Max Versappen Wins Malaysian GP, Celebrates 20th birthday in style

Red Bull's Max Verstappen holds his trophy as he celebrates with his team after winning the Malaysia Grand Prix at Sepang Malaysia on Sunday. — Reuters

Red Bull's Max Verstappen holds his trophy as he celebrates with his team after winning the Malaysia Grand Prix at Sepang Malaysia on Sunday. — Reuters

On paper it should suit them again, but there is also an air of uncertainty with Red Bull very much in the mix after Max Verstappen's victory at Sepang.

Ultimately, both drivers were to blame for the accident - Stroll should have been checking his mirrors before he weaved across the track to pick up discarded rubber on his tyres, while Seb should have anticipated the Williams would not stick to the racing line, given that racing had stopped, and allowed Lance more room.

Pierre Gasly performed admirably on his grand prix debut with Toro Rosso, having been summoned on the eve of the Malaysian weekend to replace Daniil Kvyat.

The team will therefore fit the gearbox as scheduled on Saturday morning at Suzuka for final free practice, with that hour-long run enough to give confirmation that everything is in order prior to qualifying. The session was red flagged ten minutes early when a drain cover became unstuck on the kerb at turn 13.

It's painful when you get that close, said Raikkonen.

Still, retired champion Nico Rosberg finished third past year after dropping to the back of the field with a spin on the opening lap and Vettel is optimistic he can minimise the damage. And if it ends up costing Vettel a five-place grid penalty for a change of gearbox in Japan, it could be championship defining... Hamilton managed to set the fastest time in Q1 despite some niggling concerns about the set up.

Despite defying pre-qualifying expectations by landing pole position, Hamilton is wary of the challenge likely to be presented in Sunday morning's race when he will start alongside Raikkonen on the front row and just ahead of Max Verstappen.

Vettel started from the back of the grid after engine problems on Saturday, while Raikkonen did not start at all. Raikkonen is the standout exception, winning from 17th on the grid in 2005.

Privileged off-track access is on offer, including behind-the-scenes tours of the F1 paddock and pit lane, a driving tour of the iconic Suzuka track and a ticket to exclusive Paddock Club parties. This didn't happen and Raikonnen's vehicle was retired before the race started.

Hamilton and Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff both spoke in negative tones despite his impressive second-place finish in Malaysia.

Vettel has a 34-point deficit to recover with only 125 points available.

Mercedes' confusion stemmed from their mysterious struggles in Friday practice which resulted in Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas splitting their approach towards the team's new aerodynamic package.

Alonso, though, has brushed off Vettel's complaints. I think it is more a driver lap than the vehicle. After all the stops were completed, Vettel had moved up another place. Most strategists had modelled his race and had him finishing fourth, catching Ricciardo at the end.

Bottas pitted in the 28th lap, with Vettel gracefully executing the undercut on him. Hamilton and Force India's Esteban Ocon are the only drivers to have finished every race so far.

Ferrari has confirmed the gearbox of the No. 5 Ferrari has escaped damage following Vettel's freaky cool-down lap collision with Williams driver Lance Stroll moments after the chequered flag had fallen in Malaysia. While the left rear wheel of the Ferrari ended up on top of the Scuderia, the Williams was left unscathed. Vettel hitched a ride back to the pits on the side of Pascal Wehrlein's auto which may see Vettel draw the ire of the FIA later in the week.

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