The 2017 Malaysia Grand Prix was a tricky grand prix with all the drivers visibly exhausted by the chequered flag. Some drivers had a good day, some really didn’t – see what made our Malaysia GP Top 5
F1NALE – So Long, Sepang….Or Is It?
This weekend’s race was billed as the 19th and final Malaysia Grand Prix, and there were many team efforts to say “Thank You Malaysia” as well as drivers saying that they fondly regarding the circuit layout and racing there. However by Sunday, the pundits were all talking of rumours that it wouldn’t be the last time F1 would visit, with future deals perhaps on the cards. Let’s hope so!
Rain or Shine?
Malaysia is known for its timely torrential downpours, and various drivers over the weekend were mentioning their desire for a wet race to mix things up – including Fernando Alonso, and the race winner-to-be, Max Verstappen! It turns out that as entertaining as watching a Brazil-like drive from Max would have been, he got the result he hoped for without doing the rain dance.
Everyone on the right side of the grid has a dry track! Big advantage for Lewis, Max, Bottas, etc pic.twitter.com/duk8l6G5BD
As the cars lined up on the grid, earlier rainfall had left it’s mark. The right side of the track, not sheltered by the grandstand, was visibly drier and seemed to offer an advantage to those starting on it, including Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas. The left side was still quite damp, and some teams were controversially seen to be drying the area in front of their grid box, whilst others felt this was not allowed as it contravened article 22.3 of the sporting regulations. Mentions of this to the FIA did not lead to any action on the day, but a future clarification to the teams is expected.
Seb’s Sepang Struggles
Everyone who wanted to see a championship battle this year had not been disappointed, and after Singapore had transpired to deliver an advantage to Lewis, we came to the Malaysia race perhaps expecting to see a Ferrari/Vettel resurgence. Appetites were further whet when the weekend had commenced with less dominant looking Silver Arrows, and when the Bulls appeared to be charging.
We all know that qualification saw Sebastien Vettel suffer from issues that would see him starting from the back of the grid, and therefore knew today’s race would see us watch him aiming to progress through the field….and that he did. He was in a points scoring position by lap 9, showing speed that would have seen him way out front had he started from pole. Love him or hate him, Seb had powered his way from 20th to 4th, gaining 16 places, with passing Danny Ric just a step too far to be achieved, but nevertheless an awesome drive.
However, then there was the “what the heck has just happened there?!” moment, when we saw Seb appear on screen with his rear left wheel atop the car, having somehow sustained damage AFTER the flag has fallen! (I don’t know about you, but I think I exclaimed that out loud and frightened the cat slightly!). We subsequently saw the footage of the impact with Stroll – a moment that upon review from the stewards, saw neither driver penalised, and left social media awash with commentary on his subsequent taxi-ride with Wehrlein and what that steering wheel might have on it that he wished to avoided the world discovering (or not!). My lasting thought for the day was more that it was unfortunate that the world feed showed us that Seb was F1’s Driver of the Day against an image of his wrecked car…
No Waffle from Stoffel
It’s no secret that it has been a tough season for McLaren with its Honda Engine problems, something that doesn’t give a rookie driver much opportunity to shine (not counting the Bahrain 2016 understudy one-off), but in the last couple of races, we have seen Stoffel Vandoorne do just that! Malaysia saw Stoffel qualify in 7th, ahead of his teammate Fernando Alonso in 10th, and I don’t believe this was a circuit where McLaren had expected to be able to do very well. However down on horses the Honda engine may be, both drivers seemed able to get into the mix during the race, stronger in the second and third sectors, with the Belgian running as high as 5th at times, and finishing in his best ever F1 spot of 7th. Vandoorne now sits ahead of Fernando Alonso on points in the drivers’ championship, showing he has gained confidence and is showing us what he’s got! Good work, Stoff!
Bullish Behaviour from the Birthday Boy!
After the start of the last race in Singapore, and the unlucky season he has had so far in general, it seemed perfect that Max Verstappen put on a birthday celebration show for his hoards of travelling fans today. Turning 20 yesterday, Max took the lead from Lewis Hamilton on lap 4, and gave us the 5th different winner so far this season, the most different drivers in one season of the hybrid era so far.
We saw emotional scenes with his family in the garage, and elated fans in the grandstands awash with orange, and on the track after the race. It seems a long time since Max’s first win in Spain in 2016, a race that some argued he was gifted by the Mercedes taking each other out, but anyone who thought that could not deny that today’s race was won fully on merit. Happy Birthday, Max!