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On the weekend that he turned 20, Verstappen’s luck changed almost overnight as he took his second Formula 1 victory. Starting from third, before the start, the Dutchman watched as the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, the second-place starter was removed from the grid with a turbo problem. After the start he wasted no time passing championship leader Hamilton.
“In the beginning the car straight away felt good,” said Verstappen, standing atop the podium. “I saw Lewis was struggling a bit with traction and was clipping a bit more than me so I used my battery as much as I could. Of course, he has more to lose than me in the championship so I went for it at turn one and from there on I could do my own race.
“The car was unbelievable. I had pace so if I needed to speed up then I could speed up. It’s amazing. It was a very tough race but, of course, incredible to win.
“Especially after the season I’ve had, I think that this victory came at a very good time so I was really happy when I crossed the line and, of course, together with my Dad I’ve come this far and then I got a great help from Red Bull and now we’ve got champagne.”
Hamilton extended his championship lead to 34 points with second place but the three-time champion has to be concerned by Mercedes’ lack of speed across the weekend.
“The race was a tough one,” said Hamilton. “Obviously, they just had the upper hand on us today but we love driving this track. It is the most difficult circuit and you’re the most depleted after it.
After passing Hamilton early, Verstappen went on to win by 12 seconds.
“I feel good (with regards to the championship) but I think we’ve got some work to do with the car. We didn’t have the pace this weekend so there’s still work to do, there are still races ahead – some that we can for sure win – we’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Sebastian Vettel drove an astounding race to come from the back of the grid to fourth place. At one point he was even challenging Daniel Ricciardo for the final podium spot but, with fuel being tight, he was forced to back off and accept fourth.
“We think that we have a very good car,” said Vettel. “If we start ahead then I think we win the race but obviously that didn’t happen today. I think we were the quickest car for the majority of the race when we were in free air but we had to start last.
“Certainly, it was more entertaining — the first couple of laps in particular — but overall obviously tough also with Kimi retiring before we started so it was a tough race.”
Despite enjoying a quick car, things don’t look as though they will improve quickly for Vettel after a bizarre incident with Williams’ Lance Stroll on the cool down lap ripped the rear suspension from his car – potentially causing damage to the gearbox which, if it needs to be replaced, will bring a five-place grid drop for the Japanese Grand Prix.
“Well, I went on the outside to pick up a bit of rubber,” explained Vettel. “I think Lance (Stroll) wasn’t looking and wanted to do the same but that was too late, I was there already so we had contact. That’s completely unnecessary but I think he just didn’t look.
“I don’t know (if the is any damage to the gearbox). We need to see but I’m sure that we will find a way. Obviously, it’s not my fault if someone decides to pick up rubber and hit another car.”
Behind Vettel, Valtteri Bottas took fifth place, with Force India’s Sergio Perez finishing sixth. Stoffel Vandoorne took seventh ahead of Stroll, Williams teammate Felipe Massa and the second Force India of Esteban Ocon rounding out the top 10.
The F1 World Championship heads to Japan next week.
Malaysian Grand Prix Results
1 Max Verstappen
2 Lewis Hamilton
3 Daniel Ricciardo
4 Sebastian Vettel
5 Valtteri Bottas
6 Sergio Perez
7 Stoffel Vandoorne
8 Lance Stroll
9 Felipe Massa
10 Esteban Ocon
11 Fernando Alonso
12 Kevin Magnussen
13 Romain Grosjean
14 Pierre Gasly
15 Jolyon Palmer
16 Nico Hulkenberg
17 Pascal Wehrlein
18 Marcus Ericsson
19 Carlos Sainz
20 Kimi Raikkonen