Race review

What happened at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

There was more Ricciardo woe in Abu Dhabi, as Mercedes ruled a line beneath another all-dominant season with a Sunday stroll to a 1-2 finish.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 1st, finished 1st.

Two weeks after he qualified on pole in Brazil but fluffed his lines into the first corner, Bottas made no such mistake in Abu Dhabi, nailing the start and breaking clear of teammate Hamilton early on as the Silver Arrows were the gold standard at Yas Marina. There were some heart-in-mouth moments for the Finn – Hamilton made the most of a Bottas lock-up into the first chicane to climb all over the back of his car for a corner or two on lap 49 – but Bottas showed the pace he had in reserve by pushing his lead back to 2.3 seconds on the next tour, and cruised to his third race win of the season. Hamilton kept up his curious record of never having won a race for the remainder of the season after securing each of his four world titles, but a fourth 1-2 for the season for the team was the perfect way to wrap up another campaign of setting a new benchmark for the others to follow. Hamilton may not be a fan of the circuit layout – “it’s impossible to pass here,” was his immediate reaction afterwards – but boring can be beautiful when a maximum bounty of points is scored.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 4th, did not finish. Max Verstappen: qualified 6th, finished 5th.

Speaking of dull … Verstappen’s race was spent looking at the back of Raikkonen’s Ferrari for 55 laps, after the Dutchman’s early advances against the Ferrari veteran came to nought. He ran just behind Raikkonen for lap after lap, but never really came close enough to get past, the extra speed of the Ferrari down the two long straights cancelling out whatever Verstappen could do in the twisty final sector of the lap. At the end, Verstappen was 46 seconds behind Bottas, and a whopping 40 seconds ahead of sixth-placed Hulkenberg. At least he saw the finish; for the third time in four races since Verstappen signed a contract extension with the team, Ricciardo was forced out early, this time a hydraulics failure halting his progress on lap 21. After reversing his form against Verstappen to out-qualify his teammate with a brilliant lap on Saturday, it was a bitter blow – worse still, he relinquished fourth place in the drivers’ championship to Raikkonen. You sense the Australian may be ready for the off-season more than most.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 3rd, finished 3rd. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 4th.

A mile behind the front-running Mercedes duo and a mile in front of his dutiful and tardy teammate – Abu Dhabi won’t go down as a race Vettel will remember very fondly to round out a season where he led the championship for the opening 12 rounds and had Ferrari dreaming it could realistically end a title drought that goes back to 2007. The one slice of good news for the German was that, even with Bottas winning, he held onto second in the drivers’ standings. Raikkonen did what Raikkonen does – showed up, drove around, collected some points and achieved the bare minimum for a Ferrari driver. Finishing 112 points behind his teammate in an identical car sounds about right.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 8th, finished 7th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 9th, finished 8th.

With Force India having secured fourth place for another year in the constructors’ championship, hopes were high that Perez and Ocon would get back to their feisty inter-team fighting that characterised the first half of their season, but the Mexican’s pace put paid to that, Perez finishing six seconds ahead of his young French teammate. For the 16th time in 20 races, the team had both drivers finish in the points; it’s hard to see how Force India, with its budget compared to the sport’s grandees, could do a lot better.

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 10th, finished 10th. Lance Stroll: qualified 15th, finished 18th.

Abu Dhabi brought the curtain down on Massa’s career, which started with Sauber way back in 2002, and a point for 10th in what is arguably the sixth-best car in the field was a fitting farewell present for a driver who so very nearly became world champion in 2008 before being pipped at the post by Hamilton in a memorable season-finale in Sao Paulo. The Brazilian veteran must surely have got a small kick out of eliminating old Ferrari teammate Alonso from Q3 with a ragged-edge final lap in qualifying 24 hours earlier. By comparison, Stroll’s race weekend was ragged for the wrong reasons, the Canadian hacksawing away at the wheel as he attempted to find grip, and then making three pit stops in the race where everyone else made one to finish plumb last and a lap down. With Massa leaving, all eyes are on who will replace him – and the team using former Renault and BMW-Sauber driver Robert Kubica in the Abu Dhabi post-race test will the story to follow over the coming week.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 11th, finished 9th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 13th, finished 12th.

Two points for Alonso ruled a line beneath the McLaren-Honda re-marriage that never hit the heights of its first go-round, and ensured the Spaniard would finish ahead of teammate Vandoorne in the standings after the Belgian led the way for much of the year. Vandoorne struggled mightily with rear grip issues in Sunday’s race, while Alonso kept Massa behind him one final time as he and the team prepare for the arrival of Renault power for 2018.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 17th, finished 16th. Brendon Hartley: qualified 20th, finished 15th.

Gasly admitted Toro Rosso was “stressed” about losing sixth place in the constructors’ championship to Renault in Abu Dhabi, and the team’s cause wasn’t helped when the Frenchman qualified just 17th, and teammate Hartley last while being saddled with yet another engine penalty. Gasly’s fears were valid; when Hulkenberg qualified and finished inside the top 10 and a mile ahead of both STR drivers, the fall to seventh overall – and the loss of approximately $6.5 million in prizemoney for the season – could have long-term consequences. Honda power – and 2018 – has to be the focus now, and that future will feature both Gasly and Hartley, after the team announced they’d be retained for next year in the lead-in to the race in the UAE.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 16th, finished 11th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 14th, finished 13th.

Haas came into Abu Dhabi in eighth place overall, but with the American squad just six points adrift of sixth-placed Toro Rosso, hopes were high internally that Haas could spring a surprise. They didn’t – Magnussen ruined his race with a spin all of his own doing on the opening lap, while Grosjean, after he’d won a spirited battle with Stroll’s Williams early on that made up to some degree for the snorefest happening up front, could only make it as far as 11th, Haas failing to score for the third time in the final four races of 2017.

Renault
Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 7th, finished 6th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 12th, did not finish.

Hulkenberg made a lot of people clad in yellow very happy on Sunday, a calm drive to sixth and beating both Force Indias a superb effort, and one that gave Renault a much-needed financial shot in the arm as it reloads for 2018 with a driver line-up that can push the team even higher. The German, after out-qualifying Sainz on Saturday, beat his teammates in qualifying 19-1 over the course of the season, and while he copped an early five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when fighting Perez on lap one, had the pace to keep him behind for the entire race even after serving his punishment. Sainz was looking likely to join Hulkenberg in the points in Abu Dhabi, but had to retire immediately after his pit stop when the left front wheel wasn’t affixed correctly, seeing the Spaniard brush the wall in the tunnel that links the pit-lane exit to the circuit proper.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 17th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 18th, finished 14th.

Was Abu Dhabi Ericsson’s final F1 race? Was it Wehrlein’s final race for Sauber? Who will drive for the team in 2018, and what will its engines be badged as? All pertinent questions after another pointless race for the Swiss squad, and with Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc almost certain to be at the team next year, one of its incumbents will go. Wehrlein is considered an outside shot at the Williams seat vacated by Massa, while Ericsson, whose links to the team’s ownership are a factor, could yet get a reprieve. In the season finale, Wehrlein qualified and finished ahead of his teammate as he ‘won’ the fight to be the least-worst. Could we see this team designated as Sauber-Alfa Romeo next season?

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What happened at the Brazilian Grand Prix?

Sebastian Vettel had Ferrari back on top, but a pair of robust recovery drives from Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo stole the show in Sao Paulo.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 20th, finished 4th. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 1st, finished 2nd.

There was one Mercedes driver who had a standout performance in Brazil, and it wasn’t the one who started on pole and finished in second place. Bottas had a golden opportunity to use the fastest car in the field to claim a much-needed first win since Austria back in round nine; since, he’s been roundly thrashed by Hamilton in the sister Silver Arrow as the Briton careered towards a fourth world title. With the Finn on pole and Hamilton starting from the pit lane after crashing out of qualifying, Brazil was there for the taking – instead, it was Bottas who was taken, the Finn elbowed into second place at the first corner by Vettel and never really staking a claim for the lead later on, despite Mercedes getting aggressive with its pit-stop strategy and bringing him in for new tyres on lap 27 to put the frighteners up Ferrari. It didn’t work, and he finished 2.7 seconds from the win – and just 2.7secs ahead of Hamilton in fourth after the Briton narrowly missed out on becoming the third driver ever to start from the pits and end up on the podium. Hamilton came to Brazil vowing not to back off after winning the title last time out in Brazil, and showed how hard he was prepared to push when he overdid it in qualifying, burying his car in the Turn 6 fence and causing a red flag. An early safety car that bunched up the field helped his cause, but Hamilton was inside the top 10 after nine laps and looked set to catch Raikkonen for third, but a lock-up at the first corner inside the last five laps brought his stirring charge to an end. While a pole, a podium and Hamilton being voted Driver of the Day were good, what wasn’t was the news some Mercedes staffers had been robbed at gunpoint leaving the circuit on Friday night after practice, one of a number of similar incidents over the weekend that saw an increased security presence at surely the most dangerous location F1 continues to insist on visiting.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 5th, finished 6th. Max Verstappen: qualified 4th, finished 5th.

The high altitude of Sao Paulo and Red Bull’s fragile Renault engine supply always loomed as a bad combination, and for Ricciardo, who retired from the previous two races in Austin and Mexico City with powerplant problems, Interlagos was a triple-whammy, more engine component changes making for a 10-place grid penalty. The chances of the Australian arresting his wretched record in Brazil – he’d competed in more races (six) than scored points (five) at Interlagos before Sunday – looked like a lost cause when was spun at Turn 3 by Vandoorne, whose McLaren had been tagged by the Haas of Magnussen at the previous turn, on the first lap. No matter; Ricciardo returned to the pits, had new tyres fitted, and then spent the afternoon tearing back through the field, his late-braking passes of one rival after another into the tricky downhill Turn 1 a highlight. Hamilton’s drive from the back in a better car gained more plaudits, but Ricciardo’s effort was sublime. Verstappen, who came in after winning two of the previous four races in Malaysia and Mexico, had a more statistically successful afternoon than his teammate, but spent much of the race frustrated at the power provided by his engine, and asked for a late-race pit stop to replace tyres that he said “felt like rocks”. With nothing to lose from fifth place, the team agreed to his request, and the Dutchman set the fastest lap of the race on lap 64 of 71. Fifth was as good as it was going to get – and sixth will be the best he can do in the drivers’ standings with just the race in Abu Dhabi to come.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 2nd, finished 1st. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 3rd, finished 3rd.

After losing the title to Hamilton in Mexico last time out, Vettel responded in the best way possible with just his second win in the past 13 races, a remarkable stat considering he led the title chase for the opening 12 rounds of the year. The German said he “chickened out” of his qualifying lap on Saturday, when Bottas edged him by 0.038secs for pole, but got his courage up on Sunday off the start, muscling past the Mercedes at the first corner and looking seemingly untroubled from there. It was Vettel’s fifth win and 12th podium of the year, and one that all-but assured him of finishing runner-up in the world championship – he leads Bottas by 22 points with a maximum of 25 available in Abu Dhabi. Raikkonen never looked like challenging his teammate in qualifying or the race, but took a third successive podium finish for the first time in his second stint at Ferrari, and for the first time since China-Bahrain-Spain in 2013, when he was at Lotus. Fourth in the drivers’ championship remains up for grabs, provided he can score seven more points than Ricciardo in Abu Dhabi.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 6th, finished 9th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 11th, did not finish.

With fourth in the constructors’ championship sewn up, would Force India allow its drivers to race one another again in Brazil, and risk revisiting the acrimony between Perez and Ocon that marred the first half of the season? Sadly (for our entertainment, not the team’s) we never got to find out, as Ocon was pitched into a spin by Grosjean on the first lap and crashed, ending his perfect F1 finishing record; the young Frenchman had completed all 27 races he’d started before Interlagos. Ocon was unhappy with qualifying outside of the top 10 after he’d been a third-row fixture in recent races, and the dangers of being back in the pack in the frantic opening exchanges were painfully obvious. Perez, who didn’t drive in opening practice as the team elected to run Mercedes-backed British junior George Russell, this year’s GP2 champion, in his car, was thrilled to qualify sixth, which became fifth on the grid with Ricciardo’s engine penalty demotion. The Mexican was less happy on Sunday though, finishing at the back of the three-car train behind Massa and Alonso that flashed across the line almost simultaneously, two points a reward for his efforts.

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 10th, finished 7th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, finished 16th.

Interlagos was Massa’s final home Grand Prix – after it was his final home Grand Prix a year ago before he was retained for 2017 after the team lost Bottas to Mercedes. While he didn’t get the emotional send-off of last year after he shunted the car in the rain and was given an ovation from the passionate Brazilian fans, a seventh-place finish – effectively best of the rest behind the big three teams – was as good as it could have been, and Massa would have especially enjoyed keeping old Ferrari mate Alonso at bay in the closing stages, finishing less than half a second ahead of the McLaren. Massa jumped past teammate Stroll back into the top 10 of the championship after a difficult first visit to Brazil for the Canadian, who had his qualifying preparations ruined when his car needed a gearbox change – and subsequent five-place grid penalty – on Saturday morning. Stroll’s start from near the back was poor, and he had to make a late-race pit stop to change tyres after his left-front delaminated following several lock-ups into the first corner, finishing last of the 16 drivers classified.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 7th, finished 8th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 13th, did not finish.

Watching Alonso manhandle his McLaren into positions it has no realistic business being in – onto the fourth row of the grid in qualifying and competing for decent points in the race – has become a Sunday staple, and the Spaniard’s Saturday lap in Q3 was raw aggression and sublime skill at its finest. The lack of long straights at Interlagos didn’t punish McLaren’s cruel lack of straight-line speed, and the car looked mighty in the twisty middle sector, where the driver can make a sweet-handling chassis sing. Four points for eighth was Alonso’s second-best result of the year, which was encouraging on one hand, but a reminder of his past glories on another; the two-time world champion has been on the Brazil podium eight times without ever seeing the view from its top step. On the other side of the garage, Vandoorne’s race was over almost before it started, the Belgian squeezed into contact with Ricciardo’s Red Bull by Magnussen and making the long journey back to the pits on foot.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 17th, finished 12th. Brendon Hartley: qualified 15th, did not finish.

No points, but plenty of drama for Red Bull’s ‘B’ team in Brazil. Toro Rosso took engine penalties in Brazil for the fourth race in a row as their relationship with Renault splutters to a conclusion before a move to Honda next season – and then things got really interesting. Renault intimated that the installation of the engine could be to blame – “there are never coincidences in this sport,” said Renault head Cyril Abiteboul – which Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost strongly refuted. The team then issued a statement prior to qualifying, suggesting that Renault’s constructors’ championship fight with Toro Rosso might have something to do with the recent unreliability of the engines it provides to the team … In the race, Hartley stopped just after half-distance with yet another reliability gremlin, while Gasly, who said he found the repeated engine penalties “hard to accept” as he negotiates the early days of his F1 career, was a lapped 12th after starting from the back. The good news? The lack of points didn’t hurt the team too much in the constructors’ championship, Toro Rosso taking a four-point lead over Renault (and six over Haas) into the final race in the UAE.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 12th, finished 15th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 14th, did not finish.

Grosjean wasn’t happy to be in an incident with Ocon on lap one, and his mood didn’t improve when he was penalised – harshly, it appeared – 10 seconds at his first pit stop for being deemed to have caused the collision with his compatriot. “You must be kidding me,” he groaned. Stroll’s late puncture and subsequent pit stop spared Grosjean from finishing dead-last. Magnussen didn’t come close to getting that far after being the trigger for the first-lap accident with Vandoorne and Ricciardo. “I broke my front suspension, so it wasn’t the best,” he said afterwards.

Renault
Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 8th, finished 10th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 9th, finished 11th.

One point for finishing 10th usually isn’t much to get animated about, but for Hulkenberg, it was a welcome relief after the German hadn’t finished the past four races, and was driving with one hand behind his back to a degree, with Renault managing engine power delivery modes to combat Sau Paulo’s high altitude and its own unreliability. The margin between Hulkenberg and Sainz was miniscule all weekend, suggesting the car was being driven to its potential, but whether that potential can translate into points to vault past Toro Rosso in the team’s race despite having a much more experienced and successful duo of drivers remains to be seen.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 13th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 16th, finished 14th.

Ericsson made a strong start and benefitted from the early chaos behind him to nibble at the edges of the points for quite some time, but faded to 13th as his search for that elusive first world championship point continues with just one race left this season. Wehrlein, who was given a new suspension and aerodynamic update to his car for the race to combat the handling problems that had plagued him in recent outings, ran ahead of his teammate for some time, but admitted to “really struggling” as he dropped to 14th by the flag.

What happened at the Mexican Grand Prix?

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ran rings around the rest as the F1 roadshow hit Mexico City, while Lewis Hamilton’s worst race of the year secured his fourth world title.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 3rd, finished 9th, won world championship. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 4th, finished 2nd.

Given Hamilton came to Mexico needing only a fifth place in the final three races of the year to secure the title, few were surprised when the Briton joined Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel as a four-time world champion – but plenty were surprised as to how he achieved it. From third on the grid, Hamilton tried to take advantage of the contact between Vettel and Verstappen in the opening two corners, but came off second-best when his right rear tyre was punctured by Vettel’s front wing in a move he felt may have been intentional. A pit stop sent Hamilton to the unusual position of the back of the pack, and his Mercedes, so often at the other end of the field, strangely struggled to work its way back through to the points, finally getting back into the top 10 when he passed Massa’s Williams on lap 57. From there, it was all about bringing the car home and keeping an eye on Vettel, who needed to finish in the top two to take the title fight to Brazil in a fortnight’s time. The German couldn’t, and a third title in four seasons was Hamilton’s. “It was a horrible way to do it, to be honest,” he admitted after his worst result of the season, a ninth-place finish seeing him become the first driver since James Hunt in 1976 to secure the crown in a race where he was lapped. Only Michael Schumacher (seven world championships) and Juan Manuel Fangio (five) have won more than the Hamilton-Vettel-Prost triumvirate.

On the other side of the Mercedes garage, Bottas’ second was his best result in five races, and one that went by almost unnoticed given Hamilton’s dramas, Vettel’s own comeback drive and Verstappen sailing on serenely out front. One story to watch now Mercedes has won both the drivers’ and teams’ titles for a fourth straight year; Bottas is now just 15 points behind Vettel for second in the drivers’ standings, which will surely be Mercedes’ focus for the final two Grands Prix.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 7th, did not finish. Max Verstappen: qualified 2nd, finished 1st.

On any other day, Verstappen’s drive to his second race win of the year and third for his career would have hogged 95 per cent of the headlines, but Hamilton’s fourth world title took some of the spotlight away from the young Dutchman. It arguably shouldn’t have, as Verstappen was in a class of his own from Saturday onwards in Mexico, even when Vettel edged him by 0.086secs to steal pole position. The long run to the first corner at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez always shaped as a chance for Verstappen to muscle past Vettel, and the pair briefly touched before Verstappen entered Turn 3 ahead, and that was that. Despite being told several times by his team that he didn’t need to push as hard as he was, Verstappen set fastest laps for fun in the early stages, and such was his dominance that he finished 54 seconds clear of Raikkonen’s third-placed Ferrari. For the ease of his victory, Verstappen admitted to some nerves when he saw one Renault-powered car after another out of the race with reliability problems, his mind undoubtedly drifting back to earlier in the year when he retired from multiple races through no fault of his own. “I had my bad luck at the beginning of the year so I am very happy that this time nothing happened to me,” he said. Speaking of luck, teammate Ricciardo’s ran out after he encouragingly topped the timesheets after Friday practice, giving a glimpse of the Red Bull pace Verstappen would show from then on. The Australian’s qualifying was a disaster, admitting he was “confused, annoyed, helpless” after finding no grip and starting seventh, and the team elected to take a 20-place grid penalty for a new engine on race day to give him a fighting chance of a good result. Ricciardo roared through to seventh from 16th on the grid in just six laps, but meekly returned to the pits with a turbo problem, retiring from a strong position for the second time in a week after his DNF in Austin. It was the first time Ricciardo has retired from consecutive races since his days at Toro Rosso in 2013. “The weekend turned to crap,” he lamented.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 1st, finished 4th. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 3rd.

With the championship mathematically possible but realistically improbable, Vettel drove like a man with nothing to lose in qualifying on Saturday, securing his first pole in five races with a lap that stunned Verstappen, who looked unbackable for top spot. But from the perfect place to start the race, the German’s Sunday unravelled after the contact with Verstappen and Hamilton in the clumsy opening exchanges, and he had to pit after one lap for a new front wing. He made better progress through the field than Hamilton did, but couldn’t get close enough to Raikkonen for Ferrari to flip its drivers for the sake of his championship chances. Vettel was understandably flat after the race, but praised the way Hamilton was able to join him as a four-time world champion. “Overall he was the better man and did the better job, simple as that,” he said. Raikkonen did what Raikkonen does, which is qualify nowhere near Vettel (he was three-quarters of a second slower), race consistently in a superior car after a poor start where he got elbowed back down the field, and take advantage of Ricciardo’s absence from the top six and Hamilton and Vettel being compromised to finish third, his sixth podium of the year.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 10th, finished 7th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 6th, finished 5th.

Force India secured fourth place in the constructors’ standings for a second consecutive year with another solid haul of points in Mexico, but it was Ocon, rather than home hero Perez, who flew the flag for the team on race day. The Frenchman, who admitted before the event that he’d received death threats from Mexican fans via social media after his various run-ins with Perez this year, out-qualified Ricciardo to slot into sixth, and took third early on after the first-lap mess ahead of him, with a maiden podium looking a chance. The recovering Ferrari duo of Raikkonen and Vettel demoted him to fifth, which equalled his best F1 result and saw him draw to within nine points of his teammate in the drivers’ standings. Seventh for Perez, who pitted on lap 51 to fit ultrasoft tyres for a late charge to the flag, meant the Mexican has never beaten a teammate at home, and while he harried the Williams of Stroll in the final laps, the Canadian was able to keep him at bay. An appearance on the podium after the official ceremonies had finished to thank his home fans for their passionate support over the weekend was a moment Perez will surely never forget.

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 11th, finished 11th. Lance Stroll: qualified 12th, finished 6th.

Stroll’s last two races as an 18-year-old in Japan and Austin produced no points and plenty of pain, so race day in Mexico – on his 19th birthday – made for a welcome change, taking his second-best result of the year behind his podium finish in Azerbaijan back in June. It was a result that owed itself to consistent pace and a smattering of luck, as he was able to pit under virtual safety car conditions on lap 32 when Hartley’s Toro Rosso caught fire and ground to a halt, fitting supersoft tyres and going to the end despite plenty of pressure from Perez’s Force India. Massa’s chances of joining the birthday boy in the points came unstuck when a slow puncture saw him have to pit on lap three, and Stroll has now jumped the veteran Brazilian in the standings (40 points to 36). With Interlagos coming up next, will the out-of-contract Massa know his F1 future before his home race? On the more immediate horizon, eight points for Stroll saw Williams take a 23-point lead over Toro Rosso for fifth in the constructors’ standings with two races remaining.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 14th, finished 10th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 15th, finished 12th.

Mexico was Alonso at his feisty best after the Spaniard and teammate Vandoorne – again – were consigned to the back of the grid because of engine replacement penalties. Both Alonso and Vandoorne were more than 30km/h slower – that’s no misprint – than the Mercedes-powered cars down Mexico’s mammoth start-finish straight, and Alonso feared he wouldn’t be able to do much starting so far back despite calling his chassis “the best in Mexico” after qualifying. He was wrong, a fighting drive to 10th featuring a wheel-to-wheel dice with the recovering Hamilton late that evoked memories of the good old days when Alonso was competing for something more meaningful than a single point. Twelfth for Vandoorne made it three races in a row for the Belgian without points after his back-to-back seventh places in Singapore and Malaysia.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 20th, finished 13th. Brendon Hartley: qualified 13th, did not finish.

That Gasly was still running at the chequered flag was something of a surprise, the young Frenchman struggling with one engine gremlin after another in practice and qualifying, so much so that he’d managed all of 12 timed laps before the race at a track he’d never driven at before. On the other side of the garage, Hartley had engine issues on Friday, made Q2 on Saturday before a puff of engine smoke saw him have to park up, took an engine penalty for the race, and then blew up again just before half-distance. “I’m not the happiest man today, but I’m still smiling because I’ve made progress compared to last week in Austin,” the New Zealander said. With Daniil Kvyat officially out of the mix at STR, it appears the unlikely pairing of Gasly and Hartley will be the team’s drivers for 2018 after they were confirmed for Brazil and Abu Dhabi to round out this season.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 19th, finished 15th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 18th, finished 8th.

Nobody at Haas would have dreamed of points after qualifying, where the American team’s cars were slowest of all in what Grosjean called “a slap in the face” after being beaten by Sauber. So for Magnussen to finish eighth, especially after he laboured with a stomach bug on Friday, was something akin to a miracle, even after he gained through the pain of others after the various incidents on the first lap. “That was like a victory, it was incredible,” the Dane said. “It was a perfect race. It couldn’t have gone better.” Grosjean may well have joined his teammate in the points, but came off second-best in a clash with Alonso at the first corner on lap 10 that both damaged his car and saw him slapped with a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. Two laps down, the Frenchman was the final driver classified.

Renault
Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 8th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 9th, did not finish.

A miserable Sunday in Mexico for Renault, with Hulkenberg not seeing the flag for the fourth time in five races because of a mid-race retirement with an energy recovery system issue, and Sainz pulling into the pits with less than 10 laps to go after reporting his car was pulling sideways on the straights. After both cars made the top 10 in qualifying, it was a disappointing end to a weekend where Toro Rosso, five points ahead in the constructors’ championship for sixth but looking increasingly vulnerable, looked there for the passing.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 16th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 17th, finished 14th.

Ericsson looked odds-on to snare his first points for the season when he ran convincingly inside the top 10 in the early stages, but had a brake-by-wire failure 14 laps from the end and returned to the pits with flames licking at the back of his gearbox for a seventh retirement in 18 races. Teammate Wehrlein was a chance to get a Sauber into Q2 for the first time since Azerbaijan 10 races ago before being edged by Vandoorne and Ericsson late in the first part of qualifying, but had a rougher race, finishing two laps down and ahead only of Grosjean’s heavily-damaged Haas.

What happened at the United States Grand Prix?

Max Verstappen’s podium that wasn’t was the big talking point after Lewis Hamilton continued on his winning ways in Austin.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 3rd, finished 5th.

Mercedes won its 11th Grand Prix of the season – and fifth out of six races since F1’s mid-season break – to annex the constructors’ championship for a fourth year running, and could very well seal the drivers’ championship next weekend in Mexico after Hamilton continued his love affair with the Circuit of the Americas. Of the six races held at Austin, the Briton has now won five of them, and while he made a tardy getaway to be beaten by Vettel’s Ferrari into the first corner, Hamilton was untroubled after reclaiming the lead on lap six, and will take a 66-point lead to Mexico City with a maximum of 75 points left in the season. Also for the statistically minded, Hamilton’s pole position on Saturday was his 117th front-row start, breaking the record set by Michael Schumacher. Hamilton’s form since F1’s summer sojourn contrasts sharply with that of teammate Bottas, who, having re-signed for 2018, has dropped well off the pace. The Finn finished 34 seconds behind his teammate after making a late pit stop for tyres when Raikkonen and then Verstappen demoted him from the podium places, but in a six-race run where Hamilton has won five times, Bottas has managed just two podium finishes in what is undoubtedly the fastest car in the field. “A tough day for me,” he lamented.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 4th, did not finish. Max Verstappen: qualified 6th, finished 4th.

It had almost been the perfect week for Verstappen, who signed a contract extension until 2020 in the lead-up to the race in Austin. Notice we said ‘almost’; after being beaten in qualifying by teammate Ricciardo and then taking an engine penalty that demoted him to the back, Verstappen was electrifying in the early stages of the race, passing 10 cars in the first 10 laps to give himself a chance of a podium finish. An audacious and opportunistic pass of Raikkonen’s Ferrari with four corners left on the final lap saw him cross the line in third place, but as he was preparing to head out onto the podium, the race stewards deemed he’d left the track and gained an advantage with his move, the subsequent five-second time penalty demoting him to fourth. Former Red Bull racer Mark Webber, commentating on British TV, called it a “shit decision”, while team boss Christian Horner found the verdict “unbelievably harsh”. Verstappen’s take? “We had a really great race, but with those stupid decisions you really kill the sport,” he fumed. Ricciardo’s Sunday was, initially at least, quite action-packed as he diced furiously with Bottas for third in the early stages, but that all came to nought when an engine failure saw the Australian sidelined on lap 14, snapping his run of three straight podiums. Ricciardo spent more time talking about his future in the wake of Red Bull hitching its wagon long-term to Verstappen – the 28-year-old comes out of contract at the end of the 2018 season – than he needed to spend analysing a race that ended all too quickly. He’s also likely to take a grid penalty for Mexico in seven days’ time.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 3rd.

The Prancing Horse has a pulse, but only a faint one after Vettel again couldn’t hang with Hamilton despite a jack-rabbit start that briefly raised hopes that Mercedes could be challenged at COTA. After being overtaken by Hamilton, Vettel got aggressive with his first pit stop and tried the undercut in an attempt to thwart the Briton, but he ended up needing to pass Bottas and a compliant Raikkonen to get back to where he started and minimise his points deficit to the driver would could join him as a four-time world champion as soon as next weekend. “At the start it was looking good, but quickly we realised we couldn’t do the same pace as Lewis,” he said after finishing over 10 seconds adrift. Raikkonen, who turned 38 in the week leading into the race, robustly defended his driving before a wheel was turned in Austin, despite having scored 12 fewer points in 16 races than at the same stage of last season. Sunday – eventually – saw him grab a fifth podium for the season with one of his stronger drives for the year, but the gap to his teammate ballooned to over 100 points – and is a big reason why Mercedes wrapped up the teams’ title with three races to go.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 10th, finished 8th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 7th, finished 6th.

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Perez, behind teammate Ocon in the middle part of the race, was immediately on the team radio telling Force India brass that “I am a lot faster” in an attempt to get the team to move the Frenchman aside. The team didn’t, figuring the points earned for sixth and seventh would be the same no matter which pink car crossed the line first, but the decision came back to bite them when Sainz muscled his Renault ahead of Perez and narrowly missed out on passing Ocon as the laps wound down. Ocon’s qualifying effort was all the more meritorious given he was struggling with the onset of a migraine, and the 21-year-old set a record by finishing the opening 26 races of his F1 career, beating former Manor driver Max Chilton’s mark. Perez, who was apoplectic when Magnussen blocked him in qualifying, at least has the next race at home in Mexico to look forward to.

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 11th, finished 9th. Lance Stroll: qualified 17th, finished 11th.

While Massa’s future remains cloudy, with Williams testing Robert Kubica and Paul Di Resta in what amounts to a shootout for his seat before Austin, the veteran Brazilian is making the most of the present, using a long first stint on a contra tyre strategy on Sunday to vault into the points. Stroll narrowly missed out on joining him, a three-place grid penalty for dangerously impeding Grosjean in qualifying on Saturday proving costly.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 9th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 13th, finished 12th.

It’s been a season where good news has been in short supply at McLaren, but there were plenty of smiles at the pre-event press conference when Alonso announced an extension of his contract with the team. The Spaniard produced an extraordinary lap in qualifying to work his way into the top 10 shootout despite his car being 20km/h slower than the Mercedes-powered runners down COTA’s lengthy back straight, but the long faces returned on Sunday when he had to park with – you guessed it – an engine failure on lap 24. “I cannot believe it,” he sighed after his 10th retirement of the year, the most for one driver since Raikkonen in 2002. Vandoorne was on a hiding to nothing when he took yet more engine penalties and started from the back, and try as he might, the top 10 remained just out of reach. “It was a shame to get so close to the points, but we were always going to struggle starting so far back,” he said.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 12th, finished 10th. Brendon Hartley: qualified 18th, finished 13th.

It was all-out, all-change at Toro Rosso for Austin, with the Suzuka line-up of Sainz (off to Renault to replace Jolyon Palmer) and Gasly (who stayed in Japan to contest the Super Formula season finale) replaced by Kvyat and Hartley. For the Russian, it was welcome reprieve after being benched for Gasly in Malaysia and Japan, while for 27-year-old sportscar ace Hartley, Austin was an opportunity he must have thought would never come, the New Zealander cast aside from Red Bull’s driver pool seven years ago. The Kvyat/Hartley pairing represented the first time in 23 years that a team changed both drivers between consecutive rounds of the championship. Kvyat, who admitted before the race that he was desperately seeking some clarity about his F1 future, scored his first points since Spain in round five with 10th, while Hartley’s debut was compromised by engine penalties that saw him start at the back. The Kiwi kept his nose clean, raced to 13th, and looked forward to being able to reflect on what had been a whirlwind week. “It won’t be until I go to bed tonight and put my eyes at rest that I’ll start to process everything,” he said.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 14th, finished 14th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 20th, finished 16th.

The ‘home’ team in Austin left for Mexico without any points after a weekend of incidents for both cars, including one on track in practice between Magnussen and Grosjean that left the Frenchman fuming. Grosjean, wearing a Nicky Hayden-inspired helmet design in a nice nod to the late American MotoGP champion, struggled mightily with tyre wear late in the race as his outside chance of a points result faded, while Magnussen, who admitted fault in a qualifying incident with Perez that saw him demoted three places on the grid, had contact with both Saubers, Wehrlein on the first lap which necessitated an early pit stop, and Ericsson later on when the Swede had just been lapped by Vettel.

Renault
Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 15th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 8th, finished 7th.

Hulkenberg must wonder why he even bothers travelling to Austin; the German’s lap three retirement after suffering an oil pressure problem was his fourth straight non-finish at COTA, and came after he’d taken a 20-place grid penalty for changing engine components. Sainz, on the other hand, couldn’t have had a more impressive start to life at his new team after coming across from Toro Rosso; after out-qualifying Hulkenberg on Saturday (something former teammate Palmer didn’t manage in 16 attempts), the Spaniard raced strongly to seventh on Sunday, and was the final car not lapped by race-winner Hamilton. Sainz’s six points saw his new team draw within five points of his old one for sixth in the constructors’ standings.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 16th, finished 15th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 19th, did not finish.

Beneath the radar, Ericsson had one of his stronger Saturdays of the year in Austin, out-qualifying a Williams and a Toro Rosso and beating teammate Wehrlein by four-tenths of a second in what is clearly the slowest car in the field. The race didn’t go as well, the Swede given a five-second time penalty for the incident with Magnussen. Wehrlein, who turned 23 in the lead-up to the race, was out of it after five laps, the damage from his own coming-together with Magnussen too much to continue.

What happened at the Japanese Grand Prix?

Hamilton flies, Ferrari flops and Red Bull scores a second double-podium in seven days as F1 storms Suzuka.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 2nd, finished 4th.

Suzuka has been Mercedes territory ever since the advent of the V6 turbo hybrid era – the Silver Arrows had won all three races at the esteemed Japanese track since 2014 – and Hamilton made it a Mercedes clean sweep since that sweeping change to the sport’s regulations when he won his eighth Grand Prix of the year and fourth in the past five races. With Vettel’s retirement, Hamilton’s championship lead has ballooned to 59 points with 100 still available, and the Briton’s momentum, allied to Ferrari’s propensity to shoot itself in the foot, surely means a fourth world title is a certainty. Pole for Hamilton on Saturday was – remarkably – his first at Suzuka in 11 Japanese Grand Prix, and he set it with the fastest-ever lap of the revered circuit, the car’s cornering speed in the twisty first sector a sight to behold. “It’s like the craziest rollercoaster ride,” he beamed afterwards. His race was relatively uncomplicated, save for some late drama after a virtual safety car period to recover Stroll’s stricken Williams that saw Verstappen close to within a second, but a fourth Japanese Grand Prix victory will see him arrive in Austin in two weeks with one hand – perhaps more – on the title.
On the other side of the garage, Bottas came to Japan under pressure after a series of underwhelming performances since the mid-season break, and blotted his copybook when he clouted the wall in final practice, damaging his car to such an extent that it required a gearbox change and subsequent five-place grid penalty. He fitted the faster supersoft tyres for his final stint of the race and closed in on Ricciardo at a rapid rate, setting the fastest lap of the race with four laps to go, but ran out of time and was less than a second adrift at the flag.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 3rd, finished 3rd. Max Verstappen: qualified 4th, finished 2nd.

Last week’s double-podium in Malaysia was Red Bull’s first in a year; seven days later, the team did it again, with Verstappen a late, albeit unlikely, chance to nab a second win in succession as he reeled in Hamilton in the final two laps. The pair came across Massa and Alonso battling for 10th on the penultimate lap, and the Dutchman was unlucky to catch the Brazilian in the twisty Esses section at the start of the last lap, where moving aside for blue flags is difficult even if you’re so inclined to. Ricciardo had Verstappen’s measure for much of the weekend until the lights went out on Sunday, but Verstappen made a superb getaway from the second row and slotted in behind Hamilton by the time the field completed the second lap. He made his sole pit stop on lap 21 in an attempt to undercut the Briton, but Hamilton pitted a lap later and controlled the race from there. Verstappen’s second podium in a week was his third for the season.
Ricciardo at least out-qualified his teammate for the first time in seven races, but blinked at the start and then was boxed in by a slow-starting Vettel at the first corner, which gave Verstappen the invitation he needed to leap ahead. Ocon then took advantage and zapped the Australian in the Esses, and by the time Ricciardo cleared the Force India 11 laps later, third was the best he could have hoped for. Bottas’ pace at the end gave him a few nervous moments, but third was Ricciardo’s first podium at Suzuka in seven visits. Nine podiums for the season is the most he’s earned in a single campaign. “Once the start was done, it’s pretty difficult to overtake around here,” he said. The back-to-back double podiums were Red Bull’s first since, remarkably, the US/Brazil races in 2013.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 3rd, did not finish. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 6th, finished 5th.

Sunday’s retirement after just four laps almost certainly put an end to Vettel’s quest of a fifth world title, which is hard to believe after he led the standings for the opening 12 rounds of the season. In the five races since F1 took its mid-season break before Belgium, Vettel has managed just 45 points to Hamilton’s 118. Alarm bells were ringing when Ferrari mechanics were frantically working on Vettel’s car in the moments before the start, the engine cover off the car as the team changed a spark plug at the last possible moment. The German made a slow getaway and then had no pace at all down the main straight, losing positions hand over fist until he was called into the pits to park to become the second retirement of the race.
Raikkonen’s race was compromised by his accident in third practice, when he slid off at hit the barriers at Degner 2 and needed a new gearbox. Starting 10th, the Finn had battles with Hulkenberg and Vandoorne on the opening lap and fell back to 15th, and while superior car speed saw him make short work of the midfield runners, he finished in no-man’s land, 22 seconds behind Bottas in fourth, and 35 seconds ahead of Ocon in sixth. At least he completed more than one lap, which he didn’t manage in either Singapore or Malaysia …

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 8th, finished 7th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 7th, finished 6th.

There was little to choose between the Force India duo all weekend, with Ocon out-qualifying Perez by 0.149 seconds and beating him by three seconds after 53 laps. But it wasn’t as straightforward as that – it never is with Force India’s drivers – and Perez was miffed by Ocon’s pace at several stages throughout the race as he looked for a way past, telling the team the Frenchman was “going too slowly” with 15 laps left as he chased sixth spot. It didn’t end in tears between the pair as it did in Azerbaijan and Belgium earlier this season, but it didn’t do much for team morale either. With four races left this season, Perez leads his vastly less experienced teammate by 17 points – what will happen if that margin narrows?

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 9th, finished 10th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, did not finish.

Suzuka was very much a case of what might have been for Williams, with Massa hanging on to the final point after resisting plenty of pressure from old Ferrari teammate Alonso in the closing stages, and Stroll suffering his first retirement for 13 Grands Prix when he few off with just six laps left, a failure on the right front of the car sending him spearing into the gravel trap at a fearsome speed as he traversed the Esses. The veteran Brazilian doubled his lead over his teammate in the drivers’ standings (to two points) with four races to go; the only question is if those four races are the last of Massa’s career, with the team confirming over the Japan weekend that test driver Paul di Resta, who deputised for an unwell Massa in Hungary this year, and former BMW-Sauber and Renault driver Robert Kubica are being evaluated to potentially take over the seat alongside Stroll for 2018.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 10th, finished 11th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 11th, finished 14th.

McLaren has endured plenty of barren races since it started its ill-feted second marriage with Honda in 2015, so it was perhaps fitting that Sunday’s race in Japan made it zero points from three Grands Prix at Honda’s home track as McLaren prepares to move to Renault engines for next year – the same Renault engines (rebadged, of course) that have propelled Red Bull to consecutive double podiums in the past week. Alonso had designs on changing that stat on Thursday before the race when he was in a typically combative mood, but that optimism quickly died after Friday practice when it was announced he’d need yet another engine replacement for the race, a hydraulic leak condemning him to a rear-of-grid start. His late-race fight with Massa was predictably feisty and ultimately futile. Vandoorne came into the weekend buoyed by consecutive seventh-place finishes in Singapore and Malaysia, and had plenty of experience and form around Suzuka from his days in the Japanese Super Formula championship. Alonso edged him from the top 10 shootout for pole on Saturday, and any chance of another points haul evaporated almost instantly when he fell to the back on lap one.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 17th, finished 13th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 15th, did not finish.

Suzuka was a surprise farewell for Sainz at the only F1 team he’s ever known, as it was announced after qualifying that his 2018 move to Renault would be fast-tracked to the US Grand Prix in Austin in a fortnight’s time, his new employers keen to move on from Jolyon Palmer. As farewells go, Japan was underwhelming – Sainz had to start from the back with engine penalties, smashed his car at the hairpin in first practice, and then lasted six corners in the race before burying his car into the barriers as the field snaked its way through the Esses for the first time. The Spaniard has been a one-man band for Toro Rosso this year, scoring 48 of the team’s 52 points, his contribution keeping the team in seventh place in the constructors’ championship, ahead of, amongst others, Renault. For newcomer Gasly, in his just his second Grand Prix, Suzuka was at least more familiar than Malaysia last time out, the young Frenchman knowing the track well from his Japanese Super Formula campaign this year. He had an emotional moment before the race weekend when he visited the corner where friend Jules Bianchi crashed at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, an accident that would eventually cost Bianchi his life. Like Malaysia, points remained elusive for a team that struggled in the past two Grands Prix. Daniil Kvyat, parked to make way for Gasly in the last two races, returns in Austin in two weeks.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 16th, finished 9th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 13th, finished 8th.

Haas had its second double-points finish of the year – and first since Monaco way back in round six – when Magnussen and Grosjean picked up the scraps at Suzuka, although to paint their races as ones where they simply got lucky would be entirely unfair. The fiery Magnussen has managed to get under the skin of several rivals this year, and his robust pass of Massa at turn one on lap 42 was a brilliant mixture of aggression and skill, and one that allowed Grosjean to sneak past the Williams as well. They were less than a second apart at the flag, and the combined six world championship points saw them sneak past Renault for seventh overall, progress from last year’s eighth-place finish. Considering how Friday (Magnussen had a water leak) and Saturday (Grosjean crashed heavily in qualifying) went, it was an unlikely result that was welcomed with open arms.

Renault
Jolyon Palmer: qualified 14th, finished 12th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 12th, did not finish.

The news of Palmer’s departure from Renault effective immediately caught a few on the hop, but the stats don’t lie – and they show that in 36 races, the Briton scored points just twice, and Saturday’s qualifying deficit to Hulkenberg made his head-to-head mark against the German 0-16 on Saturdays this season. He then took a 20-place grid penalty for new engine components, and flirted with a top-10 finish through running a marathon first stint before dropping to 12th at the flag. “It is my last race for Renault, not my last race in Formula One,” Palmer said. It’s hard to see how. On the other side of the garage, Hulkenberg was gutted after his own lengthy first stint of the race, where he ran as high as fifth, came to naught when his DRS flap stuck open after his pit stop, the rear-wing assembly failing and necessitating his retirement. The final four races of the season will be an interesting entrée to his partnership with Sainz next season, with two drivers capable of scoring good hauls of points giving Renault what it needs to vault up the grid.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 20th, finished 15th.

Ericsson had plenty of confidence for Suzuka, a track he knows well from his pre-F1 days racing in Japan, and it was no surprise he reversed his recent qualifying form against teammate Wehrlein to beat the German by three-tenths of a second on Saturday. That experience didn’t help him much on Sunday though, where the Swede lasted all of eight laps before running wide at Degner 1 and having the almost-inevitable accident at Degner 2, burying the Sauber into the outside wall just before the circuit underpass. Wehrlein made two unscheduled pit stops in the opening four laps and was always going to finish last from there, as Sauber’s drought without points stretched to eight races.

What happened at the Malaysian Grand Prix?

Max Verstappen wins his second race in Malaysia’s final GP, while Daniel Ricciardo’s third caps a season-best day for Red Bull Racing.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 4th, finished 3rd. Max Verstappen: qualified 3rd, finished 1st.

For a driver whose year has had complications at every turn, Verstappen’s second career win was a breeze, the Dutchman starting well from third, sailing past Hamilton’s Mercedes into the braking zone at the first corner on lap four, and only briefly being headed through the pit stop phase from there on as he cruised to a 12-second victory. Win number one – on his debut for Red Bull Racing in Spain last year – owed itself partly to good fortune, but this was an imperious display, putting a gap of five seconds on Hamilton in eight laps after passing the championship leader, his pace in Sepang’s twisty second sector a sight to behold. Those seven non-finishes and three first-lap exits would have been the last thing on his mind on a sweltering Sunday night in Kuala Lumpur, and it would have been hard to have found the birthday boy (Verstappen turned 20 on Saturday) a better present.
Ricciardo, the race-winner in Malaysia last year, had no answer for his teammate’s pace for much of the weekend, the Australian out-qualified by Verstappen for the sixth race running. But after dispatching a fast-starting Bottas to claim the final podium place on offer on lap nine, Ricciardo hung on as best he could against Vettel’s flying Ferrari, which was on faster tyres, in the final stages, shutting the door decisively on his old teammate at the first corner with seven laps to go. Finishing over 20 seconds behind Verstappen wouldn’t have pleased him, but giving Red Bull its first double-podium of the season certainly did.

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 2nd. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 5th, finished 5th.

Hamilton left Malaysia with a larger lead in the world championship over nearest rival Vettel – the Briton has a 34-point advantage with five races left – but he would have been excused for expecting more after he started from pole at Sepang for the fourth straight year, and with Vettel dead last after the Ferrari’s engine packed up in qualifying. Hamilton had nothing in response for Verstappen after the Dutchman took an early lead, and his race was a lonely one, the team understandably keeping an eye on Vettel’s progress from behind rather than worrying about Verstappen’s pace in front. While Hamilton’s three-race winning streak from the mid-year break was snapped, a 20th consecutive finish saw him inch closer to that coveted fourth world title. While Hamilton would have left Malaysia happy, Bottas would have been utterly disconsolate by finishing where he started, but more alarmingly, 56 seconds behind Verstappen. The Finn elected to keep using Mercedes’ upgraded aerodynamic package that Hamilton abandoned after the opening day of practice, and was nowhere thereafter, qualifying a whopping seven-tenths of a second behind his teammate’s pole time on Saturday, and fading into anonymity in the race.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 20th, finished 4th. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 2nd, did not start.

Was Malaysia a massive fail or a massive save for the Scuderia? Worst news first; after Vettel was left at the back of the grid following engine problems in qualifying, suspected turbo dramas hit Raikkonen on the reconnaissance lap to the grid before Sunday’s race, the Finn dragged back into the garage as Ferrari desperately chased a quick fix that came to nought. While Raikkonen was a spectator, Vettel was spectacular. The German made quick early work of the back of the field to be up to 11th within six laps, but it was his prodigious pace when he fitted the supersoft tyres on lap 27 that showed why many believe the Ferrari is the fastest car in the sport at the moment – when it’s actually working. Vettel dispatched Bottas and set off after Ricciardo, and very nearly jagged a podium from last at the start. A strange weekend got even stranger for Vettel when Stroll’s Williams ran clean into him as the field tooled around back to the pits, the impact smashing the left rear of Vettel’s Ferrari to bits and – potentially – necessitating a gearbox replacement (and subsequent penalty) at next week’s race in Japan.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 9th, finished 6th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 6th, finished 10th.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots in F1 was best demonstrated by Perez’s excellent sixth place, a result even more meritorious when you consider the Mexican was battling a virus at the most physical race of all. Eight points were great, but the Force India driver was the final car not lapped, and finished 78 seconds behind race-winner Verstappen. While his race was relatively event-free, teammate Ocon’s was anything but; the Frenchman hit Massa’s Williams at the second corner on lap one, made an early pit stop to get onto the more durable soft-compound tyres after two laps, spun at Turn 1 on lap 25 after contact with Sainz’s Toro Rosso, and had several run-ins with Massa at Turn 4 before finishing 10th to pick up the final point on offer.

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 11th, finished 9th. Lance Stroll: qualified 13th, finished 8th.

The Williams drivers have been an amicable duo all season as veteran Brazilian Massa has helped eased Canadian rookie Stroll’s transition into the top flight, but the pair were never far apart at Sepang, Stroll aggrieved that Massa had undercut him in the pit stops when they squabbled on track together on lap 13. Stroll finished the better of the pair by six seconds after 56 laps, Massa’s car clearly struggling after he picked up some damage in the first-lap incident with Ocon. Stroll’s take on the bizarre end-of-race smash with Vettel? “It was a strange incident, I was driving very slowly, back into the pit lane. The race wasn’t going on, so it wasn’t intentional for either of us. He came around the outside like the race was still going. It all happened very quickly.”

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 10th, finished 11th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 7th, finished 7th.

Malaysia was another very solid weekend for Vandoorne, who equalled his career-best result of seventh earned in the Singapore Grand Prix a fortnight ago. That the McLaren worked well on Singapore’s twisty city streets wasn’t a surprise, but Vandoorne’s pace despite an obvious power deficit down Sepang’s two long straights was unexpected. The Belgian made a brilliant start to be fifth after the first lap, and is now ahead of teammate Alonso in the drivers’ standings. Alonso’s race had few highlights, save for his lap 33 fight with Magnussen’s Haas, which ended with the Spaniard block-passing the Dane into Turn 2 and dismissively calling him “an idiot”.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 15th, finished 14th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 14th, did not finish.

Random Toro Rosso stat from the weekend; every time Daniil Kvyat has been demoted (from Red Bull to Toro Rosso in Spain last year, and from Toro Rosso to the team’s subs bench for Malaysia), Verstappen has won the race … Gasly, drafted in for Sepang and Suzuka (for the time being), described Friday’s first practice as “very special”, and while the French 21-year-old hovered around the back of the midfield for most of his debut weekend, qualifying just 0.156secs behind Sainz showed his potential. The unlucky Sainz, who came into Malaysia after a career-best fourth in Singapore, was technically the only retiree at Sepang (given Raikkonen didn’t start the race), his engine letting go on lap 28 when he was running in the points.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 16th, finished 13th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 17th, finished 12th.

Grosjean was the headline from Friday practice at Sepang, the Haas driver pitched into a frightening accident after a puncture caused by a loose drain cover at Turn 12, the Frenchman very fortunate to escape injury despite his car being totalled. The team’s mechanics pulled an all-nighter to get his car ready for qualifying, but there wasn’t much more to be proud about for either Grosjean or Magnussen, both cars out in Q1 and faster only than the backmarker Sauber duo of Wehrlein and Ericsson. Grosjean was bullied off track on the first lap by the Toro Rossos (his complaints earning a stinging rebuke from Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost) and barely featured after that, while Magnussen had a more eventful outing, storming to 10th after an opportunistic first lap, but falling back after clashes with Alonso and former Renault teammate Palmer, who he referred to as “a lunatic” after they came together at the first corner on lap 39.

Renault
Jolyon Palmer: qualified 12th, finished 15th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 8th, finished 16th.

Renault went backwards in Malaysia, Hulkenberg’s off onto the dirt at the final corner on lap one forcing him into an early pit stop to cure imbalance issues. The German tried to get to the end on the same tyres he fitted on lap 10, but was forced into another stop six laps from home and finished well outside of the points. Palmer’s weekend, one race after his Singapore sixth, was messy; he hit Verstappen at the end of final practice, spun all by himself at the penultimate corner on lap 38, and then hit Magnussen two turns later, ending up off the track and pointing in the wrong direction.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 18th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 18th, finished 17th.

The Sauber duo had nothing to lose by starting on the soft-compound Pirellis and trying to go as long as they could in Sunday’s race, but the lack of a safety car or wet-weather intervention saw them tool around at the back, both making just the one stop, and Wehrlein finishing a long, long way ahead of his Swedish teammate. The German’s only moment of note? Giving compatriot Vettel a lift back to the pits after the race.

What happened at the Singapore Grand Prix?

A start-line smash hogs the headlines, as Daniel Ricciardo goes oh-so-close yet again to achieving Singapore success.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 5th, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 6th, finished 3rd.

After qualifying fifth and over six-tenths of a second behind Vettel’s pole time, Hamilton felt Mercedes needed “a miracle” to stay in the same postcode as the Ferrari and Red Bull duos in the race, and that’s exactly how his start panned out. The Briton made a superb getaway to round up Ricciardo’s slow-starting Red Bull into the first corner, and was ahead of the Raikkonen-Verstappen-Alonso carnage that unfolded in the opening 10 seconds, and perfectly placed when Vettel hit the wall at Turn 3 seconds later.

From there, Hamilton was in control of the race in conditions wet or dry, and 58 gruelling laps later, had taken his third win in a row – and assumed a season-best 28-point championship lead on a circuit that shaped as Mercedes’ worst for the remainder of the year. Bottas was never a match for his teammate all weekend and suffered with a failed drinks bottle in his car for the two-hour duration, but rounded out the podium on a critical weekend that might just secure Hamilton the title once we get to Abu Dhabi in late November.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 3rd, finished 2nd. Max Verstappen: qualified 2nd, did not finish.

Verstappen shone in qualifying again, out-performing teammate Ricciardo when it mattered most and slotting into second behind Vettel, but it was that starting position that was the beginning of the end for the Dutchman 24 hours later. Raikkonen, immediately behind him, made a blinding start and stormed down the inside, and as pole-sitter Vettel came across to cover, the Red Bull was steaming towards a gap that was closing rapidly, the contact seeing both Verstappen and Raikkonen out on the spot and Vettel last only a few corners more. In 14 races this season, Verstappen has now retired on seven occasions, three times on the first lap. If it was a familiar tale for the teenager, it was much the same for Ricciardo, who finished second in Singapore for the third year in a row, and on the podium at a track where so many from his native Perth come to watch for the fourth year in succession. The Australian had every reason to be bullish for another race win when he dominated Friday practice, but this wasn’t the usual swashbuckling Ricciardo rostrum result – his poor getaway saved him from the first-corner carnage, and while he kept Hamilton honest, he never looked like challenging the Mercedes for the top spot as he pushed on despite an oil pressure problem with his gearbox. “I can’t win the bloody thing, but I’m trying,” he half-grinned afterwards.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 1st, did not finish. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, did not finish.

Ferrari came to Singapore desperate to atone for being thrashed by Mercedes at its home race at Monza a fortnight before, and had every reason to be optimistic at a tight and twisty street circuit that most resembles Monaco of the other F1 tracks, where it finished 1-2 earlier this year. Instead, Singapore became a historical black eye for the Scuderia, who had two cars retire on the first lap of a race for the first time in its storied F1 history. While most pointed the finger of blame at Vettel, the team took a slightly different view …

Vettel said after the race that he was uncertain what happened at the start; what’s easier to ascertain is that with six races to go, the German’s chances of a fifth world title this year look more tenuous than ever. After his brilliant pole on Saturday with a lap many observers called one of the best of his career, it was quite the come-down.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 12th, finished 5th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 14th, finished 10th.

Things looked dire for Force India on Saturday, where the team failed to get a car into the top 10 on the grid for just the third time all year at a circuit that plainly didn’t suit the car’s slippery straight-line strengths. But Perez was his usual canny self in the race, and despite having never made Q3 in Singapore, he’s now finished inside the top 10 seven times, Sunday’s fifth his best effort yet. It capped off a great day for the Mexican, who signed a contract extension to stay with the team for 2018 on race morning. Ocon, on his 21st birthday, found himself in a furious fight on the fringes of the top 10 with Massa and Magnussen mid-race, and continued his perfect finishing record in F1 to date (23 races, 23 times seeing the chequered flag) as he joined Hamilton as the only drivers to complete every race so far this year.

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 17th, finished 11th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, finished 8th.

For Williams to make the points with one car and just miss with the other was something of a save for a weekend that started out poorly and then got worse when both cars were ousted in Q1 for the fourth time in the past six races. The attrition rate of faster cars ahead of them certainly helped, but in conditions that caught out plenty of more experienced rivals, Stroll’s eighth at a circuit he’d never previously driven was commendable. Massa was one of the first drivers to move to slicks as the circuit dried on lap 24, and it didn’t quite work out, the veteran Brazilian finishing less than two seconds behind Ocon for the final point on offer.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 8th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 9th, finished 7th.

Vandoorne took a career-best result from his first visit to Singapore, which came after he and teammate Alonso had qualified inside the top 10 for just the second time all season. While the Belgian shone, it was yet another early shower for Alonso, who retired on lap nine after his car’s telemetry failed thanks to damage from the shunt at the first corner, the Spaniard finding himself in the firing line after a typically scorching start. Alonso has seen the chequered flag just once in the past six races, but at least has kept his sense of humour …

While Vandoorne’s Singapore race was strong and Alonso’s short, this will be a weekend remembered more for the divorce from a failed three-year marriage with Honda – and move to Renault power for 2018 – than anything McLaren’s drivers achieved on track. Convincing Alonso to stay is the next – and most vital – task.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 13th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 10th, finished 4th.

Singapore was a big weekend in Sainz’s career, confirmation coming that the Spaniard will be loaned to Renault for next season as part of the engine musical chairs that saw Toro Rosso’s Renault powerplant supply heading to McLaren, and Honda switching to STR. Sainz qualified 10th and felt he’d be fighting a rear-guard action in the race; instead, he was superbly opportunistic and finished a career-best fourth, making the most of a day where numerous big names barely lasted a few corners. His continued success contrasted sharply with Kvyat’s repeated woes, the Russian furious after missing Q3 on Saturday, and then stuffing his car into the fence at Turn 7 in the wet after 11 laps in the race, prompting the second of three safety car interventions. The last time Kvyat scored points? Barcelona, way back in May.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 15th, finished 9th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 16th, did not finish.

Things looked grim for Haas when the American team could only outpace backmarkers Sauber on Friday, and when Grosjean barely scraped into Q2 and Magnussen failed to join him, points looked like a pipedream. Plenty of incidents and accidents ahead of the pair changed all of that on Sunday, and Grosjean persevered to nab two points, while Magnussen had an MGU-K failure eight laps from the end that saw him become the eighth and final retirement of the race.

Renault
Jolyon Palmer: qualified 11th, finished 6th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 7th, did not finish.

It’s been a miserable year for Palmer, outqualified by teammate Hulkenberg in every race and failing to score a point before Singapore, and his tenure in F1 was ended in the lead-up to the race when it was announced Sainz would take his seat for 2018 at the latest, and perhaps as early as the next round in Malaysia. The Briton’s response was impressive and surprising; after just missing Q3 on Saturday, Palmer was an excellent sixth on Sunday for a career-best result, his assuredness in the wet at the start a standout. Will it be his final race? Only time will tell. The news wasn’t as positive for Hulkenberg, who, after being pumped up by qualifying ahead of both McLarens on Saturday, had to retire with a hydraulics issue late in the race when running strongly inside the top 10. Speaking of bad news: the non-finish meant Hulkenberg broke the record for most starts in the history of F1 without a podium finish (129), previously held by his compatriot Adrian Sutil.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 20th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 19th, finished 12th.

Ericsson and Wehrlein continued their season-long race within a race at the back of the field, the Swede clouting the wall in practice and needing a new gearbox (the subsequent five-place grid penalty meaning little given he qualified last anyway), and then causing the final safety car period of the race when he crashed on the iconic Anderson Bridge with 20 laps left. Wehrlein was two laps down and last, and with Vandoorne’s seventh place extending McLaren’s lead over Sauber for last in the constructors’ championship to 12 points, it seems the Swiss squad is certain to finishing at the foot of the table.