The Malaysian Grand Prix is a race that Red Bull must win, after the two failures that brought Sebastian Vettel down while he was leading the two season openers after starting from pole position.
Dietrich Mateschitz’s team have the fastest car by a country mile – if you listen to other drivers talking about its qualifying pace, anyway – but a faulty spark plug electrode in Bahrain restricted the German to a fourth place finish, and in Melbourne a wheel fixing problem forced him into retirement. That’s 38 points lost in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship, and while you can make up ground on rivals quickly if you keep winning, you can also fall a long way behind if you don’t under the new points scoring system.
On Thursday Michael Schumacher tipped his unlucky countryman to win his first race of the season this weekend. “If you ask me about a rival who stands out, it is him,” the multiple champion said. “If you look at the car he has and the way he’s driving, he is the driver who’s going to be the biggest threat. Of course he didn’t have luck in the first two races. But if it went right, he would have won both.”
Under a new FIA ruling Red Bull must move their rearview mirrors inboard from China onwards, and an ebullient Vettel says that he is more worried about that than he is about reliability issues this weekend. The FIA and the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) are worried that the mirrors mounted atop the outer edge of sidepods limit rearward visibility.
“We are much more concerned that from the next race we’ll all have to run the mirrors inboard and our car is losing quite some performance due to that, but reliability, no problems.
“I think we have a good group of people and I don’t think there’s one weak department causing all the problems. The failures were very, very seldom, but that’s life and that’s racing.
“For sure it’s not good, and if you want to fight for the championship it’s better not to have those kind of things, but on the other hand we are just two races into the season and there are so many races left. It’s not a big deal.
“Would, could, should is so nice but it didn’t happen. In the end there’s a lot of positives we can take from the first two races. We have a very strong car in qualifying and race conditions. For various reasons we didn’t finish. For sure at the moment it’s frustrating and the whole team you could see was down. But coming here only a week later we are happy again and looking forward to this race. And what happened in Bahrain and Melbourne happened, it’s history and we can’t change it now.”