Ric­cia­rdo takes first in epic Malaysian Grand Prix

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

DANIEL Ric­cia­rdo led a Red Bull onetwo as a dis­traught Lewis Hamil­ton’s hopes of re­gain­ing the world cham­pi­onship lead went up in smoke at a dra­matic, ac­tion-packed Malaysian Grand Prix yes­ter­day.

Hamil­ton was lead­ing with 15 laps to go when his en­gine ex­ploded at the Sepang In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit.

“No, no,” cried the English­man as flames ap­peared at the back of his car, leav­ing Ric­cia­rdo to take the lead ahead of team­mate Max Ver­stap­pen.

Cham­pi­onship leader Nico Ros­berg sur­vived a first-bend spin in­volv­ing Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and a 10-sec­ond penalty to take third place and ex­tend the gap over Mercedes team­mate Hamil­ton to 23 points with just five races re­main­ing.

Hamil­ton was al­most in tears with his head in his hands af­ter the dra­matic end to his race which has dealt a se­vere blow to his chances of se­cur­ing a third drivers’ cham­pi­onship in a row.

He had looked all set to snatch back the lead from Ros­berg, who was rel­e­gated from sec­ond on the grid to 21st af­ter he was hit by Vet­tel on the first bend.

Vet­tel was forced to re­tire with a bro­ken front sus­pen­sion in the in­ci­dent that also in­volved Ver­stap­pen.

Hamil­ton had got away cleanly from pole po­si­tion and sped off into the dis­tance, clear of the trou­ble be­hind him.

He looked to be head­ing for a com­fort­able win un­til his en­gine let go in the most spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion.

An ec­static Ric­cia­rdo cel­e­brated his first win of the sea­son on the podium with a “shoey” – drink­ing cham­pagne from his driv­ing boot.

“It was a race of chal­lenges,” said Ric­cia­rdo.

“Lewis got the lead and had his prob­lems. It went the other way in Monaco, and I will take this to­day,” said the Aus­tralian, re­fer­ring to his botched fi­nal pit stop which handed Hamil­ton vic­tory in Monaco ear­lier in the sea­son.

“It has been two years since [my] last win, and it has been a bit emo­tional. I said two weeks ago we would win one and we did.”

Ver­stap­pen, who turned 19 on Septem­ber 30, cel­e­brated his podium fin­ish and his birth­day by also drink­ing the sweaty cock­tail.

The Red Bull pair bat­tled thrillingly wheel-to-wheel through six bends at one point, with Ric­cia­rdo just man­ag­ing to hold off the teenage Fly­ing Dutch­man.

“We were push­ing the whole race,” said Ver­stap­pen.

The de­fen­sive move proved cru­cial as it gave Ric­cia­rdo track po­si­tion at the fi­nal pit stop un­der the vir­tual safety car caused by Hamil­ton’s demise.

Ric­cia­rdo was then able to hold onto the lead com­fort­ably till the end.

Mean­while, Ros­berg sliced his way back through the field im­pe­ri­ously af­ter the first cor­ner drama and was sur­prised to make the podium.

“I thought the race was all over, so I am re­ally happy to fight back all the way to the podium,” Ros­berg said.

“I wished for a bet­ter day but that is the way it goes some­times.”

Hamil­ton now has to pick him­self up quickly ahead of the Ja­panese Grand Prix on Oc­to­ber 9.

Mercedes non-ex­ec­u­tive chair Niki Lauda said the team had “let down” Hamil­ton.

“I am re­ally up­set. We should not let him down with an en­gine fail­ure. It was a fairly new en­gine, it was not old in the car,” Lauda told Sky Sports tele­vi­sion. “What went wrong I do not know and we will work to cor­rect it.

“I am tak­ing him to Ja­pan to­mor­row in my plane. I hope I can [cheer] him up. The cham­pi­onship is over when the last race is over; 23 points is a lot but you never know.”

Hamil­ton’s fail­ure to fin­ish and Ros­berg’s third place mean that Mercedes missed a chance to clinch the con­struc­tors” cham­pi­onship in Sepang.

They have 553 points but Red Bull, who picked up 43 points for the onetwo, have closed the gap to 194 points with a max­i­mum of 215 up for grabs in the re­main­ing five races of the sea­son. –

Photo: AFP

Red Bull Rac­ing’s Aus­tralian driver Daniel Ric­cia­rdo cel­e­brates on the podium af­ter win­ning the For­mula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang yes­ter­day.

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