Memories of the Singapore swing, which saw the title momentum move towards Lewis Hamilton, were fresh in Scuderia Ferrari’s memory as they arrived in Malaysia. The Italian team responded to the setback with a great performance in P3 but the power unit trouble that German driver Sebastian Vettel suffered at the end of the session ruined his qualifying and meant he started last.
Kimi Raikkonen qualified second but a similar technical issue forced him into a DNS. Sebastian Vettel then performed brilliantly to come from last to claim fourth in a performance reminiscent of his drive from the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi in 2012, when he claimed a podium. The German was up to 11th by lap 3 but had to wait until lap 9 before he could break into the top ten due to Fernando Alonso’s resistance. The Spaniard would later compromise Vettel’s attack on Daniel Ricciardo for third when he was being lapped – prompting the Ferrari driver to say on radio, “C’mon Alonso, I thought you were better than that.”
Fourth was probably better than Ferrari could have hoped for as they charged through the pack on the faster tyre in the second phase of the race. Although beaten by both Bulls and Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel will be delighted to have beaten the second Mercedes.
This is also the idea heightened by Ferrari Formula One team principal Maurizio Arrivabene after the 2017 Malaysian GP: “All weekend, it was clear we had a very competitive car. That could be seen from our pace in free practice, Kimi’s front row in qualifying and Seb’s amazing fight back in the race, when he went from last to fourth. However, it all added up to our hardest race of the year, as we had to confront problems that we will now analyse in depth. They prevented Sebastian from qualifying and Kimi from even taking the start. The team remained focused on its job throughout, putting in a great deal of effort working in the garage and then implementing an impeccable strategy. It’s further cause to continue to believe in ourselves: we have the car, the men, the drivers, the means and the spirit to fight all the way to the finish.” – Maurizio Arrivabene explained, as reported by the Italian media ahead of the Japanese GP.