Malaysia was a fascinating race that flew by - Martin Brundle

By Martin BrundleBBC F1 commentator

It was a fascinating 13th Grand Prix of Malaysia. Despite no rain we had 63 pit stops, numerous passes and wheel banging, plus a healthy ebb and flow to the race as drivers thrived or suffered on different sets of tyres.

The combination of greater Pirelli tyre wear and performance degradation, the Kers power boost system and the Drag Reduction System (DRS) certainly made for much closer side-by-side action.

Sebastian Vettel's victory means he has now won six of the last seven races. He has led 109 out of the 114 laps so far this season, too, excluding scheduled pit stops. And that is despite not having had Kers power at all in Melbourne and only limited usage in Sepang.

Two comfortable victories from pole positions leave him with a 24-point lead - an ominous development for his rivals considering that he never led last year's championship until he passed the chequered flag in the final race.

The 23-year-old German is alarmingly Schumacher-esque in his domination.

That is particularly bad news for his team-mate Mark Webber. Vettel has won the last four Grands Prix but Webber has only shared one of those podiums, having also been out-qualified for the past seven races.

However, it was a very dogged and in many ways impressive drive from the Australian on Sunday. He had a dismal start and no Kers power for the whole race. It was a well-deserved fourth place.

Lewis Hamilton seemed the man most likely to challenge Vettel, but his podium chances dramatically fell away after a slow pit stop - he apparently stopped short of his marks.

That was followed by poor pace on the harder compound tyre, contact while defending hard against a charging Fernando Alonso and a fourth stop for tyres after an off-track excursion.

To cap it all, the McLaren driver was penalised 20 seconds when the race was over for moving more than once in attempting to keep Alonso at bay on the lap before they connected. The punishment meant he dropped from seventh to eighth.

We did not see anything in the commentary box that raised alarms but the stewards have access to far more footage and data than we do and I suspect they want to set a precedent in this new style of F1 racing.

The problem is that there will be four different stewards this weekend in China and there needs to be consistency in any decision-making.

For example, there will be comparisons between what Hamilton did in Sepang and the tactics Felipe Massa adopted in Australia, as well as Vettel's defensive manouevres going into the first corner.

We did not hear about Hamilton's potential penalty during the race because the issue was only raised by Alonso and Ferrari afterwards.

Alonso was also penalised 20 seconds after running into the back of Hamilton but, given he did not damage the Briton's race at that point, I would have thought having to pit for a new nose was penalty enough.

Jenson Button drove a great race to finish second. Initially, he had taken off too much front wing and under-steered through the first stages.

At each stop, he progressively improved the car and simply flew on a new set of hard compound tyres after his third and final stop. His ability to look after his tyres showed up again.

Nick Heidfeld's third place was well deserved after an impressive qualifying and spectacular start, which initially put him second. He too had a slow stop that cost him track position, but his pace was strong as he recorded Renault's second consecutive podium.

Renault only scored three podiums in the whole of last season and started the Malaysia weekend with two fundamental on-track front suspension failures on Friday. A good recovery.

Team-mate Vitaly Petrov was going fine, too, until he ran wide in turn eight and kept his foot hard down while attempting to rejoin the track.

The inevitable aerial action snapped his steering column clean in two - no doubt among many other things - on landing. I was probably a bit hard on him in commentary because he could have expected a more level run-off area, although he should have eased off the speed.

Michael Schumacher scored Mercedes' first two points of the season by coming home ninth. The team, who are only eighth in the constructors' table, look to be lacking rear grip and are particularly hard on the tyres. They need a McLaren-style miracle update very soon.

Paul di Resta became the first man since Hamilton in 2007 and the first Scot since Sir Jackie Stewart in 1965 to score points in his first two races. He was a little lucky to do so in Australia following Sauber's disqualification but he has out-qualified team-mate Adrian Sutil twice and made very few errors to bring the car home competitively and safely.

It was another very difficult weekend for Williams, but Team Lotus have started to show some of the pace they promised, especially in the race.

Virgin and Hispania comfortably survived the 107% rule in qualifying but the latter in particular are helped by the fact that it is the Q1 comparison times that count. The front runners attempt to get through on one run with hard tyres and relatively low engine mode power, which means the gap to the back is not as big.

So what does it all mean moving forward?

I am warming a little to the DRS, providing it only generates an overtaking opportunity rather than a comfortable pass.

David Coulthard's line that the whole car is designed to be an overtaking device with all kinds of mechanical and electronic systems is compelling. I guess the DRS is simply much more visible, although I am still wary of false racing.

We certainly do not need four-stop races. Two or three are plenty, otherwise the race does not flow and you do not know whether to watch the pit straight or the pit lane.

I well remember long afternoons as a driver when reliability largely defined the finishing order, and equally long afternoons in the commentary box when Schumi had won the title by August and would go on to win most of the ensuing races.

The Malaysia race pace was very slow but the cars still look plenty fast enough. For me, an exciting race flew by.

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