Daniel Ricciardo finally wins his first race of the season after fending off his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen in a thrilling Malaysian Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton retired from the lead.
Hamilton was on course to win and reclaim the championship lead as he built up a 22.7 seconds lead over Ricciardo but his engine expired on the approach to Turn 1 with 15 laps to go.
The reigning world champion cried “Ah, no, no, no!” as he pulled to a stop at the side of the track, climbing out of the Mercedes, squatting down and placing his head in his hands.
The virtual safety car was called with Ricciardo, who was running nose-to-tail with Verstappen at the time, pitting along with his Red Bull team-mate for soft tyres as they had a 40-second gap back to Nico Rosberg.
They rejoined comfortably ahead of the Mercedes driver and though Verstappen ran close behind, Ricciardo absorbed the pressure to take his first victory of the season.
It was the honey badger’s first win for over two years and Red Bull Racing’s first one-two finish since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Prior to Hamilton’s failure, Verstappen had caught Ricciardo with fresher tyres, asking to be let through to fight for the win.
But Ricciardo defended hard, and the pair went side-by-side through the high-speed Turns 5 and 6, with Ricciardo winning the battle on the brakes into Turn 7 to hold what would turn out to be crucial track position.
It was like an action replay of Sepang 2013 with Sebastian Vettel fighting against Mark Webber for the victory. With the infamous Multi-21 radio call to hold formation…
Rosberg completed an impressive recovery drive after being pitched into a spin by Sebastian Vettel at Turn 1 to finish third and extend his championship lead to 23 points with five races remaining.
There was drama from the start as Vettel tried an ambitious pass down the inside of Verstappen, only to lock up and slide into Rosberg, breaking the Ferrari’s front-left suspension and pitching him into retirement.
Rosberg got going again and began a fight back through the field, rising up to fourth place and then barging passed Raikkonen into Turn 2 for third position.
The race stewards took a dim view of that and awarded Rosberg a 10-second penalty for causing a collision but the Mercedes driver had sufficient pace to build a gap from The Iceman and hold onto third.
Hamilton had driven the perfect race up until his retirement, going long on the softs and then taking the hards before building a gap to the rest to allow the opportunity for a second stop.
But “an unexpected mechanical failure of the internal combustion engine with no prior warning” according to Mercedes ended his hopes of a first victory since before the summer break.
Verstappen had looked in contention for at least second and possibly victory when he pitted early for a second set of stops while Ricciardo stayed out in second, but that advantage was neutralised when both pitted following Hamilton’s retirement.
Raikkonen finished fourth with Valtteri Bottas, who completed an impressive opening stint on the mediums to make a one-stop strategy work, fifth and Sergio Perez sixth.
Fernando Alonso battled his way up the field from last on the grid, having had a 45-place grid penalty for changing engine components, to take seventh ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button.
Jolyon Palmer recovered from what he described as a “pretty depressing” qualifying to finish tenth and score his first point of the season.
However, Renault decided to retire Kevin Magnussen’s car midway through the race because of damage sustained when he was hit from behind by Daniil Kvyat as the field bunched up at the first corner.
It was a miserable day for Haas with Romain Grosjean pitched into the gravel after suffering brake failure while Esteban Gutierrez retired when his front left wheel flew off the car when he was out on track.
So a crazy start with previous Malaysian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel knocked out with bold move. Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton leading comfortably until a fire exit… And yet a popular win for Daniel Ricciardo.
As for Nico Rosberg. Get bashed from Vettel at Turn 1 on opening lap. Recovered from the back to finish third and extends his lead in the drivers’ standings to 23 points. The battle for the title continues with five races left.
Malaysian Grand Prix, race results after 56 laps:
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 56 1h37m12.776s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 56 2.443s
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 56 25.516s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 56 28.785s
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 56 1m01.582s
6 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 56 1m03.794s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 56 1m05.205s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 56 1m14.062s
9 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 56 1m21.816s
10 Jolyon Palmer Renault 56 1m35.466s
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Ferrari 56 1m38.878s
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
13 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
15 Pascal Wehrlein Manor-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
16 Esteban Ocon Manor-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
– Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 46 Retirement
– Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 40 Engine
– Esteban Gutierrez Haas-Ferrari 39 Retirement
– Kevin Magnussen Renault 17 Retirement
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 7 Brakes
– Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0 Collision
1 Nico Rosberg 288
2 Lewis Hamilton 265
3 Daniel Ricciardo 204
4 Kimi Raikkonen 160
5 Sebastian Vettel 153
6 Max Verstappen 147
7 Valtteri Bottas 80
8 Sergio Perez 74
9 Nico Hulkenberg 50
10 Fernando Alonso 42
11 Felipe Massa 41
12 Carlos Sainz 30
13 Romain Grosjean 28
14 Daniil Kvyat 25
15 Jenson Button 19
16 Kevin Magnussen 7
17 Jolyon Palmer 1
18 Pascal Wehrlein 1
19 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
20 Esteban Gutierrez 0
21 Marcus Ericsson 0
22 Felipe Nasr 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0
24 Esteban Ocon 0
1 Mercedes 553
2 Red Bull-Renault 359
3 Ferrari 313
4 Force India-Mercedes 124
5 Williams-Mercedes 121
6 McLaren-Honda 62
7 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 47
8 Haas-Ferrari 28
9 Renault 8
10 Manor-Mercedes 1
11 Sauber-Ferrari 0
Next race: Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka. October 7-9.