Sunday 25 February 2018 / 06:43 PM


Round 15 of the Formula 1 season moved onto Malaysia for the last time on a weekend where Ferrari were expected to dominate but were instead robbed of a fighting chance to compete due to reliability issues, while Max Verstappen’s horror season finally produced some positives as he won the race comfortably.

Just as they had in Singapore a fortnight ago, the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo topped the times in Free Practice session 1, despite the wet weather. Fernando Alonso got his McLaren into third with both Ferrari’s and then both Silver Arrows behind him. Despite the wet weather, which caused the session to be delayed by half an hour, the session was incident free. Felipe Massa’s Williams failed to get on track due to a hydraulic issue. FP1 also saw young Frenchman Pierre Gasly replace Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso.

The second practice session took place just a few hours later on a dry track, which gave the first insight into the true performance of the teams. Sebastian Vettel lead the Ferrari’s in a 1-2 finish for the session, with the Red Bulls finishing third and fourth. Alonso again finished ahead of the Mercedes in a session where the Silver Arrows struggled with their car set up. The session was red flagged ten minutes early when a drain cover became unstuck on the kerb at turn 13. Romain Grosjean’s Haas drove over it and it blew out his rear tyre, sending him careening into the wall. He was uninjured, but his car had to undertake a lengthy repair session, as did the kerb.

On Day 2 the Ferrari’s were again the quickest, however it was Kimi Raikkonen topping the times. Ricciardo ran third while the Mercedes came in fourth and fifth ahead of Verstappen. The session ended with Vettel’s car limping into the pits, causing some concern for Ferrari as they headed into qualifying.

The big news out of the Qualifying session was Vettel failing to complete his out lap, his car retiring in Q1 after failing to set a time which meant he would start the race in the last place on the grid. Hamilton managed to set the fastest time in Q1 despite some niggling concerns about the set up. In the second qualifying session it was Raikkonen who was fastest, pipping Verstappen by the slightest of margins.

The final qualifying session saw Hamilton post the fastest ever lap around the circuit to claim pole position, with Raikkonen second and the Red Bulls locking out the second row, ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

Race day began with Ferrari planning on Raikkonen to take as many points off Hamilton as possible so as to minimise the points gain he would get over Vettel who was starting in last place. This plan was shot to pieces when Raikkonen’s car suffered an issue with the turbo while the cars were on the grid before starting the parade lap. His car was rushed to the pits with the hope of rectifying the issue so that Kimi could start from the pit lane. This didn’t happen and Raikonnen’s car was retired before the race started.

Bottas got a great start as he took the outside line in the first corner which saw him jump ahead of Ricciardo to claim third place. At the end of the first lap, Vettel had jumped from 20th place to 13th as he surged towards the points. Hamilton lead from the start but was quickly asking his team about an issue with his power and by lap 4, he was passed all too easily by Verstappen, who quickly opened up a comfortable lead. Five laps later and Ricciardo managed to pass Bottas in a magnificent little scrap for third place, before going on the hunt for Hamilton. The following lap saw Vettel pass Alonso to move into the top 10.

As cars began pitting, Vettel stayed out which saw him climb up to fifth place. After all the stops were completed, Vettel had moved up another place. He was on faster tyres than the three drivers above him and was in hot pursuit of Ricciardo, who was closing in on Hamilton himself. The final 10 laps saw Vettel stage a few attempts to pass his former team mate but to no avail. He eventually conceded to Ricciardo and settled for fourth as Verstappen drove away to victory, followed by Hamilton and Ricciardo.

The action didn’t end there though. As the cars were completing their in-lap after the race ended, Lance Stroll drifted slowly wide on a turn and Vettel travelling at a faster speed turned toward him from the outside. The two collided which saw Vettel’s rear suspension snap and his car left stranded on the track. Vettel hitched a ride back to the pits on the side of Pascal Wehrlein’s car which may see Vettel draw the ire of the FIA later in the week.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Verstappen (Red Bull)
2 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
3 – Ricciardo (Red Bull)
4 – Vettel (Ferrari)
5 – Bottas (Mercedes)
6 – Perez (Force India)
7 – Vandoorne (McLaren)
8 – Stroll (Williams)
9 – Massa (Williams)
10 – Ocon (Force India)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Hamilton – 281
2 – Vettel – 247
3 – Bottas – 222
4 – Ricciardo – 177
5 – Raikkonen – 138
6 – Verstappen – 93
7 – Perez – 76
8 – Ocon – 57
9 – Sainz – 48
10 – Hulkenberg – 34

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 503
2 – Ferrari – 385
3 – Red Bull – 270
4 – Force India – 133
5 – Williams – 65
6 – Toro Rosso – 52
7 – Renault – 42
8 – Haas – 37
9 – McLaren – 23
10 – Sauber – 5

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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