Daniel Ricciardo finally took his first victory of the season as he led a Red Bull Racing 1-2 at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday as long-time race leader Lewis Hamilton saw his chances of the win go up in smoke.
Hamilton had looked on course to return to the top of the championship standings only to see his internal combustion engine fail while comfortably in the lead, and with Nico Rosberg finishing on the podium in third, the Briton now falls twenty-three points behind his German team-mate in the championship standings.
Ricciardo secured his fourth victory of his career with a strong drive, and he was shadowed by team-mate Max Verstappen in the closing laps, with the duo at one point going side by side through the first sequence of corners before the team appeared to call off the fight to ensure a 1-2 finish.
Rosberg’s podium was less straightforward for the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver, after climbing from the back of the field after being spun around by Sebastian Vettel at the first turn as the Scuderia Ferrari driver attempted to make a pass on Verstappen, only to hit Rosberg.
Vettel retired with a damaged suspension that saw the introduction of a virtual safety car, while Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen and Esteban Gutierrez were all forced to pit at the end of the lap with damage.
The concertina effect as the field attempted to get around Rosberg’s spun car and Vettel’s ailing Ferrari caused Gutierrez to brake sharply, which caused Magnussen to hit the Haas F1 Team driver, with Kvyat then unable to avoid Magnussen’s Renault Sport F1 machine. Gutierrez pitted with a puncture, while Magnussen and Kvyat took new front wings.
Later in the race as he attempted to continue his recover, Rosberg made a robust move on Kimi Raikkonen for what was at that point fourth, with the two banging wheels at turn two, with the move being deemed too strong by the stewards who handed him a ten-second time penalty.
Rosberg was able to make enough of a gap to the second Ferrari driver to ensure that when the time was added to his race time he was able to stay ahead of Raikkonen.
Raikkonen was untroubled for fourth, while Valtteri Bottas made a one-stop strategy work to take fifth place for Williams Martini Racing, although the team lost ground to Sahara Force India with Sergio Perez and Nico Hülkenberg finishing sixth and eighth respectively for the Silverstone-based outfit.
In between the Force India’s was Fernando Alonso, with the McLaren-Honda driver moving from the back of the field after engine penalties earlier in the weekend, with the Spaniard making up a lot of ground on the opening lap before driving superbly until the chequered flag, and with a handful more laps could have even challenged Perez for sixth.
Jenson Button finished ninth in the second McLaren, while Jolyon Palmer secured his first point of his career as the Renault Sport F1 driver held off the challenge of Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr to claim tenth.
Marcus Ericsson had one of his and Sauber F1 Team’s best performances of the season and was running as high as seventh at one point, but the Swede was forced to settle for twelfth, ahead of Felipe Massa, who endured a tough afternoon in the second Williams after stalling ahead of the formation lap and being forced to start from the pit lane. Massa then had a puncture soon after, and he drove a lonely race thereafter.
Following his early pit stop and with complaints of brake issue over the radio, Kvyat was fourteenth in the second Toro Rosso, while Pascal Wehrlein got the better of Esteban Ocon in the Manor Racing battle at the back of the field. Ocon made a great start to run tenth on the opening lap, and amid the pit stop cycle got as high as eighth, but two time penalties for speeding in the pit lane cost him valuable time and left him under attack from Wehrlein.
Felipe Nasr was unable to match Sauber team-mate Ericsson throughout the race, and ultimately retired in the pits with around six laps remaining, while Gutierrez’s race ended prematurely as well as his left front tyre detached itself from his car just after a pit stop behind the virtual safety car as Hamilton’s car was cleared from the track at turn one.
Magnussen also retired as the damage from his turn one incident with Gutierrez and Kvyat was more than just a front wing, and after a number of laps struggling for performance towards the back of the field, he was called into the pits to end his afternoon.
Romain Grosjean also caused a virtual safety car when the brakes appeared to fail on his Haas car early one, with the Frenchman retiring from a second consecutive race with brake issues.
But no one could deny Ricciardo the victory, his first since Belgium in 2014, and this surely will make amends after seeing the opportunities of wins in Spain and Monaco disappear through no fault of his own earlier this season.
And in the championship… it’s advantage Rosberg!
Sepang International Circuit Race Result
|1||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||1:37:12.776||25|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||+2.443||18|
|6||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||+1:03.794||8|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||+1:14.062||4|
|11||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||+1:38.878|
|12||9||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Sauber-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|13||19||Felipe Massa||BRZ||Williams-Mercedes||+1 Lap|
|14||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso-Renault||+1 Lap|
|15||94||Pascal Wehrlein||GER||Manor-Mercedes||+1 Lap|
|16||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Manor-Mercedes||+1 Lap|