Max Verstappen wins the final Malaysia Grand Prix ahead of pole-man Hamilton.
Ferrari went into the race with hopes of a Raikkonen challenge, but those went away with a power unit failure on his way to the grid. Leaving hopes of points being taken away from Hamilton at the feet of Red Bull. A challenge grasped by Verstappen as Red Bull’s race pace outshone the Silver Arrows. While Vettel stormed through the field to recover from his qualifying woes.
Disaster in Singapore followed by another disaster in qualifying at the Malaysia Grand Prix left Sebastian Vettel with 28-points and 18 cars between himself and championship-leader Lewis Hamilton when the grid formed on Sunday.
What Vettel did have in his pocket, however, were fresh ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H’s as he took a 20-place grid penalty to start in 20th place, after qualifying in 20th place when his turbo gave way in Q1 without posting a timed lap.
Ferrari then had all eyes on Kimi Raikkonen, as the Finn looked to clinch another pole after breaking his 128-Grand Prix duct in Monaco. But the number two man at Maranello fell just short of pole with just four-hundredths of a second the gap to Lewis.
At least Ferrari could hope Raikkonen could put pressure on Hamilton in the race. But that was before Kimi rolled out of the garage to take his position on the final Malaysian grid.
Hit with a sudden loss of power with an issue in his power unit, not believed to be turbo related. Pushed aside prior to the formation lap, and a few laps into the race, officially retired. His first did not start since the infamous tyre-drama of Indianapolis 2005.
With Raikkonen departing his grid slot, the fight to the Silver Arrows was left at the feet of Red Bull. The team that showed the best race pace in practice, but showed similar promise in Malaysia before falling short of the mark when the Ferrari’s crashed out to hand Hamilton victory.
This time, though, the race pace stuck and the Red Bull’s leapt into the ring. Taking the fight to the Mercedes men immediately with Verstappen tucking in behind Hamilton and Ricciardo behind Bottas after the Finn drove around the outside at Turn 1 to move up the order after a poor qualifying.
Verstappen’s threat then led to a move on lap three. Utilising the activation of DRS to take the lead of the race against a championship-leader suffering from de-rates. Costing Hamilton up to 160 horsepower.
As for Ricciardo, the Australian’s threat to Bottas took longer to manifest a move. Eventually taking the place on lap 9 by initially forcing Bottas to give him space coming out of turn two. Compromising the Finn’s run to turn four, where a lack of defence handed over the place.
Once in third, Ricciardo began to pull away from Bottas as Valtteri continues to struggle come Sunday. Though, Daniel’s pace was matched by Hamilton as he sat comfortably between the soon to be Aston Martin title sponsored team.
The threat to Hamilton, however, was now evidently from Sebastian Vettel. With starting at the back of the grid no issue for the four-time champion as he rocketed through the squabbling order on the opening lap to cross the line in P13. Picking up to further places with a dive-bomb on Hulkenberg and Ocon stopping with a slow puncture.
Sebastian’s initial storm may soon have stalled once in eleventh place, as Fernando Alonso drained his McLaren chasing Magnussen for P9.
Taking until lap nine before another dive at the final corner hairpin dispatched the Spaniard. Soon too dispatching the Dane to make it 10 cars overtaken with just one-fifth of the race completed.
Cars ahead stopping then promoted Vettel into the high-scoring slots. Utilising the softs he started the race on to stretch his advantage to cover those who stopped first. Even gaining on the Mercedes of Bottas to move to within four-seconds after 21 laps when overtaking Perez with an easy move into turn one.
Bottas, however, could play the team-game for Hamilton. Holding the Ferrari back to ensure when Hamilton soon pitted he would not fall behind his title-rival. Though Vettel pitting one lap later resulted in the Finn being undercut four fourth.
In truth, Bottas’ pace was no match for the clearly advantageous Ferrari. Streaking away from the car supposed to be the best in Malaysia, to reel in Ricciardo for a late challenge on a podium place.
Yet here arrived Fernando Alonso once more. The man who cost Vettel time early on, costing him again as he cut back behind Ricciardo to take the racing line at the opening bend. Keeping his former employer behind under blue flags and letting Ricciardo pull marginally away.
Another challenge by Vettel only resulted in the Ferrari burning its supersoft front tyres. Slowing his pace and falling away from third to cool his engine. Keeping the freshest unit of the title-hopefuls in a better condition for the remaining rounds.
But, once the race was over, contact with Lance Stroll may result in Sebastian Vettel needing a gearbox change in Japan next weekend.
For while Stroll crawled back to the pits on the outside of turn 4 and the inside for 5, Vettel turned in and was instantly hit by the Williams. Snapping the rear-left suspension and pitching the tyre over the shark fin.
The post-race contact was not the first of the day for Lance Stroll, either. With the Canadian rookie involved in a mid-race squabble with his team-mate after Felipe Massa was able to undercut him during the pit-stop phase.
Stroll attempted to fight his team-mate back from the moment he emerged out of the pit lane. But as he tried to, Felipe held firm and forced Lance to back out through the opening bend.
One lap later and on lap 14 a third car then emerged in the fight, as Stoffel Vandoorne emerged directly in front of the scrapping Williams’.
Taking away track space Felipe may have looked to utilise to defend from Stroll, who negotiated his way ahead of his experienced stablemate. Though soon falling away from the McLaren that demonstrated its superior chassis through the fast sweeping corners of five and six.
Stoffel had initially qualified in seventh place and jumped the Force India of Ocon off the line to move into P5 with Raikkonen’s pre-race mechanical failure. But, while one Force India fell down the order with an early stop, the other at the hands of Sergio Perez capitalised on Stoffel running deep at turn 2 to take the position.
Ocon had made his way back into P9 after his first lap stop. But again fell down the order on lap 25 when contact with Sainz at the first corner pitched the Frenchman into a spin.
Estaban did leave plenty of space on the inside for Carlos to use, but as the two turned right for the corner the pair connected. With the race stewards deeming the collision no drivers particular fault and opted not to investigate. Though any punishment for Sainz would have proved irrelevant when he reported a loss of power five laps later and was forced to retire.
Turn one proved to be the corner of the race time and time again during the 2017 and potentially last ever Malaysia Grand Prix. With two further contact ridden incidents unfolding in the opening bends.
One of which was between Magnussen and Alonso as the pair fought once more on lap 32. This time over P13 as Fernando waited on K-Mag to choose a side to defend on going into the braking zone. Eventually taking to the inside line as the Haas driver returned to the normal racing line.
Fernando’s dive, unfortunately, resulted in the Spaniard running deep into the corner and opening the door for Magnussen to cut back on him. A chance he took with a decision to try and drive the McLaren out of track on the pinch for turn two.
Alonso, on the other hand, opted not to back out and instead got his elbows out to force his way through in a similar fashion to Rosberg on Raikkonen one year ago.
This incident also highlighted the steward’s leniency in 2017 to racing incidents as the incident a year ago resulted in a 10-second time penalty for the would-be world champion, Nico Rosberg. While today’s incident saw no action taken.
Seven laps on from that incident, and on lap 39, Palmer was then also involved in an incident with Magnussen at the opening bend as he spun for the second time in just three corners.
Firstly, Palmer spun on his own at the penultimate corner. Then as he righted his car, Magnussen snuck bye with Verstappen gaining to lap the pair along the pit-straight.
Shortly after, Palmer then sought to follow the Red Bull through with a dive under braking. But a loss of traction resulted in the Briton spinning again, straight across the nose of the Haas.
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||1:30’01.290||25|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||22.519||15|
|6||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||78.63||8|
|7||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||Honda||1 lap||6|
|8||Lance Stroll||Williams||Mercedes||1 lap||4|
|9||Felipe Massa||Williams||Mercedes||1 lap||2|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||1 lap||1|
|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||Renault||1 lap|
|15||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||Renault||1 lap|
|16||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||Renault||1 lap|
|17||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber||Ferrari||1 lap|
|18||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||Ferrari||2 laps|
|19||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Renault||DNF – PU Failure|
|20||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||Ferrari||DNS – PU failure|