Race Report: Red Bull capitalize on Merc failures in Malaysia


If you had to guess what the weather would be like at the Malaysian Grand Prix, you would be safe betting that it is 91 degrees with a track temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit. If you forgot that a world championship title could be won this weekend, then you haven’t been following the Constructors’ Championship very closely because that’s exactly what Mercedes was poised to do in the Malaysian heat.

It all became a moot point for Mercedes at turn one and on lap 41 when Nico Rosberg was spun, sending him to the back, and Lewis Hamilton’s engine blew up respectively. It looked certain to be a Mercedes one, two but as it all turned out, it became a Red Bull one, two with Daniel Ricciardo winning the Malaysian Grand Prix just ahead of his 19-year-old teammate, Max Verstappen.

It was a tough day for Lewis who looked sublime and in complete control of the race until his engine let go and equally, his teammate made a masterful recovery drive even garnering a 10-second penalty in the process to claim a podium finish for third and extended his points lead in the Drivers’ Championship to 23 points over Hamilton.


A big win for Red Bull who looked good all weekend covering the Ferrari’s pace and setting very impressive long-run times. They needed attrition from Mercedes in order to win the race and that’s exactly what they got when Lewis Hamilton’s engine failed. Red Bull passed the champagne-filled shoe around the podium and celebrated in style. They also put on a great show by racing each other in a very respectful manner without creating a Mutli-21 debacle.

A win for Nico Rosberg who came from 17th, after being clouted by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at turn one, lap one, and claimed third to extend his points lead over Lewis Hamilton.

Big win for Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg finishing sixth and eighth and extending Force India’s Constructors lead over Williams who was represented very well in 5th by Valtteri Bottas.

A win for Renault F1 and Jolyon Palmer who scored the final point in 10th place even when his teammate had to retire due to a damaged car. A much needed point for Renault and a much needed result for Palmer.

A win for McLaren who looked much improved and got both cars in the top ten. Fernando Alonso’s 7th and Jenson Button’s 9th was a good result for the team and an improved Honda power unit. A shame to see such talent like Alonso and Button toiling in the mid-field. Alonso did the same thing he did at Spa, came from the back of the grid to finish high In the points…imagine if he had a competitive car.


A Fail for Mercedes with a new engine failure on Lewis’s car and another fail for Lewis dog-whistling conspiracy in the press. No one likes to lose due to a mechanical failure and no one likes to have more failures than their teammate but it happens in F1. Massa, Barrichello, Webber, Vettel, Rosberg all have had their years with more mechanical issues than their teammates.

A fail for Haas F1 with both cars out of the race as Romain Grosjean had brake failure and Esteban Gutierrez had an errant wheel which incurred a penalty.

A fail for Toro Rosso who couldn’t manage to get either car in the points but it wasn’t a circuit that was going to flatter their year-old Ferrari engines.


A WTH moment for Sebastian Vettel who replicated the Verstappen move from a few weeks ago—that garnered much derision for the young Dutchman—by slotting down the inside of Max and Nico Rosberg only to hit his countryman’s car spinning him and taking his own race car out of the race. Seb garnered a 3-place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Not quite sure what was going on with the start lights or why there was such a delay but that was a bit odd and you know how F1 cars hate to sit stationary.



1Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault561h37m12.776s
2Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault562.443s
3Nico RosbergMercedes5625.516s
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari5628.785s
5Valtteri BottasWilliams/Mercedes561m01.582s
6Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes561m03.794s
7Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Honda561m05.205s
8Nico HulkenbergForce India/Mercedes561m14.062s
9Jenson ButtonMcLaren/Honda561m21.816s
10Jolyon PalmerRenault561m35.466s
11Carlos SainzToro Rosso/Ferrari561m38.878s
12Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari551 Lap
13Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes551 Lap
14Daniil KvyatToro Rosso/Ferrari551 Lap
15Pascal WehrleinManor/Mercedes551 Lap
16Esteban OconManor/Mercedes551 Lap
Felipe NasrSauber/Ferrari46Brakes
Lewis HamiltonMercedes40Engine
Esteban GutierrezHaas/Ferrari39Wheel
Kevin MagnussenRenault17Brakes
Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari7Brakes
Sebastian VettelFerrari0Collision


1Nico Rosberg288
2Lewis Hamilton265
3Daniel Ricciardo204
4Kimi Raikkonen160
5Sebastian Vettel153
6Max Verstappen147
7Valtteri Bottas80
8Sergio Perez74
9Nico Hulkenberg50
10Fernando Alonso42
11Felipe Massa41
12Carlos Sainz30
13Romain Grosjean28
14Daniil Kvyat25
15Jenson Button19
16Kevin Magnussen7
17Jolyon Palmer1
18Pascal Wehrlein1
19Stoffel Vandoorne1
20Esteban Gutierrez0
21Marcus Ericsson0
22Felipe Nasr0
23Rio Haryanto0
24Esteban Ocon0


2Red Bull/Renault359
4Force India/Mercedes124
7Toro Rosso/Ferrari47
Overall Race
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Zachary Noepe

Good points. I personally would rate this pretty interesting race higher than 3. I would agree Lewis has had bad luck, but we have seen both Mercs stricken with identical problems in the past (e.g. trans and brakes and screwy dash settings) and Nico able to understand the car or drive down to the car’s ability to finish, while Lewis goes for the max and dnfs. Is it possible Lewis is hard on stuff? His evasive answer to Townsend’s perceptive question post-race would indicate he had maybe got the wick turned up a bit high on that mill. We’ve seen… Read more »


I imagine that Lewis was very upset, especially when leading with such a comfortable lead of over 20 sec. If he had finished before that complete engine failure. Hamilton would have taken the lead in the championship by 4 points, especially since Rosberg had nothing for him, during the entire weekend.


Don’t think Hamilton was that comfortable – Paddy Lowe all but admitted that he was going to stop one more time in the post-race interivew. That suggests Verstappen was going to win that race as it was going… which possibly explain Lewis blowing up his engine (you’d have to assume he was running it pretty hard to build the pitstop gap)


Assuming the engine didn’t blow, Hamilton had just built a large enough lead to be able to pit and emerge ahead of Verstappen. Even if he’d come out behind, it would have been a very small gap and Ham would have had fresh tyres compared to Max’s aging Hards. I don’t think even Max’s defensive moves would have held the Mercedes behind him for long.

And besides, at that point in the race both Verstappen & Ricciardo were driving to the finish & Max hadn’t succeeded in getting past his team-mate.

Zachary Noepe

But what was he doing to his motor to make that gap?


There seems to be a popular belief that Ham’s engine kicked the bucket because he was pushing too hard, but in truth none of us know why his motor blew up. There was no evidence (from radio) that he’d turned the engine up or was driving it on the ragged edge – visually he was handling the car very smoothly.

Zachary Noepe

Agreed – i mean i’m sure there is plenty of evidence of how he was using the motor, but none of us has it so we’re more or less guessing. The closest we can come is to note his refusal to answer the question when it was put directly to him by Townsend Bell.

Qarbon Nubia

“Hamilton had just built a large enough lead to be able to pit and emerge ahead of Verstappen.” He did not actually have enough of a lead at the point of the the engine failure to get out ahead of Verstappen should he have pitted then- it is one of the longest pit lanes. According to Ted’s notes ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBMClSgnSrg (around 9 min 20 seconds) without the second safety car people in the paddock think Verstappen was on for the win.


Yes I watched Ted’s notes. A couple of things there – when Hamilton’s engine blew his lead was around 23 seconds over Ricciardo, and he was rapidly extending this as Ric was driving conservatively trying to make the 1-stop work and also having to defend against Verstappen. During the race Sky kept saying the pit delay was 24.5 seconds, but on several occasions I saw cars pit with less gap than that to a car behind and still emerge ahead of them. And I found Sky’s hyping up of Verstappen’s chances during he race quite laughable. As soon as Max… Read more »

Qarbon Nubia

The point is The Red Bulls were closer to Hamilton than what is commonly believed. Unless Verstappen had to pit again (probably not necessary if there were no safety car periods) it is more than likely Hamilton would have had to overtake him on the track. That is hardly a clear lead. I don’t think Horner said anything like Max had no chance of winning – what you imply is pure speculation. The second safety car wrecked Max’s race win chances and that is down to luck. Here is a direct quote from Max….so someone in Red Bull thought he… Read more »


No I was not indulging in “pure speculation” when talking about Horner, perhaps you should ask if people have sources for their comments before you say such things.


“speaking after the race, Horner said that the team decided to leave Verstappen and Ricciardo to their own devices because the battle with Hamilton was already lost.”

Qarbon Nubia

20 Secs was not enough to have kept ahead of Verstappen once Lewis pitted – it is one of the longest pits and from Rosberg’s data they knew they would unlikely go to the end without it. I am fairly sure Lewis would have got ahead of Verstappen after the pitstop. But not as comfortable a lead as many people were suggesting.


He’d had time to calm down before he was interviewed after the race, but still chose to fuel the conspiracy theories.


I watched the Sky F1 broadcast and when Natalie Pinkman asked about his car issues Lewis the class act he is responded “that it didn’t feel right, that there are 8 Merc engines out there and that he is the only that is having issues. That it was like someone didn’t want him to win”. I don’t know about the rest of you, but in my book he is blaming the team (or someone in the team) is sabotaging him. The later after the meeting with Toto Wolf and Paddy Lowe he backpedalled and he said that he meant that… Read more »


‘Something doesn’t feel right’ he kept saying that too. He’s not naive enough to think his comments won’t be taken as being hints that the team are ‘doing him wrong’. It must really undermine trust within the team to have him respond in this way when there is a car failure. From the outside it looks like the team have put him on a pedestal, and he’s lost his perspective.


I must say, I enjoyed that race. I enjoyed Alonzo showing that McLaren-Honda is coming together and has definite potential. I enjoyed seeing Red Bulls being racey again, even dicing it up among themselves for a bit. I enjoyed seeing Rossberg have to overtake and fight for a podium position that seems otherwise inevitable. I enjoyed that the Space Station spotted a distress signal, only to be told that the blinding beam they saw was Riccardio’s smile. So yeah, I like racing. But a 3 place penalty for fighting into the inside of turn 1? A 10 seconds penalty for… Read more »

Zachary Noepe

Seriously. And at the same time, it seems there’s no life threatening mess up which qualifies as an unsafe release in the pits. Run over a mechanic when you’re released into another car? No problem. Just dont let us catch you racing.

Prakhar Mehrotra

This inconsistent Stewarding is really getting annoying. Vettel penalized for a move that was far less egregious than Verstappen’s non penalized move at Spa. Please can we have the same stewards at every race. If we want to appease the local racing club, we can maybe have one special guest steward for each race.


While I agree that stewards could be better. I don’t think Max’s was worse that Vettel’s. Both were more than half way alongside before the outside car turned in for the corner, and for each, it was a third car on the outside that came across to get hit. I think they were both low probability moves. The difference between then and now is that everybody made a big stink about it because it was “young, immature, Max” that made the mistake. Made such a big deal about it in fact, that everyone swore to take a “dimmer view” on… Read more »

Max Johnson

“A WTH moment for Sebastian Vettel who replicated the Verstappen move from a few weeks ago” Just goes to prove what Vettel said before, that Max is bad influence on other drivers.

I still bet on Lewis taking the tittle.

Guy Fawkes

Good to see anyone other than Merc on the top step this week. Great racing between Ricciardo and Verstappen. Also great to see two team drivers who obviously get along! I almost screamed at the TV when Vettel decides to blame Verstappen for the accident at turn 1! Kvyat should walk up to him, give him a nice up and down look and say, “Really, Dude?”

Most interesting race of the year so far, IMHO.


Grosjean looked mightily disappointed with more brake issues at Haas. I think this could be enough to push him towards signing for Enstone.
Haas looked every inch the inexperienced newcomer this weekend, which is surprising given their performance earlier in the year. Perhaps the strain of building next year’s car is starting to show? It would be a shame for the team to lose Grosjean, as they need an experienced driver as the team grows.

Jack Flash (Australia)

Hi Negative Camber. Just to set a highlighted Start Issue straight. The reason why Charlie Whiting held the whole grid so long before initiating the RED START LIGHT sequence with his thumb push, was that Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso had an engine stall when he stopped on the grid during form-up. Carlos warned he had to go into Engine re-set and restart on his Grid Slot, and Charlie Whiting gave hime an extra few seconds to do that with his MGU-K. This allowance of a few seconds to allow Sainz to re-start his Toro Rosso was well executed… Read more »


Very good summary Jack, that’s something the Sky team only partially covered, because of all the other drama on lap 1. There’s alot going on, on the grid we only see a fraction of it. Self starting, another benefit of these awesome hybrid P.U’s ;-)