Mercedes march on but Red Bull closing in

Mon Mar 31, 2014 3:00am EDT
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By Patrick Johnston

SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - With two wins from two races under their belt in the new Formula One season, Mercedes are powering confidently toward another speedster's paradise in Bahrain this week, albeit with a watchful eye on fast improving rivals Red Bull.

Lewis Hamilton's pole-to-flag victory on Sunday ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg looked comfortable in the scorching Sepang sunshine, but quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel had managed to split the pair in a wet qualifying session.

The German Red Bull driver fell behind Rosberg before the first corner on race day in Malaysia but managed to push his compatriot for long periods before the gap widened in the final stages of the 56-lap race.

Vettel's 15 points for third place were Red Bull's first of the season and a jump in the right direction for a team that looked in disarray during winter testing after their Renault power unit suffered reliability woes.

"The last day of testing was four weeks ago or something and they were absolutely nowhere and now he (Vettel) was right in the back of me, pushing me," Rosberg told reporters after moving further clear in the drivers standings ahead of Hamilton.

"The way they've ramped up their pace, very impressive, so we need to keep on it to keep our advantage."

Rosberg leads the drivers championship on 43 points, ahead of Hamilton (25) and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso (24).

Vettel's team mate, Daniel Ricciardo, also showed promising signs before a botched pit stop, damaged front wing and punctured tire led to him retiring on lap 49.   Continued...

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (C) celebrates on the podium as he stands beside second-placed Mercedes Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Germany (L) and third-placed Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany after winning the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit outside Kuala Lumpur, March 30, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su