Vettel shows champion qualities to make front row

Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:11am EDT
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By Patrick Johnston

SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel overcame more reliability problems to steer his struggling Red Bull onto the front row of the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Second place in qualifying at a wet Sepang raised the German's spirits after he was forced to retire early in the Australian season-opener two weeks ago following dismal pre-season testing.

The problems followed the quadruple champion to Malaysia, with a new electronic power control unit required after issues during Friday practice and the German then suffering a fault with the energy store after three laps of qualifying on Saturday.

A simple reset solved the problem and he reveled in the wet conditions to slice away at the advantage of the pace-setting Mercedes, missing out on pole to Lewis Hamilton by just 0.055 seconds.

"At the beginning of Q1 (the first phase), the heartbeat was rising very quickly when we realized there was an issue. I came in, we restarted the car and that seemed to solve the problem," Vettel, last year's winner in Malaysia from pole, told reporters.

"After that it was fine. It was good to go out and get another feel in the wet conditions. Q3 was not perfect. I would have loved to have a second go. My first attempt, I felt there was time to gain here and there. It was very close, too close.

"But to split the Mercedes was very good for us. All-in-all we can be happy, after a tough winter we're getting stronger."

Red Bull principal Christian Horner said engineers would investigate what went wrong with Vettel's car, which he said fixed itself and remained stable for the remainder of the session, which had been delayed by 50 minutes because of rain.   Continued...

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany leaves his team garage during the qualifying session for the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit outside Kuala Lumpur, March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Peter Lim/Pool