Daniel Ricciardo leads home Red Bull 1-2 at chaotic Malaysia GP
Daniel Ricciardo led home a Red Bull Racing 1-2 at Sunday’s Malaysia GP at the Sepang International Circuit in Sepang after both Mercedes drivers hit trouble.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was, however, able to salvage a third, and now leads Lewis Hamilton by 23 points in the World Championship.
The race was largely defined by two separate incidents. The first for a multi-car crash on the opening lap in Turn 1, and then the second for when Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes engine let go late on in the race.
Sebastian Vettel, who had started in fifth position, took a look down the inside of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen into Turn 1 on the opening lap. Verstappen took the racing line and the two made contact, with Vettel’s Ferrari tagging Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes too and sending him off into a spin. Vettel was out on the spot while Rosberg dropped back to 21st. Further back in the pack, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat rear-ended the Renault of Kevin Magnussen, causing Magnussen to retire later on in the race. Haas F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez also suffered a punctured tire.
The incident brought out the Virtual Safety Car, with Lewis Hamilton leading Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo out front. Verstappen soon found himself back up in third, but then elected to pit under the second Virtual Safety Car period, which flew after the brakes on Romain Grosjean’s Haas failed entering the final turn on Lap 9.
Meanwhile, Rosberg had been working his way back up to the front of the field, and found himself up in fifth at the halfway point of the race behind Hamilton, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen.
Rosberg made an aggressive pass on Raikkonen for fourth place in the closing stages of the race. The two made contact, and the stewards awarded Rosberg a 10-second time penalty. Meanwhile, Verstappen had caught his teammate Ricciardo for second and the two began scrapping for position, ultimately costing them a chance at challenging Hamilton for the win.
However, that all changed when Hamilton’s Mercedes began spewing out flames down the front straight on Lap 41. He was out of the race on the spot.
A third Virtual Safety Car was deployed and all of the leaders elected to pit, which gave Ricciardo a two-second lead over Verstappen. The Virtual Safety Car period was extended as a wheel fell off of Gutierrez’ Haas machine.
Verstappen kept Ricciardo honest in the closing stages but was unable to challenge him again for the win. Rosberg finished over 10 seconds ahead of Raikkonen and so kept third, while Williams driver Valtteri Bottas placed fifth.
Bottas had started 11th on the grid on the medium tires, allowing him to play with his strategy. For his teammate Felipe Massa, it was a nightmare race, as the Brazilian’s car failed to roll off for the warm up lap, then he suffered from a puncture on Lap 7 despite pitting on Lap 1 after driving through the debris field.
Force India’s Sergio Perez placed sixth while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso placed seventh after starting from the rear. Alonso’s teammate Button, racing in his 300th Grand Prix, had a solid race all-race long until he pit just before the final Virtual Safety Car, ultimately dropping him to ninth – behind Nico Hulkenberg – at the line. Renault’s Jolyon Palmer rounded out the top 10 for his first points of his F1 career.
Unofficial race results:
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