Max Verstappen has won the last edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix of F1, at Sepang circuit. The Red Bull driver gets thus the first victory of the season and the second of its career after his unforgettable debut with Red Bull in the Spanish Grand Prix last year. Lewis Hamilton ended second, extending his advantage in the World Championship, leaving Vettel 34 points behind. The last in the podium was Daniel Ricciardo.
Ferrari prolonged his bad luck in Malaysia, as Räikkönen, with mechanical problems, was not able to take part in the race. This allowed Hamilton a comfortable start from pole. His teammate, Bottas, performed a wonderful start to fight for the second position with Verstappen, finally settling for the third. Ricciardo stayed fourth while Vandoorne was fifth. The Force India and the Williams followed. Vettel achieved the twelfth place in just over a lap. Ocon was forced into the pits after a touch with Massa, being relegated to the last position.
Verstappen made the fastest lap on lap 3 and overtook Hamilton for the first position on the first corner on lap 4. Ricciardo, meanwhile, was attacking Bottas but was not able, for the moment, to beat him. Five laps later, the Australian overtook the Finn and began his pursuit of Hamilton, who was eight seconds ahead of him. Both McLaren lost a position: Vandoorne the fifth in favour of Perez and Alonso the tenth in favour of Vettel. The German also beat Magnussen after several laps behind the McLaren and the Haas.
The first to stop were the mid-grid drivers, starting on lap 12. Vandoorne got out of the pits slightly behind the Williams, but Stroll‘s overtaking on Massa allowed the Belgian to stand in front of both.
The leaders would wait much more to pit. Hamilton was the first to do it, on lap 26, and returned third, behind both Red Bull, but ahead of Bottas and Vettel. To avoid an under-cut, Verstappen stopped on the next lap and maintained his lead over the World Championship leader. On the same lap, Vettel stopped and got the super-soft tyres. The German has the opposite strategy to the rest of the drivers on the lead. Bottas stopped on lap 28 and lost the position to Vettel. Ricciardo would be the last of the leaders to stop, returning to track more than 13 seconds behind Hamilton. Sainz was forced to abandon because of engine problems.
After this round of pitstops, this was the top 10: Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vettel, Bottas, Perez, Vandoorne, Stroll, Massa and Ocon. Behind him, Alonso overtook Magnussen for the thirteenth position, with a slight touch in turn 2. Alonso complained angrily on the radio: “What an id***. Hulkenberg is right.” The Danish driver did the same thing: “What the hell is this guy doing?” Ocon was also unhappy with Massa, who struggled to keep the ninth place with maneuvers close to the limit.
Palmer was to become the focus after a spin in the third sector. Alonso overtook him for the twelfth position and Magnussen tried to do so at the end of the main straight. Trying to defense his position, the Renault driver touched Magnussen and lost control of the car for the second time in less of a lap. Magnussen again complained about the maneuver on the radio.
Vettel was getting fastest lap after fastest lap, getting close to Ricciardo and Hamilton at a spectacular pace. After a failed attempt of overtaking, the Ferrari driver started to lose the pace and watched as his former team mate was out of reach with five laps to go. Outside the points zone, Hulkenberg was forced to stop for degradation of his tyres, yielding the eleventh position to Alonso. Just behind there was a nice fight between two French drivers: Grosjean overtook debutant Gasly for the thirteenth position.
Verstappen crossed the finishing line in first position, obtaining a deserved victory after surpassing Hamilton on track and dominating with an iron hand. The Briton finished second, extending his lead in the World Championship in six more points over Vettel (34 in total), fourth. Ricciardo completed the podium. The image of the Grand Prix was going to take place after the finish. In the return to the pits, Vettel hit Stroll in one of the most absurd possible situations, destroying his left rear suspension, having to stop in the middle of the track and getting on Wehrlein car to return to the pit-lane.
While Hamilton’s lead is strengthened in points, the feeling is that Ferrari has a bit more speed than Mercedes from here to the end of the season. We will see how the five remaining Grand Prix develop. Next one will be in Japan in a week time.
|1||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:30:01.290|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||+22.519s|
|6||Sergio Perez||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||+78.630s|
|7||Stoffel Vandoorne||MCLAREN HONDA||+1 lap|
|8||Lance Stroll||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||+1 lap|
|9||Felipe Massa||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||+1 lap|
|10||Esteban Ocon||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||+1 lap|
|11||Fernando Alonso||MCLAREN HONDA||+1 lap|
|12||Kevin Magnussen||HAAS FERRARI||+1 lap|
|13||Romain Grosjean||HAAS FERRARI||+1 lap|
|14||Pierre Gasly||TORO ROSSO||+1 lap|
|15||Jolyon Palmer||RENAULT||+1 lap|
|16||Nico Hulkenberg||RENAULT||+1 lap|
|17||Pascal Wehrlein||SAUBER FERRARI||+1 lap|
|18||Marcus Ericsson||SAUBER FERRARI||+2 laps|
|NC||Carlos Sainz||TORO ROSSO||DNF|