliant. A+++”

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Snowman: “Gotta admit… Vettel really earned my respect today. I can almost feel my opinion of him changing…”

Empee: “I’m glad Vettel appears poised for success away from Red Bull. Not that he needs anyone else’s validation of his accomplishments thus far, but I think it could go some way towards silencing the detractors adamant that he’s nothing without Newey.”

MB: “First time since 1995 cheering for Ferrari – and first time since 2010 cheering for Vettel… but this Is just what the championship needs!”

NapoleonSolo: “Wow! Wow! What a great race. Haven’t rooted for Vettel in a long time, but I did today.”

Inside Line by Paul Velasco