2017: Round 15/20, Malaysian GP, Sepang


Red Bull beat Mercedes as Ferrari rue what might have been

1st     MAX VERSTAPPEN    Red Bull-TAG Heuer
2nd    LEWIS HAMILTON      Mercedes
3rd     DANIEL RICCIARDO   Red Bull-TAG Heuer

With both Ferraris sidelined, Max Verstappen decisively seized his chance to score a convincing second GP victory. Qualifying P3, he crucially repelled a first lap attack from Bottas to retain P2, then on lap 4, out-braked a wary Hamilton into turn 1 to take the lead. Once in clean air, the RB13 working beautifully, Max pulled out 9s in 18 laps, then in energy-sapping heat, controlled the gap to the finish. The eight laps needed to pass Bottas gave Ricciardo too much to do to catch Hamilton, but Dan held onto his P3 by firmly slamming the door at turn 1 when, on lap 48, a fast-closing Vettel made his one and only attack before his front ‘super-softs’ wilted. Starting dead last, Vettel’s rapid charge through the field to so nearly snatch a podium clearly demonstrated that Ferrari had the fastest car in Sepang, engine problems costing the Scuderia almost certain victory. Vettel, odds on favourite for pole, did not participate in Q1, while Räikkönen was wheeled off the front row into retirement. Adding insult to injury, a bizarre collision between Vettel and Stroll on the slowing down lap wiped off the Ferrari’s left-rear corner, Seb returning to the pits astride Wehrlein’s Sauber. Behind lacklustre Bottas, an unwell Pérez was a valiant best of the rest in P6, while Stoffel Vandoorne shone for the much-maligned McLaren-Honda team, starting and finishing a fine P7 having held P5 during the early laps. Pierre Gasly debuted for Toro Rosso, replacing Daniil Kvyat.
Despite a mighty Hamilton lap for his 70th pole, Mercedes unexpectedly struggled for race pace all weekend, invariably third fastest. Following another shambles, this time unreliability, Ferrari will at least take heart from having the legs of Mercedes at the last two very different circuits, and that Red Bull now seem capable of taking points off Lewis, Max denying him seven points such that Seb only yielded a further six. This championship isn’t yet over!

The Championship Chase
Hamilton 281, Vettel 247, Bottas 222, Ricciardo 177, Räikkönen 138
Mercedes 503, Ferrari 385, Red Bull 270, Force India 133, Williams 65

Formula 1 All the Races