Daniel Ricciardo claimed an elusive maiden win of the season at a dramatic Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, the Australian handed victory when a race-leading Lewis Hamilton retired with a blown engine.
Ricciardo was shadowed across the line by his 19-year-old Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen, a result that gave the former champion team a first one-two finish since the 2013 season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in their dominant heyday.
Nico Rosberg finished third for Mercedes, fighting back from 21st after being spun around by Sebastian Vettel at the start and also collecting a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision with Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari.
The result prevented Mercedes from wrapping up a third straight constructors’ title at the home race for title sponsor Petronas but allowed Rosberg to extend his championship lead over team mate Hamilton to 23 points with five races remaining.
The Briton, who kept clear of the chaos unfolding behind him to build on a dominant pole, was comfortably on course to score a 50th career win when his engine exploded in a burst flames, with 16 circuits of the 56-lap race to run.
“I just can’t believe that there are eight Mercedes cars and only my engines are the ones that have been going this year,” the 31-year-old triple world champion, who also suffered a series of reliability woes earlier this season, told reporters.
“Something just doesn’t feel right but there’s nothing I can do about it.
“These next five races, I know me and my mechanics have got it in us but who knows what those next engines that I have are going to do,” the visibly disappointed Briton added.
Ricciardo, who lost a certain victory to his Mercedes rival at the Monaco Grand Prix in May due to a bungled pitstop, was more than happy to accept his good fortune in Malaysia.
“It obviously went the other way at Monaco, so I’ll take this today,” Ricciardo said after marking his fourth career win by drinking champagne from his boot in his now famous ‘shoey’ celebration.
“No hard feelings to Lewis but I’ll definitely take the win,” added the Australian, who last won at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix and had claimed four podiums in the last five races.
There was no evidence of the misfortune that would befall Hamilton at the start when the Briton pulled clear from pole, keeping the lead off the line ahead of his team mate and through the first corner.
Behind him, though, there was a tremendous battle for position with Verstappen and Vettel fighting for the same piece of road only for the Ferrari to tag the back of Rosberg’s Mercedes that pushed the championship leader into a spin.
The damage from the collision broke Vettel’s suspension, ending his race immediately, and prompting the first of several virtual safety car periods.
From that point on the race was finely poised strategically with Verstappen initially gambling on a two-stop strategy as Hamilton and Ricciardo opted for one less tyre change.
The Red Bull pair engaged in a lively tussle of their own in the second half of the grand prix, racing side-by-side before Ricciardo gained an advantage, until they both pitted one last time after Hamilton’s retirement.
Raikkonen finished fourth for Ferrari after battling Rosberg for the final podium spot, the Finn unable to take advantage of the penalty handed to his rival after the German clattered into him while overtaking.
Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit
1. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull – TAG Heuer 1:37:12.776
2. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull – TAG Heuer +00:02.443
3. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 00:25.516
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 00:28.785
5. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 01:01.582
6. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India – Mercedes 01:03.794
7. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 01:05.205
8. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India – Mercedes 01:14.062
9. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 01:21.816
10. Jolyon Palmer (Britain) Renault 01:35.466
11. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 01:38.878
12. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber – Ferrari 1 lap
13. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
14. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 1 lap
15. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Manor – Mercedes 1 lap
16. Esteban Ocon (France) Manor – Mercedes 1 lap
r. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber – Ferrari 9 laps
r. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 16 laps
r. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Haas – Ferrari 16 laps
r. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Renault 39 laps
r. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas – Ferrari 48 laps
r. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 56 laps
(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)
Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg,1:36.424, lap 44.
Driver and Constructor Standings
1. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 288
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 265
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 204
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 160
5. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 153
6. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull 147
7. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 80
8. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 74
9. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 50
10. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 42
11. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams 41
12. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 30
13. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas 28
14. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso 25
15. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 19
16. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Renault 7
17. Jolyon Palmer (Britain) Renault 1
18. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Manor 1
19. Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium) McLaren 1
20. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Haas 0
21. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber 0
22. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber 0
23. Rio Haryanto (Indonesia) Manor 0
24. Esteban Ocon (France) Manor 0
1. Mercedes 553
2. Red Bull – TAG Heuer 359
3. Ferrari 313
4. Force India – Mercedes 124
5. Williams-Mercedes 121
6. McLaren 62
7. Toro Rosso – Ferrari 47
8. Haas – Ferrari 28
9. Renault 8
10. Manor – Mercedes 1
11. Sauber – Ferrari 0