Mon | Dec 18, 2017

Red Bull's Verstappen wins Malaysian Grand Prix

Published:Monday | October 2, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands hold this trophy aloft after winning the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit in Sepang, Malaysia, yesterday.
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SEPANG, Malaysia (AP):

Max Verstappen celebrated his birthday by winning the Malaysian Grand Prix in style yesterday, while Lewis Hamilton finished second to extend his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel started the race from last, but drove brilliantly to take fourth place behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and limit the damage to his own title hopes. Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen did not even start, despite qualifying second. Moments before the race, mechanics wheeled Raikkonen's car back to the garage but could not get it ready.

Hamilton secured the 70th pole of his career in qualifying, and his fourth straight in Malaysia, while Vettel failed to set a time because of an engine problem.

The day after turning 20, Verstappen turned on the style, making a fine move to overtake Hamilton on lap four.

"The whole race went well. Once I got past Lewis, I could focus on my tyres," Verstappen said. "From then on, I could race my own race. It's incredible to win."

His father, the former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, looked emotional as his son stood on the podium.

Dutch fans poured on to the grid to join in the celebrations, with one fan applauding with a pair of clogs.

Hamilton's only win in Malaysia was in 2014. He led comfortably last year but retired with an engine failure.

Vettel's last win came at the Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break, moving him 14 points clear of Hamilton. But the British driver has won three of four races since and now leads Vettel by 34 points, with five races remaining.

"It's a step towards trying to win this world championship, so every point counts," Hamilton said. "Considering the issues we had with the car, it's a good weekend."

 

FERRARI'S LUCK

 

Hamilton had failed to finish higher than fifth in practice, but found some speed in qualifying. Still, given his position - and where Vettel was - he might have expected to be further ahead.

Vettel saved Ferrari's blushes but, as if Ferrari's luck could not get any worse, Williams driver Lance Stroll smashed into the side of his car on the warm-down lap, cutting it almost in half.

"That's impossible," a stunned Vettel said. "Stroll's not looking where he's going. He's shunted into my car."

Stewards investigated the issue, but no action was taken. In a light-hearted moment, the German driver hitched a lift back to the paddock the novel way - by sitting on the side of countryman Pascal Wehrlein's Sauber.

Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix on his Red Bull debut last year, and became the youngest driver on the front row when he qualified second for Monaco. He was still 18.