Sebastian Vettel drives during the Malaysian Grand Prix. (Photo: Getty Images)

drives during the Malaysian Grand Prix. (Photo: Getty Images)

Just a few weeks ago everyone was writing off Sebastian Vettel’s chances of winning a fifth championship in 2014, but his first podium of the year in Malaysia showed that he cannot be counted out yet.

Vettel lost out to Nico Rosberg at the start, but he kept his fellow German in his sights on his way to a reliable third place. It was the first time that he had logged a race distance in the RB10.

“I thought I had a good start but then I focused on getting in the tow of Lewis (Hamilton), to maybe attack him going into the first corner.” said Vettel. “Then Nico was there on the right and it was quite tight. Daniel (Ricciardo) was coming as well as I was trying to get past Nico. So I lost a place, but fortunately I got it back, and then later on I was trying to get as close as I could to Nico.

“At some stage it looked like we are pretty similar, pretty evenly matched but then it’s like he found another gear, he was pulling away. In the end I was just trying to get the car home. Obviously Daniel didn’t make it, for a couple of reasons. All in all it’s good to get another podium after Daniel has been on the podium in Australia.”

Vettel cautioned that it was hard to read too much into the 25.5s deficit to winner Hamilton at the flag: “Probably Lewis could have gone faster. I think we could have gone faster at the end of the race, but our priority at the end was to make sure we secure the podium.”

However, he admitted there was a lot of work to do.

“We need to make big steps, because they are quite far ahead, but I’m quite happy with the steps we’re currently making. It’s the first race distance I’ve done this year, since Brazil, it’s the first race distance I’ve done, so that’s a big step. Obviously, at some stage during testing, we didn’t expect to finish the first couple of races, so well done to all the guys in the team on the reliability front.

“In terms of driveability, we’re not yet there where we want to be. In terms of power, it’s not a big secret without giving a hammering but the guys at Viry are flat out to work on that front.

“Renault is pushing very very hard but at this stage we have to summarize and say that Mercedes did a better job, they’re quicker than us so we know that there’s a lot of things we have to do better but it’s still a bloody good result today, finishing on the podium, right behind them. That’s what we need to do, as long as we can, up to the point where we’re even and we can challenge them and give them a harder time.”