Verstappen: Malaysia win timely antidote after tough year

Monday, 02 Oct, 2017

Max Verstappen celebrated his 20th birthday in flawless fashion by taking the chequered flag in the Malaysian Grand Prix. The victory also makes him the youngest ever victor at the Malaysian GP. Verstappen has just turned 20 this weekend, a great way to celebrate his birthday.

With five races to go, Hamilton now leads by 34 points, meaning he remains on-course to claim a fourth world title in 2017.

Ricciardo then made it a double podium for Red Bull. However, just a couple of minutes prior to the formation lap, Raikkonen was pushed back to the pits and that pretty much ended his chances of securing a podium in Malaysia. Moments before the race, mechanics wheeled Raikkonen's auto back to the garage but could not get it ready. "The very good drivers are able to pick themselves out of a very hard situation".

Wehrlein, Ericsson and Vettel started on softs while the rest of the field was on supersofts.

But, if, and it is a big if, the Ferrari can stay reliable, and out of trouble, Vettel has the speed to push Hamilton all the way to the final round, the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 26 at Yas Marina Circuit. However, Verstappen had other ideas as he overtook a quick-paced Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, who had started strongly, and then set his sights on Hamilton, overtaking him in Lap 4.

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Bottas admitted it was a "difficult" race. "I think he just didn't look and then chose to go and pick up rubber".

Close call: As race leader Verstappen came to lap Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen, he found the two backmarkers warring for position.

After attempting one move on Ricciardo with six laps remaining, Vettel lost pace and was forced to settle for fourth - 16 places ahead of where he started. Sainz retired with an electrical issue on lap 32.

Hamilton could go no faster than fifth in practice, but in qualifying his Mercedes out of the blue stormed to a lap record of 1min 30.076sec, a whisker ahead of Ferrari´s Kimi Raikkonen.

And Hamilton has also warned the Silver Arrows, now 118 points ahead of their rivals in the constructors' standings, will be cut adrift from Ferrari and Red Bull in 2018 if they do not rectify their faults. Come on, Alonso. Really? Verstappen's victory was Red Bull's second of the season after Daniel Ricciardo won in Azerbaijan. "I think you've broken Vettel's spirit, he's having to look after his tyres", Red Bull told Ricciardo who now held a comfortable lead over Vettel.

"We have benefited significantly from Ferrari's misfortunes this weekend but they had an extremely quick vehicle and we are under no illusions that the remaining five races will present us with a tough challenge to keep our noses ahead in both titles".

Vettel's engine had already been changed to a new one before qualifying after he suffered a similar problem in final practice yesterday - only for the new unit to fail.

The Malaysian GP at Sepang will start at 3pm local time, 12:30pm IST, 7am GMT.