Verstappen dominates Malaysian GP to victory

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Malaysia, Sepang International Circuitmy

Max Verstappen has dominated the Malaysian Grand Prix to win the second race of his career. Second place finisher Lewis Hamilton led for 5 laps before seeing the Dutchman pass by. Daniel Ricciardo finished third to complete the party for Red Bull Racing.

Before the start, it was announced that Ferrari had replaced an ICE, Turbo and ERS-H on Vettel's car, totalling to 20 starting grid penalty points. For the German however, it didn't make much difference and it looked like the ideal moment to make the changes.

With Vettel lining up at the back of the stating grid, Raikkonen reported "no power" on his installation lap as well, similar to what Vettel experienced at the end of FP3 on Saturday. The Finn swiftly returned to the pits, where mechanics analysed the problem, and eventually had to decide not to start Kimi Raikkonen, making for a retirment even before the race started.

This meant that Hamilton was alone on the front row of the grid, enabling him to make a safe start and retain his first position. Behind him, Verstappen moved into second, even though Bottas made an extremely strong start and was menacing to take second. He had to settle for third, just ahead of Ricciardo.

Stoffel Vandoorne also gained and moved up into 5th, ahead of Perez. Ocon lost out at the start as he got sandwished between Massa and Perez. The Force India driver opted to pit 1 lap later while Massa nearly spun and dropped several positions, rejoining behind Stroll.

Sebastian Vettel gained most and found himself up in 10th by lap 10, progressing 8 positions in the first lap before getting stuck behind Fernando Alonso for a while. He passed the Spaniard on lap 9, followed by Magnussen on lap 10.

The first few laps had shown Red Bull had strong race pace. Both RBRs were handily following their Mercedes counterparts. Verstappen took the lead on lap 4 while Ricciardo passed Bottas a few laps later. Both drivers rapidly left the Mercedes behind, each having around 6 seconds in hand by lap 13.

At lap 10, pitstops already started happening, meaing that by lap 17, the top 8 were cars that hadn't stopped yet. At that time, Verstappen led by 8.5s over Hamilton. Ricciardo followed in third, 4.5s behind Hamilton and 12s ahead of Bottas. In fact, Perez and Vettel were less than 4 seconds behind Bottas. Alonso was another 14s further down, followed at 2s by Sainz. Ocon was the first of the drivers who alreay stopped, with Vandoorne completing the top 10.

Vettel progressed past Perez and onto the rear wing of Bottas, but was stuck there until he stopped on lap 28, changing softs to supersofts. Hamilton and Verstappen had pitted just before that moment. They changed supersofts to softs. Ricciardo on the other hand was asked to keep going a little bit longer on his supersofts.

The next lap, Bottas pitted and rejoined a seconds behind Vettel. Ricciardo pitted another lap later in the race and ended up again in third, albeit this time 12s down on Hamilton, contrary to the 5s .

In the next phase of the race, Kevin Magnussen was drawing some attention to himself, even though not for progressing forward. First, he got passed by Alonso after trying to shovel him off the track, saying "What is that guy doing?". The two-time champion meanwhile said "Haha, that guy is an idiot. Hulkenberg is right!". A bit later, Palmer spins and rejoins the track, but then found himself battling with Magnussen himself.

Just when Verstappen passed them on the pit straight, Magnussen decided to go for a pass on Palmer too, again turning into a collision, even though without car damage. And, unsurprisingly, both drivers blamed each other via their radios. Magnussen again the most outspoken "What a **** lunatic". He also said he had damage on the car, to which his team replied they saw nothing on the data.

Meanwhile, in the fight for the podium, Vettel creeped ever closer to Ricciardo, and did have a go, but failed to make it stick. The Ferrari driver was also annoyed by some of the lapped cars, including Fernando Alonso who didn't took position in between the two for two laps, before moving over for Vettel as well.

5 laps from the end though, Vettel's pace faded, most likely the result of his super soft tyres wearing out versus the softs of Ricciardo. He no longer posed a threat and finished 4th.

It didn't bother Verstappen though, as he steadily continued to finish first, recording the second win of his career. Lewis Hamilton finished second and was never in contention for the win, bar from the first 5 laps. Daniel Ricciardo completed the party for Red Bull Racing in third place.

To make things worse for Vettel, he did get his car crashed in the way to the pits. While running fairly slowly after the finish, he went around the outside of Stroll, who subsequently came into contact with him. The collision meant a complete destruction of the left rear suspension. As predictable this weekend, Vettel blamed the Williams driver, but replays made it look less clear cut. Pascal Wehrlein stopped in the Sauber to give Vettel a ride back to the pits.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
133Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer561:30:01.2900
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG56+12.770s0
33Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer56+22.519s0
45Sebastian VettelFerrari56+37.362s0
577Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG56+56.021s0
611Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes56+78.630s0
72Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Honda55+1 lap0
818Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes55+1 lap0
919Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes55+1 lap0
1031Esteban OconForce India Mercedes55+1 lap0
1114Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Honda55+1 lap0
1220Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari55+1 lap0
138Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari55+1 lap0
1410Pierre GaslyToro Rosso55+1 lap0
1530Jolyon PalmerRenault55+1 lap0
1627Nico HulkenbergRenault55+1 lap0
1794Pascal WehrleinSauber Ferrari55+1 lap0
189Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari54+2 laps0
NC55Carlos SainzToro Rosso29DNF0
NC7Kimi RäikkönenFerrari0DNF0