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Rain keeps away, Vettel smiles

Posted: 10 Apr 2011 09:52 AM PDT

Nick Heidfeld (front) capitalised on a  brilliant start to round off the podium places in his Lotus-Renault.

Nick Heidfeld (front) capitalised on a brilliant start to round off the podium places in his Lotus-Renault.

RAIN, forecasted at the 4pm start of the 13th edition of the Petronas Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit yesterday, would have been the only thing that could have changed the outcome.

But the skies never fully opened and Red Bull Racing's Sebastien Vettel maintained his 100 per cent record this season with a victory from pole position, hardly even scathed by the failure of the vital kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) on board his car in mid-race. It was also Vettel's second victory at Sepang after winning last year's race.

The race ended with the same victor and representatives from the exact three teams that filled the podium in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, with 2009 world champion Jenson Button of McLaren taking second spot and Lotus-Renault Grand Prix's Nick Heidfeld taking a surprise third for his first podium since, ironically, the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2009, when he drove for the BMW-Sauber team.

This was 23-year-old defending world champion Vettel's 12th win of his career which puts him on a trail of three straight victories, beginning with the all-important win in the final race of last season in Abu Dhabi, which made the German the sport's youngest ever world champion.

His car performing without a glitch, Vettel stormed off the blocks and held the lead from pole entering the first turn, but to everyone's surprise, the two Lotus-Renault GP cars of Heidfeld and Russian teammate Vitaly Petrov, the third-placed finisher in Australia, were right in the mix entering the first turn from sixth and eighth on the grid respectively.

"It was a great day. I had what I thought was a good start and I was watching out for the McLarens all the way, but then all of a sudden I looked in my rear-view mirror and all I saw was black. I realised it was a Lotus-Renault," said Vettel, who used the Red Bull's superior all-around pace to pull away out of trouble, while teammate Mark Webber suffered the opposite, dropping from third on the grid to ninth by the end of the first lap and eventually recovered to finish fourth.

From Lap 29, the Red Bull Racing engineers had signalled both their drivers to not use the KERS system, following a problem they had sensed. But by that time Vettal had already retaken the lead he lost to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso following the second exchange of pit stops and held a comfortable lead of almost 16 seconds.

"The start was important and today (yesterday) showed how important the KERS system is. Obviously there was a problem with it and I didn't have it in the final stint, but without it, we would not be here. The tyres too were holding up well. Although in mid-race it began to drizzle quite heavily, we could even smell it, but it didn't effect the handling too much," said Vettel.

"We can be proud of ourselves for this victory and right away, tomorrow, we start working towards China (the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai this weekend). We didn't have KERS in Australia and the team worked so hard to rectify the issue and although all did not go according to plans here, we kept pushing. We need to keep pushing and improving, there's no other way to do it."

The victory extended Vettel's lead atop the drivers' standings to 50 points, 24 ahead of Button, while Lewis Hamilton of McLaren and Red Bull's Mark Webber are third with 22 points. Red Bull also have a massive 72 points after two races in the championship, 24 more than closest rivals McLaren with 17 races still to come.

Button admitted that although the McLarens had been improved in terms of performance, the Red Bulls were still a step ahead from everyone else.

"I'm happy with the way we've improved. The car's performance was especially better here than it was in Australia. But for sure at this point in time, we're second fastest," said Button, winner of the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Malaysian Grand Prix yesterday was run before a crowd of 65,008, with a total of 105,018 spectators making their way to Sepang for the event since Friday.

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Inter boss believes team can still win it all

Posted: 10 Apr 2011 09:10 AM PDT

ROME: Inter Milan coach Leonardo claimed his team can still win everything after watching the 'Nerazzurri' labour to a 2-0 win over Chievo at the San Siro.

That same stadium had been the scene of two disasters in the space of four days that appeared to have left Inter's season in ruins.

A 3-0 defeat in the derby to AC Milan left them five points off top with seven games left.

But worse was to come as Inter crashed 5-2 at home to Schalke 04 in the Champions League quarter final, first leg, leaving themselves a mountain range to climb and a desert to traverse in the second leg next week.

But the win over Chievo moved Inter to within two points of their bitter city rivals, who had a game in hand, and left Leonardo feeling positively sprightly.

"The same aims we had before the two defeats we kept after them, even more so now after a difficult game like this," he said.

"I always try to keep fear at bay, we've won many games at the end or when we've had to come from behind.

"We know that we have to keep pushing right to the end with patience and intelligence, without losing organisation or balance, and we did that.

"The lads were brave and the president and club have also done well to stay calm through a difficult period."

And Leonardo defiantly claimed they could still hope to progress against Schalke, even though they need to win 4-0 in Germany to do so.

"Our objectives are clear, they haven't changed, even in the Champions League," he added.

One of the bright sparks during the Chievo game was the contribution of Japan full-back Yuto Nagatomo who impressed with his bursting runs forward down the left flank

If Inter are to fight back from their near-impossible deficit against Schalke, they will need that kind of gut-busting commitment from all their players.

And now Nagatomo is hoping to get the nod in Gelsenkirchen.

"I wanted to contribute to the win and that's the spirit I took onto the field, I managed to win and I'm delighted," he said.

"Inter have many good players and I know that I can't play in every game and that's why I must always be prepared for every chance I get.

"I believe we can get the result back and if we didn't think like that there would be no point playing the game, but we believe." -- AFP

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