Max Verstappen Wins the Final Malaysian Grand Prix
Not bad for a belated 20th birthday celebration.
After a race start that favored Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull's Max Verstappen overtook Hamilton, and maintained the lead until the race's end. The podium was rounded out by Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo, who fended off Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. Vettel started last on the grid after failing to set a qualifying time due to an engine failure in practice Saturday, and Kimi Räikkönen, who was meant to start alongside Hamilton on the front row of the grid, suffered from turbocharger problems discovered before the formation lap. The Scuderia was unable to resolve these issues before the race began, relegating Räikkönen to an afternoon of talking to reporters rather than racing.
Sebastian Vettel's poor luck continued with a collision with Lance Stroll during the cool down lap, ripping his left rear wheel free, and sparking some to speculate that Vettel may have sustained transmission damage, which could carry penalties forward into the next race.
Max Verstappen's only other win came at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, his maiden race at Red Bull, where he capitalized on the first lap clash between the warring Mercedes drivers and converted a lengthy stint into a win, despite pressure coming from a faster Kimi Räikkönen in the later stages of the race. This win also serves to redeem a frustrating 2017 season for Verstappen, who has endured a total of seven race retirements so far, caused by a mix of crashes and engine failures.
As of this race, Hamilton's championship lead over Vettel has been extended by a further six points, with his advantage totaling 34 points over his Ferrari rival. Only a quarter of the season remains, and Vettel will have to significantly outperform Hamilton over the remainder of the year to have a chance to take the championship.
This race also marks the last running of the Malaysian Grand Prix, as the event's hosts have opted not to continue holding the event. First held in 1999, and won by Eddie Irvine of Ferrari, Verstappen bookends the eleven strong series of drivers to win in Malaysia, six of whom have a world championship under their belts.
Sebastian Vettel was voted the official driver of the day, but we suspect it will do little to lift his spirits. He has what must seem like Everest to climb if he wants to renew his chances at this year's championship.