SEPANG – With a commanding drive, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen soundly beat current championship leader, Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton to claim his first title of the season.
Verstappen, who celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday, claimed the Malaysian Grand Prix finale race with a time of an hour, 30 minutes and 01.290 seconds.
It was his second F1 victory after winning the Spanish Grand Prix last year.
Starting the race from the second grid today, Verstappen overtook pole-sitter Hamilton on lap four after Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen failed to make the grid due to technical problems before the start.
“The car felt good from the start and I saw Lewis was struggling with traction.
“The car was unbelievable, if I had to speed up I could. It was a very tough race and incredible to win,” said the Dutchman.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finished in third place ahead of Sebastian Vettel (Scuderia Ferrari), who weaved through the field to finish fourth after starting from the back of the grid following engine problems in yesterday’s qualifying session.
“Sebastian came so quick at the end and I thought I was going to have a handful. It’s great to get a podium,” said the Australian.
Vettel now trails Hamilton by 34 points in the standings with five of the 20 races left.
After today’s podium finish, Hamilton increased his world title lead to 281 points.
“The race was a tough one. Red Bull had the upper hand on us today. I feel good but I think we have some work to do with the car. Obviously, we didn’t have the pace this weekend,” said the Briton.
After Malaysia, the race shifts to the Suzuka Circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend. – BERNAMA