Malaysian Grand Prix: Ricciardo wins incident packed race
Daniel Ricciardo scored an unlikely and odds defying victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix as he capitalised on opportunities presented to him in an incident packed race at Sepang.
Lewis Hamilton dominated the race, which began with a Turn 1 incident that eliminated Sebastian Vettel on the spot, also involving Max Verstappen and Nico Rosberg.
But on lap 41 it was game over for Hamilton as he came to a halt on the exit of the Turn 1 complex, Mercedes in flames and a certain victory dashed.
This promoted Ricciardo into the lead, with his teammate Verstappen filling his mirrors. The teenager gave it all he had – clearly Multi 21 was not in play – as Verstappen made a ballsy move which nearly stuck.
But Ricciardo was up for the attack, despite running on tyres that were six laps older, he fended off the move which saw the pair wheel-to-wheel through four or five corners.
More was expected as team orders were clearly not on the cards, but Hamilton’s retirement prompted a virtual yellow flag period which resulted in both Red Bull’s pitting.
Thereafter with similar rubber, Ricciardo was untroubled by Verstappen as he powered to his fourth grand prix victory, ahead of his young teammate who gave him a big hug in parc ferme immediately after the race.
The big smiling Aussie told Mark Webber on the podium: “It was a race of challenges, Lewis got the lead and had his problems. I am not one for believing in a whole lot, but it went the other way in Monaco, and I will take this today.”
“It has been two years since the last win, and it has been a bit emotional. We have come so close but I said two weeks ago we would win one and we did,” said Ricciardo.
Verstappen added, “We were pushing the whole race. I am delighted.”
Rosberg, who found himself facing the wrong way in Turn 1, shortly after the start, drove a superb race to recover and claim third place and increase the championship lead to a very useful 23 points over Hamilton..
But it was no cruise for the German as he recovered from last place on track, made his way through the pack. He also survived a 10 second penalty, incurred when he ambushed Kimi Raikkonen (for third) in Turn 2, the pair touching as the Mercedes lunged past through the apex and coming out ahead of the Ferrari.
But Raikkonen did not benefit from the penalty, served on the Mercedes driver, as he was more than ten seconds behind Rosberg as they crossed the finish line and thus had to settle for fourth.
A superb recovery by Rosberg which may well be the key point of his F1 world title battle with Hamilton, but another bitterly disappointing afternoon for Ferrari.
Rosberg reflected, “I thought the race was all over, so I am really happy to fight back all the way to the podium. I wished for a better day but that is the way it goes sometimes. I feel tired after the race, but it is a good moment in general, and I look forward to the next one.”
Valterri Bottas took advantage of the mayhem ahead of him to claim fifth place for Williams, ahead of Sergio Perez in sixth.
From the back of the grid, Fernando Alonso crossed the line seventh with McLaren teammate Jenson Button ninth, the duo split by Nico Hulkenberg in eighth for Force India.
Jolyon Palmer wounded out the top ten, turning a trouble packed weekend into a carrer first grand prix point.
After a dramatic start in which front-row starter Rosberg was pitched into a spin by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton looked to have the race firmly under control. But on lap 41, disaster struck when the defending champion’s power unity failed. Ricciardo inherited the lead and 25 laps later the Australian took the chequered flag ahead of team-mate Verstappen for his fifth career win.
Rosberg claimed third place despite dropping to the rear of the field at the start and being hit with a penalty for causing a collision with Raikkonen.
At the start Hamilton made a good getaway and held his advantage over Rosberg. Two rows back Vettel had also made a good start from P5 and had passed Ricciardo. However, the German then took a narrow line into Turn One and, carrying too much speed, he went straight into the back of Rosberg.
The championship leader was sent into a spin that resulted in a drop to P21 at the end of lap one.
Vettel, however, shipped heavy damage, breaking the front left suspension of his car. He pulled over and stopped at Turn 3, which resulted in the Virtual Safety Car being deployed.
Rosberg’s spin, and the efforts made to avoid colliding with the Mercedes, had a significant effect on the order further back. Most notably, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso vaulted up the order, rising from the P22 start caused by engine penalties to P10 soon after the action resumed. At the front though, Hamilton was comfortable, easily controlling a slender gap to Ricciardo.
The man on the move was Verstappen. The Dutchman has dropped back after the start but was soon up to P5 and then when the VSC ended he climbed to P3.
There was trouble on lap nine, however, when Romain Grosjean’s Haas arrowed off track at Turn 15 due to brake failure. The VSC was deployed again and Red Bull pitted Verstappen from P3 for new soft tyres. He dropped to P4 behind Raikkonen.
Also making his way back up the order was Rosberg and by lap 19 the German had recovered to seventh place. On the following lap he breezed past Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso into Turn 15 and set his sights 1.6s up the road to Valtteri Bottas.
It didn’t take long for the Mercedes man to erase the gap and he passed the Williams on lap 19, emerging just behind Raikkonen who had pitted for hard tyres. Soon after, race leader Hamilton and second-placed Ricciardo made the same strategic decision in their first pit stops and thus Verstappen was boosted to P1 on soft tyres.
By lap 26 Verstappen was reporting that he was losing grip and at the end of the following lap he made his second pit stop, this time for hard tyres. He emerged five seconds behind team-mate Ricciardo in P3.
The next stint saw Hamilton continue to extend his lead and by lap 38 he was 20 seconds ahead of Ricciardo and 21 ahead of Verstappen.
Once again, though, it was Rosberg who was on the move. This time he chased down Raikkonen and on lap 39 attempted to pass the Finn into Turn One. The move failed but he persisted and in Turn 3 he went down the inside but he went a little wide on exit and the pair banged wheels hard with Raikkonen being bounced right. The move was immediately put under investigation by the stewards.
Then, though, the race took its most dramatic turn, as on lap 41 flames burst from the back of Hamilton’s car and the race leader retired with a blown engine.
That promoted Ricciardo to the race lead but with Verstappen on newer hard tyres would the Australian be able to hold the lead?
The answer came swiftly, with the pair being pitted in tandem. Both were sent out on soft tyres. Rosberg too pitted for the same compound and set off in pursuit. The chase was quickly called off, however, the stewards handing the German a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision with Raikkonen.
It left Ricciardo in charge and he began to establish a gap to his team-mate.
Rosberg continued to push but with just nine seconds in hand over Raikkonen there was the possibility that the championship leader might miss out on a podium finish.
Raikkonen’s race engineer told the Finn “you know what you have to do”. The Finn might have but his car would not co-operate and within a few laps he began to lose time to Rosberg and when the pair crossed the line and Rosberg’s penalty was applied the German still had three seconds in hand over the Ferrari man to hold on to third place.
At the front Verstappen was pushing and with seven laps to go he was just 1.1s behind Ricciardo. But the Australian held firm and eventually crossed the line 2.4s clear of Verstappen to claim his fourth career win.
The result means that Rosberg extends his championship lead over Hamilton to 23 points, while Ricciardo further cements himself into third place in the title fight with 204 points.
In the Constructors’ battle Mercedes’ woes meant they missed out on their chance to seal the team’s title in Malaysia. They now have 533 points to Red Bull’s 359 with Ferrari third in 313.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang – Sunday, Race Result
|1||3||Daniel Ricciardo||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||56||1:37:12.776||25|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||56||+2.443s||18|
|5||77||Valtteri Bottas||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||56||+61.582s||10|
|6||11||Sergio Perez||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||56||+63.794s||8|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||MCLAREN HONDA||56||+65.205s||6|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||56||+74.062s||4|
|9||22||Jenson Button||MCLAREN HONDA||56||+81.816s||2|
|11||55||Carlos Sainz||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||56||+98.878s||0|
|12||9||Marcus Ericsson||SAUBER FERRARI||55||+1 lap||0|
|13||19||Felipe Massa||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||55||+1 lap||0|
|14||26||Daniil Kvyat||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||55||+1 lap||0|
|15||94||Pascal Wehrlein||MRT MERCEDES||55||+1 lap||0|
|16||31||Esteban Ocon||MRT MERCEDES||55||+1 lap||0|
|NC||12||Felipe Nasr||SAUBER FERRARI||46||DNF||0|
|NC||21||Esteban Gutierrez||HAAS FERRARI||39||DNF||0|
|NC||8||Romain Grosjean||HAAS FERRARI||7||DNF||0|