YIPPEEE! Sebastian Vettel celebrates his return to the top step after winning the 2015 Malaysian GP on Sunday, March 29. Image: MOHD RASFAN / AFP
SEPANG, Malaysia - Sebastian Vettel knew he had joined a special team when he left Red Bull for Ferrari at the end of the 2014 season, and the four-times F1 champion was delighted to become the latest driver to celebrate victory in "the red car" on Sunday (March 29).
Prior to this weekend, both Vettel and Ferrari last won in 2013 and their union already looks like a match made in heaven after a tactical masterclass in sweltering conditions swept them to victory at the 2015 Malaysian GP in just his second start for the team.
GOOD TO BE BACK
Vettel told reporters after backing up his third place in Australia:"It's been a long day and an amazing feeling. To look down and see the guys from the podium, it's just an incredible atmosphere.
"I can recall from the victories Fernando (Alonso) had and especially the victories Michael (Schumacher) celebrated with the team ... It's incredible to become part of that, something special and it makes me very happy."
Vettel cut a forlorn figure in his final season at Red Bull following an unprecedented run of success, unable to win a race at all in 2014, but his beaming smile was back on Sunday as he waved the Ferrari flag in parc-ferme and danced on the podium.
"Last year was tough and this is the first win in more than a year," he added. "I have definitely missed not just the champagne but the top step in particular, so its great to come back after 2014 when I just couldn't get on top of the car.
"The balance of this car seems to suit my way a lot more than last year in general."
Sunday's victory hinged on an incident at the end of the third lap when Sauber's Marcus Ericsson spun off into the gravel, which saw Mercedes pit both their cars and don hard-compound tyres when the safety car was deployed.
Vettel stayed out on the faster medium tyres and made the lead stick with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg chasing him home but unable to get close enough to mount a challenge.
"I am very pleased and the strategy today was obviously ace so a big thanks to the guys," Vettel said, adding they had not expected Mercedes to pit during the safety car period.
"They pulled in, which surprised us a bit, but on Friday you could already see that they weren't too happy on the medium compound and struggled. I was able to keep up with them, which I enjoyed a lot, then after that I knew I had to deliver. Make the tyres last. They had a strong second stint but I was able to rebalance the car a little more and have a solid gap over the last few laps."
Vettel said his nerves were on edge at the end ... "because I was looking at the top of the chassis and thinking, 'this is the red car, you are about to win for Ferrari,' but I made myself stop thinking that or I may have missed the next apex or something.
"So it was great relief when I crossed the line and saw the flag and the guys from the podium."