F1 returned to Sepang this weekend after a longer than usual break. The move in the schedule has meant an 18 month gap between last year’s event. As ever the Mercedes looked quick, Lewis Hamilton was sublime all weekend.
After much deliberation, our TOP DOG this weekend will be split between two drivers. Step forward…
Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo
Sure Hamilton was winning pretty damn easily before his engine decided to impersonate a barbeque, but don’t let that overshadow just how good Nico Rosberg’s race was.
After being thumped by Hamilton in qualifying Rosberg knew he had it all to do on Sunday afternoon. His job got considerably more difficult thanks to Sebastian Vettel tapping him into a spin at T1. The unfortunate Rosberg found himself in last place, his team-mate streaking away in the lead.
Now in seasons past Rosberg would have let his head slip down and called it quits mentally for the day. Not anymore. Now Rosberg comes back out fighting harder than he did before. He makes things happen rather than waiting for the race come to him.
That’s why he was back up into fourth place not long after half distance. An exemplary move on Kimi Raikkonen where they swapped paint – rubbin’ is racin’ – landed Rosberg with a ten second time penalty.
The utterly idiotic penalty still wasn’t enough to deprive Rosberg of the final step on the podium, inherited thanks to his team-mate’s unfortunate car failure. It was a comeback driver worthy of a champion and it may just prove to be the day Rosberg helped sealed his first title.
After a barren year with no wins in 2015, Daniel Ricciardo finally made it back onto the top step of the podium in Malaysia. He had promised just weeks earlier that ‘karma’ owed him a win back after his Monaco pit-stop nightmare.
Despite Hamilton’s engine failure promoting Ricciardo to the front of the field, the Honey Badger still had to fight hard for a well-deserved victory.
Team-mate Verstappen was bearing down hard on Ricciardo just prior to Hamilton’s retirement. The Red Bulls battled in a manner reminiscent of Vettel and Mark Webber back in 2013 – something Christian Horner probably remembers all too well!
Try as he might, Verstappen just could not get past Ricciardo despite having much fresher tyres. It was the moment the race was won and lost. It seems grossly unfair that we’ve yet to witness Ricciardo in the mix for a world championship. Perhaps 2017 will reward us all.
As ever Ricciardo was in superb form on the podium and in the press room. It was ‘shoeys’ all round as first Ricciardo himself, then Horner, Verstappen and Rosberg all followed in drinking bubbly from a rather sweaty Puma boot. Webber, who was doing the podium interviews, rather
cowardly sensibly threw the boot into the crowd instead.
Perhaps Ricciardo’s finest moment came a little bit later on however. He rather touchingly dedicated his fourth F1 win to his late friend Jules Bianchi. F1 drivers don’t get much more classy than Daniel Ricciardo.