Verstappen wins to extend championship lead

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen won his second Formula One race of the season on Sunday, overtaking Lewis Hamilton with one lap to go on a wild evening in Malaysia, where the 20-year-old ended a…

Verstappen wins to extend championship lead

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen won his second Formula One race of the season on Sunday, overtaking Lewis Hamilton with one lap to go on a wild evening in Malaysia, where the 20-year-old ended a near three-month title drought and knocked the defending champion out of title contention.

The only son of a former F1 racer in the race, Verstappen dominated at Sepang from pole position and came home 0.4 seconds ahead of defending race winner Sebastian Vettel and German teammate Nico Rosberg.

Reigning champion Hamilton finished fourth and 35 points behind Verstappen with six races remaining. Vettel is 26 points ahead of the Briton, with Rosberg eight points behind Vettel.

Doubts about Verstappen’s ability to match or even match last year’s F1 form, when he won five of his first 10 races, were quickly put to rest.

With nine laps to go, Hamilton led a Mercedes 1-2 finish. But Verstappen eventually got past him with 10 laps remaining to secure his second career victory and third podium finish this season.

The Dutchman immediately celebrated, cupping his ear to the crowd, as many of the boisterous, yellow-clad fans jumped into the grandstands to catch a glimpse of him.

“First podium since Bahrain, since April, last year,” Verstappen yelled as he celebrated with team officials at the finish line. “That’s the history, this is what we call the rainbow, this is the end of the rainbow.”

The good news for Hamilton — and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas — isn’t just that they are 20 points behind the lead Mercedes team, but that Verstappen might be able to pull off a similar feat.

Starting from sixth, Verstappen kicked into another gear after taking pole position and kept his accelerator and brake glued to the floor until he came to a stop — after four laps — at his usual right guard.

“I haven’t been scared of slowing down,” he said. “No one can overtake me and that’s what I’m fighting for. It’s been a really good weekend for me, I’m 20 but already I have a ton of experience.”

After a stop-and-go on lap 21, Verstappen was back on the track on lap 26 and started to use the high line down the straights, forcing Hamilton to brake hard to get out of his way.

“He was better on the straights today,” Hamilton said. “If he can continue like this, why not? He’s been great. It’s no excuse, it’s racing.”

When Verstappen ended Hamilton’s hopes of finishing the race in the points, he said: “I think he had to push real hard to be able to catch me.”

Verstappen was on pole for the last race in China last weekend and he’s been on a roll all season. He’s already on top of the F1 drivers’ championship following wins in Malaysia and Bahrain.

Meanwhile, Vettel finally ended his own title drought. The four-time champion started from third in the first race of the season in Australia, but finished 11th to hand Verstappen the win.

It was the sixth time in 11 races Vettel finished third in Malaysia.

“It’s been a great day and one of the best weekends in the last three or four months for us,” Vettel said. “There was a long wait at the start of the season, but we’ve put a really strong effort in the last weeks and the car’s performing really well.”

Rosberg never looked likely to keep up with his Mercedes teammates. He started fourth and finished 14th.

“It’s been another tricky weekend to say the least,” he said. “I haven’t enjoyed qualifying as much as the rest of the season. The car is quick but sometimes it doesn’t give me the same pace as the others and then you have to make some adjustments and some mistakes, and some unnecessary ones.”

The season resumes in China in three weeks and Verstappen is expecting a big challenge from Rosberg.

“He is the fastest (driver) out there,” Verstappen said. “He’s very fast and fast is nice but also a bit frustrating at times, as he’s so quick, but we will see what we can do.”

Leave a Comment