Daniel Ricciardo led a Red Bull one-two in Malaysia as Lewis Hamilton’s title charge takes another battering.
After taking pole position in imperious style, it would be up to Lewis Hamilton to get a good getaway from the grid, something which has been tricky this season. He has his championship rival with him on the front of the grid though, waiting to pounce and the fast starting Red Bull drivers behind ready to pick up the pieces.
As always the top ten would be starting on the softest compound of the range, for this weekend is the soft. With those outside the top ten, they are given a free choice and Bottas, Magnussen and Nasr would start on the Medium tyres with Palmer on the Hard. One of the first Grand Prix for all tyre compounds to be used at the start of the race.
With the cars going away on the grid, Felipe Massa was left behind. The Brazilian complained that the throttle wasn’t working, and with everyone passing him he was pulled off the grid. The team got the car going, but he would have to spend a lot of time at the end of the pitlane in the soaring heat.
As they set the start, Lewis pointed his car towards the inside of the circuit. They slowly lined up, with Hamilton getting a good start from Rosberg. The German was taken out by the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel in the first corner. Ricciardo was caught up in the process, with Jenson Button getting up to fifth, and was quickly overtaken by Verstappen. Rosberg continued but was at the back of the field, with the virtual safety car being deployed. Amazingly Ocon was up to 10th, and Alonso to 13th. Gutierrez also had a puncture at the back of the field.
A number of cars pitted included Felipe Massa, Kvyat, Gutierrez and Magnussen.
The virtual safety car was quickly brought in with Hamilton leading from Ricciardo and Verstappen after the Dutchman overtook Perez who had made his way up to 4th. Raikkonen was behind him and Jenson Button still keeping in close contact to the Ferrari.
Raikkonen went around the outside of Perez at the first corner on lap 4, with the Finn going up to fourth. At the front, the Red Bull drivers were pushing Hamilton all the way, Ricciardo setting the first fastest lap of the race, while Hamilton’s championship challenger was down in 16th.
Ricciardo got within the DRS range at the front, while further back there was a really good battle between Grosjean and Alonso, the Frenchman not giving anything. It took until lap 5 for Hamilton to get the fastest lap himself, the gap increasing to 1,3 seconds. Alonso got ahead of Grosjean on lap 6.
If it wasn’t bad enough for Felipe Massa, he was told that he had a front puncture on the Williams, coming in on lap 7 after changing to the hard tyre. Hamilton was also pulling away at the front of the field, with Rosberg still making his way through the field, overtaking Esteban Ocon. Grosjean was starting to fall back in to Sainz, who now had Rosberg behind him.
It was announced the accident at the start of the race would be investigated after the race, Vettel already out of the race.
ON lap 9, Romain Grosjean went off at the final corner, going a long way into the gravel trap and almost hitting the barrier. Replays showed that he didn’t slow down after hitting the brakes.
At this point Alonso had close in on Bottas, while behind the accident Rosberg had got ahead of Sainz.
Under the virtual safety car, and Red Bull decided to pit Verstappen, taking a set of the soft tyre. Perez also pitted behind, with the Red Bull driver getting ahead of Bottas. Rosberg also pitted in the middle of the pack, on a different strategy to the leaders. It was a long pitstop for Perez, who nearly didnt make it out in time before his teammate entered.
The virtual safety car came in, with Rosberg attacking Sergio Perez, the pair together after his long pit stop. Button who had also pitted got ahead of Felipe Nasr, with Fernando Alonso only just behind his teammate now. Rosberg, who was now behind the McLaren had switched to the hard tyre and was still in traffic. In the process, Esteban Ocon had made his way up to 8th, having not stopped in the Manor. Sainz was also hounding Bottas for fifth. Jolyon Palmer had made his way up to 10th, with Rosberg dispatching Jenson Button quickly.
Ocon pitted from eighth on lap 13, with Button now closing on Palmer for a place in the top ten.
With Verstappen now on the soft tyre it took a couple of laps for him to switch the new tyres on, with the Dutchman firstly taking the fastest lap. Button went down the inside of Palmer on lap 14, with Hulkenberg the next driver to have a go at the Renault. At the front and Hamilton had pulled out a four second gap, with only Verstappen setting fastest times. Rosberg got Perez on lap 16, with the German now up to 8th place, with the him 37 seconds off the lead having made a pit stop.
Rosberg overtook Ericsson for 7th on lap 18, the Sauber having not stopped. Magnussen also retired, after his first lap accident with Esteban Gutierrez and Daniil Kvyat. Rosberg still on the move overtook Sainz a lap later, and was now up to sixth place in the Mercedes. The next car on the road for the German was Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen was closing in quickly on Kimi Raikkonen, a second quicker than the Ferrari on newer tyres. Verstappen tried to go down the inside at the final corner, although both Hamilton and Raikkonen came in on lap 21 for a set of the hard tyre. Raikkonen got out just ahead of Rosberg, who in turn had just ahead of Bottas for fifth place.
Ricciardo pitted a lap later than the other leaders on lap 22, another set of the hard tyres for the Red Bull driver and comes out in clear air and a long way clear of the Ferrari. Rosberg was close on the back of Raikkonen. Ericsson pitted from 12th and took a set of the soft tyre.
So with those pitstops, Max Verstappen was out of position of the others and leading the race. He will at least have another pitstop, with the others behind (apart from Rosberg), trying to go to the end of the race on a set of the hard compound.
Hamilton, now on the hard tyre started to close in on the leader Verstappen, bringing the gap down to under seven seconds on lap 25. The only driver yet to pit in the top ten, Valtteri Bottas in sixth, starting on the medium tyre. After getting through the traffic, Hamilton took another second out of the Red Bull driver, with the second pitstop close for Verstappen.
Verstappen pitted on lap 27, going to the end of the race on a set of the hard tyre. He came out in the gap between his teammate Ricciardo and Raikkonen behind. His tyres around 13 laps newer than the drivers around him. Alonso also pitted on the same lap taking a set of the soft tyre, teammate Button was battling with Nico Hulkenberg at the lower end of the top ten. The German pitted at the end of the lap for a set of the hard compound tyres, and come out behind Alonso.
Lewis Hamilton had the front set the fastest lap, taking nearly a second on Ricciardo. Verstappen was sixteen seconds behind the leader. Valtteri Bottas pitted from sixth on lap 30, taking a set of the hard tyres for his only pitstop, coming out ahead of Palmer who was in ninth having not stopped.
Lap 31 and Hamilton was still pushing, the gap to Ricciardo up to 13 seconds. He would have to either build a gap, or have enough time for a pit stop at the front. The British driver was setting fastest lap after fastest lap. His teammate pitted for another set of the hard tyre, currently in fifth place and came out behind Sergio Perez, but ahead of Jenson Button. Palmer stopped on the same lap.
Raikkonen pitted on lap 33, another set of the hard tyres for the Ferrari, with Perez also pitting in the Force India giving some clear air to Mercedes. The Ferrari came out right in front of the Mercedes.
With Hamilton pushing at the front, the Mercedes driver said over the radio that they were starting to fall away from him. Hulkenberg overtook Sainz in 10th, Rosberg also closing in on the Ferrari of Raikkonen. The gap between Hamilton and Verstappen had stayed at 19.5 seconds. The Dutchman was also closing in on his teammate, with the gap down to a second.
Rosberg tried to around the outside of the Ferrari into the first corner on lap 38 and the pair touched in turn 2. Rosberg now up to fourth place. Just up the road and Verstappen was complaining that he was now being held up by his teammate. He made a great move on the exit of turn four, with the pair going side by side through the high speed complex. The battle would give the advantage to Mercedes, Hamilton with a large enough gap now to pit at the front of the race.
On Lap 41 and Hamiltons car was on fire heading down the start finsh straight, bringing out the virtual safety car. The engine gone in the first corner.
With the safety car coming in, Raikkonen pitted for a set of the soft tyres. Ricciardo pitted along with Verstappen at the same time, with Mercedes also pitting Nico Rosberg. Gutierrez came out of the pits, and his tyre came off with the tyre on the kerb at the hairpin.
The order at the front was Ricciardo leading from Verstappen with Nico Rosberg in third and Raikkonen in fourth. Bottas was still in fifth from Perez, Alonso, Button, Hulkenberg and Palmer roundeding out the top ten.
The virtual safety car came in on lap 43, while Rosberg was given a ten second penalty for causing a collision which would effectively put him behind Kimi Raikkonen at this point with thirteen seconds remaining. The German was pushing to increase that hap to mitigate the penalty.
Nasr retired on lap 48, with the leading Red Bull duo held station at around two seconds. Rosberg was also pulling out a gap to Raikkonen, with it on the edge of ten seconds.
Verstappen started to close in on his teammate, getting close towards the magic second with seven laps of the race remaining. Raikkonen was also trying to keep the margin between him and Rosberg. The German was given a higher engine mode, which pushed him over that threshold.
With four laps remaining, and that gap remained at just outside the DRS range for Verstappen. With his tyres struggling, Verstappen started to fall back from his teammate back to a couple of seconds, while Rosberg had that gap over Raikkonen to twelve seconds to keep his place on the podium.
It was a clear win in the end for Daniel Ricciardo, with teammate Max Verstappen in second and Nico Rosberg coming home third after he kept his advantage over Kimi Raikkonen. Valtteri Bottas was fifth from Sergio Perez. Jolyon Palmer got his first point of the season in 10th.