Malaysian F1 GP: another podium for Perth’s Daniel Ricciardo

Race winner Max Verstappen celebrates with third place finisher Daniel Ricciardo.  Picture: Lars Baron/Getty Images
Race winner Max Verstappen celebrates with third place finisher Daniel Ricciardo.  Picture: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Picture: Lars Baron/Getty Images
Race winner Max Verstappen celebrates with third place finisher Daniel Ricciardo. Picture: Lars Baron/Getty Images Race winner Max Verstappen celebrates with third place finisher Daniel Ricciardo. Picture: Mark Thompson/Getty Images Picture: Lars Baron/Getty Images

RED Bull Renault scored a long overdue third win of the season with Max Verstappen taking a dominating win in the Malaysian Grand Prix and Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo also on the podium – in third place – behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

The grand prix, run in 39C heat, was a nailbiter from start to finish.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified second, did not even start the race after reporting a problem on the warm-up lap, while teammate Sebastien Vettel started from the back of the grid after turbo trouble stopped his qualifying session.

But he scythed through the field in buccaneer style, passing 16 cars to claim fourth – and very nearly third – at the end of the 56-lap race on the Sepang circuit.

Vettel, running on super-soft tyres in the closing laps, was catching Ricciardo’s soft-tyred Red Bull by a second a lap, but the Perth driver defended brilliantly and Ferrari instructed Vettel to back off for fear of blowing his overheated engine.

“I think you’ve broken Vettel’s spirit,” Ricciardo was told over the team radio. “Nice job.”

Although he finished fourth, Vettel actually arrived back in the pits sitting on the sidepod of Pascal Werhlein’s Sauber.

His Ferrari and Lance Stroll’s Williams collided on the cooling-down lap, leaving the Ferrari on three wheels.

Each blamed the other.

“Stroll wasn’t looking where he was going. He completely shunted into my car,” Vettel shouted.

“Vettel just drove into the side of me,” Stroll told his team.

Race stewards declined to blame either.

At the start, Hamilton led into turn 1, but it soon became clear the Mercs could not match the pace of the Red Bulls.

Verstappen got past Hamilton on lap 4 and Ricciardo dispatched Valtteri Bottas a few laps later, then started stalking Hamilton.

Verstappen, who turned 20 on Saturday, was unchallenged and ended up finishing 12.7sec in front of Hamilton.

“In the beginning, the car felt good and I saw Lewis was struggling a bit “ Verstappen said.

“He had more to lose than me in terms of the championship. It’s a very tough race and it was incredible to win.”

The Dutchman had a lot of bad luck with car problems and crashes earlier in the season and failed to finish in more than half of his events.

Ricciardo was happy with his performance, finishing 15 seconds ahead of Vettel.

“Seb (Vettel) came at me very quickly and I thought I’d have a handful,” he said.

“But he only made one attack, then he backed off.”

There was some great racing further back, with cut-and-thrust battles between Force India, McLaren-Honda and the Williams.

Behind the leading quartet came Bottas in the Mercedes, ahead of Sergio Perez (Force India) with young Belgian Stoffel van Doorne seventh for McLaren.

Eighth and ninth were the Williams of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon claiming 10th for Force India.

It was a remarkable race for the Frenchman who had a spin and a puncture after a tap from a Toro Rosso and later Massa’s Williams sent him into the weeds.

Most of the cars topped 330km/h down the straight and Verstappen’s average speed on the 5.5km circuit was 206.18km/h.

It was probably the last grand prix to be held at the Sepang circuit, with the Malaysian Government citing escalating costs as the main factor.

Next GP is at Suzuka, Japan, next Sunday.

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