Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to Malaysian GP win

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took a dominant victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead with second place.

Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel recovered impressively from the back of the grid in his Ferrari after engine problems in qualifying to finish fourth and minimise the damage to his title hopes.

But the German has slipped to 34 points behind the Mercedes driver with five races to go and a maximum of 125 points still available.

Hamilton could do nothing about Verstappen but will be pleased after taking second place and gaining ground on Vettel on what turned into a difficult weekend for Mercedes.

That’s Verstappen’s second career win – on the weekend he turned 20

Verstappen has had a torrid season, a series of strong results being lost to reliability problems and driver errors, but he was in control of this grand prix from very early on.

With Raikkonen out of the way, the Dutchman, who turned 20 on Saturday, fended off an attack from Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the first corner and then tracked Hamilton closely in the opening laps before diving down the inside into Turn One at the start of lap four.

Verstappen quickly pulled away, building a seven-second lead within 10 laps, and despite apparent problems with his neck muscles in the closing laps on this demanding track was always in control.

Hamilton and Mercedes were left to measure their gaps to the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel behind.

Hamilton was warned early on that Vettel “may be a threat at the end of the race”, but in the end the Ferrari driver had too much to do.

Vettel was on Ricciardo’s tail with 10 laps to go and despite a delay while lapping McLaren’s Fernando Alonso on lap 48, was quickly back with him.

But Ricciardo held him off with some robust defending and with three laps to go Vettel fell back, his front tyres shot.

Vettel then fell prey to a bizarre incident on the slowing down lap, when he and Williams’ Lance Stroll collided at Turn Five as the Ferrari went around the outside of the Canadian.

Vettel’s fightback eased some of the pain felt at Ferrari as the Italian team pondered the loss of what looked like it could have been a one-two finish had engine problems not hit both cars over the weekend.

Team-mate Raikkonen had been confident of challenging for victory after qualifying a close second to Hamilton but the Finn did not even start the race after suffering a lack of power on the way to the grid.

His car was wheeled into the garage before the start and retired.

 

  

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