Daniel Ricciardo beat teammate Max Verstappen to win the Malaysian GP, with a Red Bull one-two with some excellent racing and a spot of luck. Rosberg meanwhile finished third, and with Hamilton’s Mercedes not completing the race, Nico has a lead of 23 points in the world championship standings as they head into the last 5 races of the season.
We’ll get into the highlights of the race in but a moment, but first, the finishing results of the 2016 Malaysian F1 Grand Prix:
This was one of the most dramatic races this year, not so much for a display of competitive racing, but of the turn of events throughout the race, especially for the two main title contenders this season, Nico Rosberg & Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton bagged pole position in qualifying and Rosberg was starting second on the grid, with the extremely talented young man Max Verstappen starting in third for Red Bull. There was mild drama even before the race started with what appeared to be a longer than usual pause before the lights went out. This was shortly followed by major drama as Sebastien Vettel, who had gone deep on the inside into Turn 1 to get ahead of Verstappen, ended up shunting Rosberg and spinning him out as Nico came in tight from the left. With a broken front suspension, Vettel’s race was over in the first lap itself, with Rosberg at the back of the pack in what seemed like a major setback to his championship chances.
Meanwhile, Hamilton up ahead got into a good pace soon enough with Ricciardo’s Red Bull in second withand Verstappen further behind. Many other racers who had had a rough qualifying made the most of the ruckus on turn 1 to go make up some valuable positions. There were other victims of the collision on Turn 1, but nothing major.
In the back, there was good racing going on in a battle to be in the points with the McLaren Honda’s and the Force India team doing their best, of which Alonso got the best result considering he started at the back of the grid due to a penalty in qualifying.
As Rosberg was climbing through the pack, Hamilton was building a comfortable lead on the two Red Bulls and the Ferrari. At this point, the tyre strategies, which had been shuffled around a lot thanks to the incident on turn 1 would be even more crucial. For a brief moment, Verstappen was leading the race with Daniel right behind him after Lewis’s pitstop.who had made his pit stop right behind Lewis came out on track right in front of Rosberg.
As they made their way through the Force India cars, up ahead, Lewis was gaining quickly on the Red Bulls. Daniel pitted while Max stayed out on track, to try and build enough of a gap from Hamilton who was on fresher tyres. There were a few more virtual safety cars with other retirements and minor incidents in the race which led to further changes to the tyre strategies.
At this point, Hamilton had a relatively comfortable lead up ahead, with the Daniel Ricciardo in second and Verstappen close behind in third. Nico was still fighting to get pastin the slower Ferrari and finally did in spectacular racing fashion. In Lap 38, Rosberg had the inside of Kimi on turn 2 and drove in hard, clipping the Ferrari but both staying on track with Rosberg coming out ahead. Of course, under the FIA racing rules that seem keen on making F1 one of the most boring races on Earth, Rosberg was given a 10-second penalty that would be added to his race time at the end of the race.
Lap 39 brought in more racing action, with the two Red Bulls going head to head. Ricciardo was keen on holding his second place from Verstappen who had the fresher tires and the two drove wheel to wheel through turn 5 & 6 before Daniel shut the door on Max through turn 7. Their battle however did result in Hamilton increasing his lead to over 23 seconds, within pitting distance.
On Lap 41, the tables turned in the favor of the Red Bulls, and Nico too for the championship, as Hamilton’s blew out down the start-finish straight. An extremely unfortunate turn of events for the British F1 Champion, his agony only too apparent as he kneeled down with his head in his hands, not far from his smoking car on the edge of the track.
With the last virtual safety car coming up, both Red Bull drivers came in for fresher tires for was expected to be a brilliant fight for the win between Ricciardo & Verstappen. With Nico 20 seconds behind them in third, and a 10 second penalty to boot, all he had to do was make sure he finishes more than 10 seconds ahead of 4th place. But, Ricciardo managed a great pace and Verstappen failed to catch up enough in the last 15 laps, we had a sober ending to an exciting Malaysian GP with a Red Bull one-two, their first since Abu Dhabi 2013. This was Ricciardo’s first win this season, and Verstappen’s 5th podium finish.
Nico Rosberg being 23 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the World Championship, we head into the last 5 races of this season, with a result that may well be undecided when we go into the last race of the season.
Stay tuned for more F1 race day summaries and updates.