SEPANG, Oct 2 – Five talking points from the Malaysian Grand Prix:
‘Shoey’ fits for Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo has been knocking on the door for his fourth Formula One win, and Lewis Hamilton’s engine blow-up 15 laps from the end finally gave him the opportunity he needed. It’s been a long time between drinks for the ever-smiling Australian, who last topped the podium two years ago in Belgium.
However, his method of celebration – quaffing champagne from his sweaty boot, and inviting second and third-placed Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen, to do the same – wasn’t the most popular. “I hope he does not win any more races this year!” said championship leader Nico Rosberg, after grimacing his way through his ‘champagne shoey’. Teenager Verstappen was more forgiving. “Nah, it’s all right. It was good sweat,” he shrugged.
As for Ricciardo, he seemed delighted with the unusual tipple. “I love the taste, personally. Yeah, I thought today it was quite fruity,” he said. “There was … sure you’ve got your salts but I was hydrating quite well today with a lot of sugars and stuff like that. It had a … I don’t know, it was sort of like a dessert, rather than a main course.” He added: “Nico told me he didn’t like it very much … I haven’t made many friends actually from this.”
F1 gods smile on Rosberg
Rosberg will be thanking his lucky stars after he survived a first-bend spin and a 10-second time penalty to wind up third and extend his championship lead to 23 points. While Hamilton, on the other side of the Mercedes garage, was cursing his bad fortune, Rosberg can seemingly do nothing wrong as he edges closer to a first Formula One world title.
Rosberg won three races in a row prior to Malaysia, while Hamilton has suffered a string of mechanical problems culminating in his fiery exit 15 laps from victory in Sepang. Rosberg’s podium finish in Malaysia looked unlikely when he collided with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on the very first bend, and he was later given a 10-second penalty for making contact with Kimi Raikkonen.
“Today was a tough day, because after turn one I thought it was finished. Of course I’m happy with the comeback; to get all the way back on the podium, I definitely didn’t think that was going to be possible. For Lewis, I’ve been in his position, I know how terrible it is in that moment, so I’m sure he’s totally gutted,” Rosberg said.
Birthday boy comes of age
At last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Verstappen announced himself as a coming force when, at the age of 17, he finished seventh for Toro Rosso to become the youngest points-scorer in Formula One history. This time around, after celebrating his 19th birthday at the rescheduled race, now held in October rather than March, it was a more mature Verstappen who completed a Red Bull one-two behind Ricciardo for his fifth podium finish of the season.
Verstappen came under fire for some reckless driving earlier this year but he retained a cool head in the heat of Sepang, including during some thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing with his team-mate. “Into turn seven, we tried to brake as late as we could,” he said. “But at one point I decided to give up because I was a bit in the tighter line so, in case you clip the kerb, you bounce to the left, we both have nothing. It’s better to be one and two.”
Signs of life for McLaren
The much-decorated British marque have struggled in recent seasons but they will be confident of a strong performance this week in Japan, home of their engine-manufacturer Honda, after both drivers finished in the top 10 in Malaysia. Fernando Alonso’s seventh place was his second in a row and left him in the points for the fourth time in six races. Jenson Button placed ninth after a stroke of bad luck when a virtual safety car gave his rivals a free pit stop just after he had pitted.
For Alonso, seventh was a great result after he was penalised 45 grid places for fitting an upgraded engine for practice, and started the race at the back of the pack. Alonso said he was lucky to avoid the first-lap crash involving Vettel and Rosberg, while the virtual safety car also played into his hands, if not Button’s. “After this weekend’s penalties, we needed some luck — and we got that today!” beamed the Spaniard.
Bad to worse for Vettel
If Ferrari’s season has gone off the rails, it’s been even worse for lead driver Vettel, who has slipped behind team-mate Raikkonen in the overall standings after a difficult couple of races. The four-time world champion had a nightmare qualifying session in Singapore which relegated him to the back of the grid, before he fought back to finish the race fifth.
The German then qualified fifth at Sepang before he was at fault for a first-bend shunt on Rosberg which ended his race and sent his fellow German spinning. Verstappen branded Vettel “crazy” and an “idiot” over team radio, and Rosberg later described him as “out of control”. Worse, Vettel has also been penalised three grid places for Japan, which doesn’t help his chances of improving from his current fifth place in the drivers’ standings. — AFP