1) Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault)
The Malaysian Grand Prix was by far Mark Webber’s best performance since his victory in the British Grand Prix last year.
Having bucked a recent trend of losing positions at the start, Webber got a fantastic getaway and had risen to second by the end of the opening lap. By staying out on the intermediate tyres longer than teammate Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull driver got the jump and found himself in the lead, a position from which he looked comfortable for a large part of the race.
Following the final round of pit stops, it looked as though Webber was about to take a well-deserved win, but despite Red Bull ordering Vettel not to challenge the Australian for the lead, the world champion ignored those instructions and passed Webber anyway.
Webber will rightly feel aggrieved at being denied victory in Sepang, but his performance was top notch and he deserved better from what was a fantastic drive.
2) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Nico Rosberg drove a very solid race to finish fourth in Malaysia and record his best result since his second place in last year’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Despite running behind teammate Lewis Hamilton for nearly all of the race, Rosberg was the quicker of the two for large periods and lost time at every round of stops by having to stay out an extra lap compared to the Englishman.
That did not deter Rosberg from challenging for third, and in an enthralling battle with Hamilton in the closing stages did manage to climb into the podium positions on a couple of occasions, but after Hamilton retook third place the Mercedes pairing were ordered to hold station, an instruction that Rosberg followed to the end of the race.
3) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
By his own admission, Lewis Hamilton felt that his teammate Nico Rosberg should have finished in his third position, but the Englishman still drove an incredibly strong race to finish where he did in Sepang.
After a wet opening stint Hamilton found himself behind the two Red Bulls, but he found blistering pace from his Mercedes and began to close in on them both. Unfortunately for him, his tyres deteriorated at a faster rate than those around him, meaning he was unable to seriously challenge for the lead, although he did manage to briefly take second from Sebastian Vettel by undercutting him at the third round of pitstops.
In the final stint Hamilton began to suffer from fuel consumption issues, but the Brit managed to see out the remaining laps for a well deserved podium finish, the first since his switch from McLaren.
HM – Jules Bianchi (Marussia-Cosworth)
This is not going to become the Jules Bianchi slot, that is a promise. But once again, the Marussia driver drove a storming race and easily won the battle of the backmarkers for the second race running. The Frenchman finished in 13th place, over 30 seconds clear of Caterham’s Charles Pic, and nearly a minute ahead of teammate Max Chilton.
If Bianchi can continue to perform in this fashion it won’t be long until F1’s leading teams begin to take notice of him, not least Ferrari, with whom he is a member of their Young Driver Programme, and having shown huge potential in his fledgling Formula One career, we could seen be seeing the 23-year-old fighting it out much higher up the grid.
2013 Performance Podium Rankings
1) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault) – 10pts
2) Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) – 10pts
3) Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes) – 5pts
4) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) – 5pts
5) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) – 2pts
6) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 2pts
7) Jules Bianchi (Marussia-Cosworth) – 2pts
The Performance Podium rankings are calculated depending on where each driver places in each race. 1st place receives 10 points, 2nd place = 5pts, 3rd place = 2pts and an Honourable Mention = 1pt