Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo ended a two year victory drought to take victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix as both Mercedes cars hit trouble.
Prior to the start of the race, Felipe Massa was forced to start from the pitlane as he stalled his car. At the start pole-sitter Hamilton got off to an excellent start keeping the lead, meanwhile chaos ensued behind him as Verstappen and Vettel collided leading to Vettel hitting Rosberg and spinning his fellow German around. Vettel’s suspension broke on the spot leading to his retirement while Rosberg resumed the race in 21st. Further down the field Gutierrez picked up a puncture after contact with Kvyat with the Russian being forced to change his front wing. The Virtual Safety was deployed. At the time it came out the order at the top was: Hamilton, Ricciardo, Perez, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Button.
Once the VSC was deactivated, Max Verstappen wasted no time in passing Kimi Raikkonen and then Sergio Perez to make up for his eventful start which lost him time. In the first instance he caught Raikkonen napping when the VSC period ended by passing the Finn on the start finish straight and for the pass on Perez he neatly passed on the inside. Fernando Alonso, further down the order had already took advantage of the collision at the start to work his way all the way up to 10th and soon found himself in 9th after a brief tussle with Romain Grosjean. Grosjean was soon the centre of attention again when his Haas suffered a brake failure and went straight on into the gravel and spun.
With this incident came a flurry of pit stops. Most of which from those running in midfield with Verstappen being the highest placed car to dare to stop early. Rosberg also pitted in. After his stop he stormed up the field and propelled himself to sixth. Meanwhile Magnussen retired after contact on lap one. Rosberg then made light work of Bottas for fifth. On that very lap both Raikkonen and Hamilton both pitted in for hard tyres while on the following lap Ricciardo followed suit. This sequence of stops gave Max Verstappen the lead with Hamilton, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Rosberg trailing. Verstappen initially had an eight second lead when he took the lead but this eventually crumbled as his tyres struggled and the Dutch driver bailed.
He came out in third ahead of Raikkonen. Rosberg then pitted in from fifth place and resumed the race on hard tyres while Raikkonen followed soon after. Raikkonen soon came into the sights of Rosberg who showed fantastic prowess to pass the Finn on the inside of Turn Two. Rosberg attempted to go around the outside of Raikkonen at Turn One before going back behind the Finn, then re-emerging to stick his Mercedes firmly up the inside. There was minor contact but nothing performance impacting. Unfortunately the stewards did not see this side of it as Rosberg was given an inexplicable 10 second time penalty for his gutsy overtake.
Then after this came an incredible battle between the two Red Bull drivers which would in-turn decide the outcome of the race. Verstappen initially going to the outside of Ricciardo at turn four before cutting to the inside on the exit, they ran side by side through turn five -which probably resulted in some nervy moments in the Red Bull garage- before Ricciardo repelled Verstappen and held onto second place.
Then came the moment when the tide turned. Lewis Hamilton comes streaming down the start-finish straight, all is well. That is until white smoke comes pouring from the back of car, followed by fire with the British driver then pulling over at the side of the road. All eyes in the main grandstand turned to the car. He shouts “No, no, no” on the team radio he’s fuming. There’s dismay in the Mercedes garage too. The Virtual Safety Car is deployed and is then extended when Esteban Gutierrez is forced to pull over when a loose wheel nut results in one of his front tyres falling off.
The front-runners pit in for a new set of tyres. It’s now a straight race to the finish. The final 10 laps consisted of a very intense tug of war between Verstappen and Ricciardo. Verstappen tried to push all he could but in the end Ricciardo had more than enough pace to keep him off and win the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Australian was followed by his teammate Verstappen, whose drive earned him the accolade of Driver of the Day. Rosberg managed to recover from the disastrous start to finish third and after Hamilton’s misfortune he extends his championship lead to nearly a win’s worth.