Driver of the weekend
This was a tough one to choose. Max Verstappen was a hot contender for this award as he drove an error free race and passed championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, to register Red Bull’s second win of the year. However, Sebastian Vettel comes out on top as the driver of the weekend on this occasion.
Despite not contributing much in qualifying thanks to an engine issue, and after having to start dead last on Sunday, Vettel was up to 12th position by the end of the first lap of the race. He continued to pick up places at a staggeringly rapid rate, making it to fifth by Lap 23. After an impeccable first stint, Vettel switched to supersoft tyres and flew past the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to take fourth. As he moved on to close an 18 second gap to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to contend for a podium position, Vettel broke the lap record twice. Despite all his efforts, and thanks to needing to manage tyres and his engine, he could not make a pass on the Aussie in the final few laps and had to settle for fourth.
On an abysmal weekend for Ferrari that saw both their drivers have engine issues (which resulted in a DNF for Kimi Raikkonen) Vettel’s masterclass was a massive silver lining for the Italian team, one that may cause severe optimism in terms of their race pace for the next few races to come.
Crash of the weekend
This award goes to the crash between the Williams of Lance Stroll and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. This may also go down as the most bizarre crash of the year as it happened during the cooldown lap after the race. Vettel passed Stroll on the right as the Canadian’s Williams also moved in that direction to pick up discarded rubber, and the resultant contact caused severe damage to the Ferrari’s suspension.
The race stewards warranted “no further action” needed on the incident. However, the real losers here seemed to be the Ferrari mechanics, who can’t seem to catch a break over the last two weeks in terms of engine issues and damage. There are also rumours that the accident may have caused gearbox damage on Vettel’s car; Is there a gearbox related grid penalty on the cards? It looks like whatever can go wrong, will go wrong for the Prancing Horse.
Best overtake award
There were a few contenders for this one as the Malaysian Grand Prix is never short in terms of passes. This one though, hands down, must go to Daniel Ricciardo’s move on Valtteri Bottas to go third in the race.
A move that started on the outside of turn 2, both drivers were side-by-side for the next few corners before Daniel braked late into turn four to make the move stick. Bottas’s defence was commendable but short lived. Ricciardo has been in supreme form this season and not one to shy away from aggressive driving. Thanks to a significantly faster Red Bull car, he made this move look rather easy.
Debut of the year award
Pierre Gasly was the talk of the paddock as he replaced Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso this weekend to make a mid-season debut, which is rather tough on any new driver. However, in Gasly’s case it turned out to be even tougher.
After a sold qualifying run which saw him start the race from 15th, Gasly finished the race behind his teammate to register a formidable P14. What was more impressive, however, was that he did all this without being able to drink from his water bottle for most of the race. Considering this was the hottest race of the year, this was far from ideal, and must have added extra pressure to an already demanding situation.
“After 20 laps I wanted to drink and there was water coming on my neck but not in my mouth so I was like ‘OK, race is gonna be long,’” Gasly said. To make matters even worse, Gasly also had seat issues which gave him severe back pain. All things considered, Gasly has well and truly arrived in F1.
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