Max Verstappen turned around a dismal season with a flawless drive to beat Lewis Hamilton and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo at the Sepang International Circuit this afternoon.
Max Verstappen dominates final Malaysian Grand Prix
The young Dutchman has not finished seven of the 15 races this season because of a combination of reliability issues and his own mistakes. But in the final race to be hosted at this circuit, Verstappen was in regal form beating the Mercedes W08 of Hamilton on pure pace. He celebrated his 20th birthday weekend in grand fashion with the second victory of his career.
Ferrari was the fastest team in the final free practice session on Saturday. But Sebastian Vettel could not set a lap time in qualification because of engine problems and started last on the grid in the race. Kimi Raikkonen, who was pipped to pole position by Hamilton, did not start the race as he lost power on the way to the grid. Championship leader Hamilton struggled for race pace from the first lap and was overtaken by Verstappen on the fourth lap. Verstappen then comfortably pulled away and Hamilton had to settle for second place.
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Ricciardo got past the fast-starting Valtteri Bottas to move into third place. But he could not challenge the two drivers in front of him and had to hold off a late challenge from the hard-charging Vettel to secure third place and his eighth podium of the season.
Vettel started last and quickly progressed through the field in the very quick SF70H to catch Ricciardo by the 49th lap. Even as Vettel dueled with the Australian for many laps, he could not overtake him and had to settle for fourth place. The four time world champion is now 34 points behind Hamilton, but kept his hopes alive in the championship with the drive of the day. But on the cool-down lap after he crossed the finish line, Vettel was involved in a bizarre shunt with Lance Stroll that damaged his car.
Bottas finished where he started in an uneventful race that saw the Mercedes cars seriously off the pace of the Red Bull and Ferrari teams. Sergio Perez of Force India drove a good race even as he was feeling unwell to secure a good haul of points for his team. His teammate Esteban Ocon pitted early after he sustained a puncture after he made contact with Felipe Massa and had a good recovery drive to finish tenth.
Stoffel Vandoorne had a strong drive for his best ever seventh position finish in his brief career. His McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso was outside the points and managed only 11th position, even as he was involved in a heated duel with Haas’s Kevin Magnussen.
The two Williams drivers Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa finished in eighth and ninth positions respectively. This was a good result for the Grove-based team struggling to hold off Toro Rosso and Renault in the Constructors’ Championship. Both these teams did not score a point today. Carlos Sainz Jr dropped out of the race with engine problems. Rookie driver Pierre Gasly driving in his first race finished 14th. The two Haas drivers were ahead of him and the two Renault drivers were behind him. As has become the norm, the Sauber drivers brought up the rear of the field.
Vettel turned the bitter disappointment of Saturday into a damage limitation exercise on Sunday and has kept his championship hopes alive. Mercedes were left scratching their heads as they were completely off the pace for the second race in a row. Hamilton scored a valuable 18 points and capitalized on Ferrari’s problems again. For Red Bull Racing, the improved pace in the last two races has shown that they are now getting on equal terms with the two leading teams. Verstappen cashed in on this by capping his 20th birthday weekend with a satisfying second victory of his career. The curtains came down on the final Malaysian Grand Prix today. We move on to the Suzuka circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix next weekend.
Malaysian GP Race Results:
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||56||30:01.3||25|
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||56||+22.519s||15|
|6||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||56||+78.630s||8|
|7||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Honda||55||+1 lap||6|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||55||+1 lap||4|
|9||19||Felipe Massa||Williams Mercedes||55||+1 lap||2|
|10||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||55||+1 lap||1|
|11||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||55||+1 lap||0|
|12||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|13||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|14||10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||55||+1 lap||0|
|15||30||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||55||+1 lap||0|
|16||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||55||+1 lap||0|
|17||94||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|18||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||54||+2 laps||0|
|NC||55||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||29||DNF||0|
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