Sepang: While talk ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix was all about tyre degradation and the speed-boosting KERS system, Red Bull`s Sebastian Vettel sent out a reminder that raw pace remains the key ingredient to becoming a world champion.
Vettel heads to next week`s Chinese Grand Prix with a 24-point leader over McLaren`s Jenson Button after claiming his second pole-to-flag victory of the season at the Sepang circuit on Sunday but played down talk or retaining his title with 17 races remaining.
"Some people were already talking about brutal dominance or whatever. I tried not to read anything," Vettel said after his fourth consecutive win dating back to last season.
"That`s just two races in. I don`t think I need to explain how many things can change."
Vettel, 23, expertly handled the shredding of the Pirelli tyres, requiring only three pit-stops in comparison to the four his more experienced team mate Mark Webber made.
But it was the German`s ability to stay comfortably ahead of rivals McLaren, Ferrari and Renault in a car he has named "Kinky Kylie" without the use of KERS for portions of the race that sent most ominous signal to the rest of the grid.
Red Bull engineer Adrian Newey was cautious about the use of the KERS system in China with only a week to find solutions to the problems.
"(It`s) a learning curve. Quite how far we`ve got to go on that learning curve is unknown at the moment. We are still finding the odd new problem here and there. so we try and take it slowly and conservatively," he said.
"Certainly off the line is a very important criteria. On a qualifying lap or a single lap then its perhaps worth three tenths so its still very important but races like this one (in Malaysia) where its a very long distance from the start line to the first corner then its vital."
While Red Bull continue fine-tuning the system it is important for closest rivals McLaren to take advantage and close the gap.
Button finished three seconds behind Vettel on Sunday but the Briton was never in contention to win once the Red Bull driver had escaped from his final stop with a 10-second lead, allowing him to slow over the closing laps to protect his fast-wearing tyres.
"The Red Bulls` pace is very good," Button said. "He`s won two races out of two and nobody else has been consistent. He`s got a 24-point lead and that`s a lot after two races."
Button praised the strength of the McLaren KERS system and was delighted with the progress the team had made in order for him to finish on the podium after disappointing pre-season testing.
"It gives me confidence not just to come away with second place, but the feeling of the car is good and that`s important to me."
"We`ve only got a few days before the next race but we`re doing everything we can to make the small improvements and the details that we can and hopefully have a better race in China."
Double world champion Fernando Alonso took a lot of confidence from his sixth-placed finish for Ferrari after he challenged for third in the latter stages before damaging his car when trying to overtake McLaren`s Lewis Hamilton.
"I am happy with this race, not with the result but because we were finally competitive, capable of fighting wheel-to-wheel for a place on the podium. This is further motivation for the forthcoming race in China."