Max Verstappen sealed victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton finished second to extend his lead in the championship standings.
The Red Bull of Verstappen impressed at Sepang as his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finished third ahead of Hamilton’s main title rival Sebastian Vettel – who recovered from last on the grid.
Here, we looks at the main talking points as Formula One leaves Malaysia for Japan and another round of the championship.
Max powers to win and shows he is the real deal
Verstappen turned 20 on Saturday and celebrated by putting his car third on the grid as he continued his strong showings in qualifying this season. But, unlike the rest of 2017, the flying Dutchman saw it through when it mattered to take his second victory in Formula One. His first came fortuitously in Spain last season on his maiden drive for Red Bull but this was different – deserved as he took a risk to overtake Hamilton at turn one and then raced off into the distance.
Malaysia will be missed
With dwindling support from both spectators and the Malaysian government, an agreement was struck with Liberty Media to end Sepang’s F1 contract a year early. This, therefore, was billed as Malaysia’s Formula One finale – and once again it delivered. Over 56,000 fans attended Sunday’s race, an improvement on recent years, and Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak said “hosting the F1 may be reconsidered in the future” and most would welcome it back at some point.
Hamilton squeezes every inch out of ailing arrow…
Listening to Hamilton and Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff after the race here and you would think the team had just lost the championship on the final corner in the last race of the season. Hamilton leads the title race, while Mercedes are clear in the constructors’ championship, but both confessed that all was not well with their car. Ferrari and Red Bull were much quicker here so it is a good job that Hamilton is one of very few drivers who can get the best out of his equipment, surprising even himself by taking pole and then finishing second in the race to extend his title lead.
But Bottas needs to step it up
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas is finding life a little more difficult in the sister Mercedes. He seems unable to work around the issues with the car as well or as quickly as Hamilton and he is paying the price on track. He was a lowly fifth here and after a strong start to the season his own title ambitions have evaporated – now he needs to find some speed to support Hamilton in his battle with Ferrari.
Vandoorne puts Alonso in the shade
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso has been publicly decrying the quality of the Honda unit used in his McLaren since the Japanese manufacturer returned to the sport. Over team radio and in press briefings the Spaniard will not hold back on his opinion – but now his rookie team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne has taken his chance to leapfrog his revered colleague in the drivers’ standings. Back to back seventh-place finishes in Singapore and Malaysia have put the Belgian on 13 points, three more than Alonso has accrued so far this season – something else that will have angered the 36-year-old.