Malaysian Grand Prix 2017: What we learned from Verstappen’s imperious win
Malaysia hosted a grand prix for the very last time on Sunday, and it offered us drama even before the start. Here is what we learned from the race.
Ferrari is haunted by bad luck
Last race in Singapore lasted a few hundred metres for Scuderia Ferrari and this weekend in Malaysia did not go much better. A mechanical issue forced Sebastian Vettel to start from the back of the grid while his rival Lewis Hamilton scored another pole position. Fortunately, Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen had qualified second and was poised to overtake Hamilton in the first corners. But, just before the start Räikkönen suffered a problem similar to Vettel’s and couldn’t even start the race from the pit lane.
It seems as though Ferrari is in a downward spiral without escape just as Red Bull are making their return to the top; another episode of bad luck next weekend in Suzuka could leave Ferrari in a terrible position for the rest of the season.
Vettel still knows how to soar from the back
Regardless of starting last, Sebastian Vettel went into the race with a clear aim: to limit the damage he would inevitably suffer in the drivers’ championship. He truly did exactly that, closing in on the top ten after just a few laps.
It was obvious Ferrari would have had the pace to fight for victory without the unlucky occurrences, but Vettel somewhat compensated for that with a staggering ascent through the pack, even challenging Daniel Ricciardo for a podium finish at the end of the race. His race was reminiscent of the one in Abu Dhabi in 2012, where he started from the pits but finished third on the podium.
Red Bull is a genuine contender for the end of the season
As Ferrari and Mercedes have both gone down, Red Bull have curbed their development towards the sky. The fact that they could beat Mercedes on a track the German team has dominated for the last few years is an achievement that will not go unnoticed.
It’s possible that Ferrari had even better pace, but the results are the only thing that count and a double podium means Mercedes and Ferrari will need to take the Bulls into account in the final races of 2017.
Jolyon Palmer is back to normal
Palmer had an incredible result in Singapore last round, but in Malaysia he was back to his old self. After following his teammate Nico Hulkenberg closely, Palmer spun in turn 14 and then, desperately defending against Kevin Magnussen in the first corner, he span again, falling multiple positions from 12th to 15th.
A dreadful performance after an outstanding Singapore Grand Prix. It was already looking like a long shot to see him on the grid next year after Renault announced they will replace him with Carlos Sainz, but after his race in Malaysia, maybe he should start to seeking a place in another racing series.
Pierre Gasly impressing under the radar
Malaysia, and the Sepang track, is not a track particularly suited for Toro Rosso, but their newcomer Pierre Gasly had a decent first race. Already in the qualifying on Saturday, he got close to his teammate Carlos Sainz and in the race he continued to do exactly that.
Until Sainz’s retirement, Gasly was matching the pace of his teammate, something his predecessor Daniil Kvyat hardly ever achieved. He even managed to have a good scrap against a fellow Frenchman Romain Grosjean at the end, just losing out to the Haas driver. All in all a remarkable result for Pierre Gasly and we will certainly be seeing more of him in the races and seasons to come.