Ricciardo Wins Remarkable Malaysian Grand Prix
Daniel Ricciardo narrowly beat Max Verstappen to give Red Bull a one-two victory in a scintillating race.
Nico Rosberg recovered from an opening lap spin to finish third while championship hopeful Lewis Hamilton again suffered mechanical problems that forced his retirement late in the race.
Ferrari could only manage fourth place for Raikkonen after Vettel crashed out on the first corner, with Bottas giving Williams fifth spot ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso and Jenons Button claimed seventh and ninth for McLaren while Jolyon Palmer claimed his first ever point in Formula 1 ending in tenth for Renault.
Bingles and Blow Outs
The race began in dramatic fashion with the tricky 180 degree Turn 1 right-hander causing problems from the start.
Hamilton made a strong get-away from pole position but behind him a series of cars tried to force their way through the first corner. Rosberg looked to overtake Red Bull’s Verstappen only to spin after making contact with Vettel on the inside. The Ferrari’s front-left suspension was broken putting Vettel out of the race and Rosberg was forced to re-join from the back of the field.
As Rosberg slowly made his way through the pack, Hamilton was out front trying to build a lead over Ricciardo and Verstappen. But an early virtual safety car – caused by a brake problem in Grosjean’s Haas for the second consecutive race – saw Red Bull gamble with an early stop for Verstappen to split their driver strategies.
It looked to be working when he led the race after Hamilton’s next pit stop. But after needing to stop again for new tyres, the Englishman took back the lead and seemed to be cruising to a comfortable victory. Fearing the worse, a clearly desperate Rosberg bumped and bashed past drivers later getting a 10 second penalty for colliding with Raikkonen in a reckless move.
But all of that didn’t matter after Hamilton’s internal combustion engine exploded along the straight to prematurely end his race.
“My question is to Mercedes,” said Hamilton. “We have so many engines made, but mine are the only ones failing this year.”
“Someone needs to give me some answers because this is not acceptable. We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing. It does not sit right with me.”
Classic Racing Between Red Bull
Just prior to Hamilton’s fiery end, Ricciardo and Verstappen delivered some breathtaking wheel-to-wheel racing with the Australian trying hard to keep hold of his second position.
And just as well that he did. The virtual safety car that followed Hamilton’s exit presented a good opportunity for both drivers to pit for fresh tyres leaving Ricciardo a little over 2 seconds in front when they got back on the track.
The scene couldn’t help but prompt a flash-back to several years beforehand in Malaysia when Vettel – then in a Red Bull – ignored team orders to pass Webber. But whether or not team orders where given today, Ricciardo hung on to claim his first victory of the season.
“It’s been an interesting two years since my last victory so it feels awesome for sure, I’m very grateful for it,” said Ricciardo.
“It was hard racing and for sure we’re both determined to win and we want to beat each other, but I think we did it today very fair and with a lot of respect. So I thank him for that and I think it goes both ways. It was good fun.”
Back in the pack, it seemed fitting that Jenson Button in his 300th race picked up points as his team-mate, Alonso, demonstrated his experience starting from last on the grid to finish in seventh.
And, crucially, Perez and Hulkenberg ended the race in fifth and eighth to help Force India leap-frog Williams in the constructor standings.