Ferrari had what can best be described as a mixed Malaysian Grand Prix as Kimi Raikkonen took a solid fourth place while Sebastian Vettel failed to make it to turn four of the opening lap.
Vettel made an optimistic turn one move that saw the four-time World Champion clatter into the side of Nico Rosberg, who ultimately finished third after a bold move on Raikkonen late in the race.
The German retired with a broken front left suspension as a result of that contact, and thought it was a “racing incident”, although the stewards found otherwise and handed him a three-place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix. The one upside for Ferrari is that at least it wasn’t their error once again, with missed opportunities the story of their season so far.
Rosberg was handed a ten-second penalty for his move on Raikkonen, but even then it wasn’t enough for the ailing Ferrari to get back on the podium and so Ferrari failed to pull off anything like the victory of 2015 at Sepang.
Raikkonen climbs to fourth in the standings following Vettel’s DNF, but Red Bull struck a near fatal blow to the Prancing Horse’s hopes of retaining second in the Constructors Championship with a 1-2 led by Daniel Ricciardo.
This weekend, Formula One moves onto the Japanese Grand Prix, with the two weekends sandwiching the anniversary of the tragic accident of Jules Bianchi, who Ricciardo dedicated his win to after the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Suzuka isn’t a track that has won recent favour with Ferrari despite the clinching of the 2000 and 2003 World Drivers’ Championships for the great Michael Schumacher. Ferrari haven’t won anywhere in Japan since 2004.
Despite Raikkonen’s memorable win there for McLaren in 2005, where he started 17th and sealed victory with a last pass around the outside of the 150mph turn one, and Vettel’s four victories from 2009-13 (Punctuated only by Jenson Button in 2011) it doesn’t look like changing in 2016 as the fast flowing corners suit the Red Bull and Mercedes far better.
Mixed conditions are once again forecast for this weekend, and that is perhaps the only chance Ferrari have of winning a Grand Prix this season and keeping the fight alive for second in the Constructors’ Championship.