Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took a shock victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix after taking advantage of an engine failure for the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton with just 15 laps till the end of the race.
Ricciardo didn’t have it all his own way though and had to fight for the victory with team mate Max Verstappen, with both drivers going wheel to wheel for a lap at one point. Verstappen narrowly missed out on passing Ricciardo in turns five and six, which was critical at the time as just a few laps later Hamilton’s engine failed, giving the victory over to the Red Bull’s. The team made a precautionary pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car called to remove Hamilton’s smouldering Mercedes, opting to stack the cars in the pits. Since he had track position Ricciardo was serviced first, then Verstappen. Which is the way it stayed until the end of the race, giving Red Bull their first 1-2 since Brazil 2013.
“No hard feelings to Lewis but I will take the win,” Ricciardo said during the podium interviews.
The Red Bull drivers were joined on the podium by the sole remaining Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, after a tricky race for the championship leader. Rosberg was hit by the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel going into turn 1, and consequently fell to the back of the field as a result of the contact, while Vettel was out on the spot and handed a three place grid penalty by the stewards for Japan next week. That left Rosberg with it all to do as he fought his way back through the field aggressively during the race. He very nearly lost the podium position after an incident with the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, as he barged passed him into turn two for 4th place at the time. The stewards took a dim view and gave Rosberg a ten second time penalty for the move. Though by the time the end of the race came he’d built up enough of a gap to Raikkonen that the time penalty did not affect his podium chances.
Hamilton had been leading the race with over twenty second to 2nd place Ricciardo and only 15 laps to go, when his engine failed completely leading to a fire in the back of his car. He pulled over and jumped out, the disappointment clear in his body language as he took a moment to reflect by the burning car. It was yet another cruel blow for Hamilton and could be one of the defining moments of this championship, especially if he is unable to claw back the points deficits to Rosberg. Not a driver well known for toeing the team line Hamilton then lit the fuse after the race, and started the conspiracy theories once again, by questioning why his car has repeatedly failed him this year.
“I just can’t believe that there’s eight Mercedes cars and only my engines are the ones that have gone this way,” Hamilton told the media following the race. “Something just doesn’t feel right. There’s been 43 engines from Mercedes and only mine have gone. It’s odd.”
The Ferrari of Raikkonen finished off the podium in 4th, after failing to close to within ten seconds of Rosberg in the closing stages of the racing. While the Williams of Valtteri Bottas made his one stop strategy work to finish 5th, importantly ahead of the Force India of Sergio Perez in 6th and Nico Hulkenberg in 8th. The result means Williams stay within striking distance of Force India in the constructors battle for 4th place, with just three points between the two teams now.
Once again it was another tenacious drive from Fernando Alonso in the McLaren to finish the race 7th after starting it last. While Jenson Button was able to finish in the points in 9th on his 300th Grand Prix start. The race once again shows signs of improvement from McLaren as them look to carry on their long climb back up to the top. Button was not the only relieved Brit today, as Jolyon Palmer finished in 10th place, meaning he was finally able to achieve his first F1 world championship point in his rookie season.
Carlos Sainz finished just outside of the point in 11th for Toro Rosso, with Marcus Ericsson getting his best finish of the season in 12th for Sauber. Felipe Massa finished in 13th for Williams after starting from the pitlane following an issue on the grid, and a puncture during the race. Behind him was the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat, who was suffering with breaking issues towards the end of the race. With the two Manors of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon bringing up the finishers in 15th and 16th place respectfully.
Overall the race was very entertaining. Malaysia always seems to throw up good on track battles and this year was no exception, with the Red Bulls battles as well as countless others it was interesting to watch. It was also interesting to watch Rosberg fight back through the field after his incident in turn 1, something that our DTM correspondent Mathew Hull picked up on. “Rosberg had a large obstacle to overcome but he picked himself up, dusted himself down and drove with controlled aggression to fire himself up the field. He had yet another obstacle to overcome when the stewards tried to kick him down by penalising him for a perfectly legal overtake. Hamilton has had plenty of luck all season long and it is about time he got a spell of bad luck and Ricciardo caught a break. Major respect to RBR for letting their drivers race. Ricciardo repelling Verstappen in that battle was what won him the race.”
I’m inclined to agree with him, especially about Red Bull. At a track synonymous with the team for Multi 21 (a fact Mark Webber even alluded to during the podium interviews today) it could have been so easy to tell the drivers to hold station and not fight. But they didn’t, giving us one of the best battles on track this race. The race had everything, first lap drama, drivers fighting tooth and nail, while the plot twist of Hamilton’s engine failure gave you that jolt of energy you needed to wake up and engage if you were starting to sump from the early morning wake up call. This was easily one of the better races this season.
I’ll leave you now with my highlight of the weekend. And it is of course Daniel Ricciardo turning the normally stuffy podium celebration into a drinking competition. First doing a “shoey” himself, before forcing Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner to do one too, then his young 19-year-old team mate Max Verstappen, before finishing up with Nico Rosberg. Mark Webber put an end to the fun by chucking the race boot off of the podium before Ricciardo got ideas of him doing a “shoey” too, leading to the poor race victor having to do his post-race interview in his race socks. A priceless moment.
Daniel Ricciardo – SHOEY 🙂 pic.twitter.com/BqMwvtYcVj
— wwwF1sk (@wwwF1sk) October 2, 2016
Malaysia GP Race Result
1. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1hr37min12
2. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
5. Valtteri Bottas, Williams
6. Sergio Perez, Force India
7. Fernando Alonso, McLaren
8. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
9. Jenson Button, McLaren
10. Jolyon Palmer, Renault
11. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso
12. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, + 1 lap
13. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 1 lap
14. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 1 lap
15. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, + 1 lap
16. Esteban Ocon, Manor, + 1 lap
17. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, DNF
18. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, DNF
19. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, DNF
20. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, DNF
21. Romain Grosjean, Haas, DNF
22. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, DNF
Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Racing Press Release