Lewis Hamilton didn’t win the race, but it was kind of a win nonetheless. It was Max Verstappen who came home with the win at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Hamilton, however, still accomplished what he came to do–extend his lead over Sebastian Vettel in the championship race, with Hamilton finishing second in Sepang and Vettel down in fourth place.
Vettel did manage to climb all the way to that spot from P19–an amazing feat no matter how you look at it–but you can rest assured this isn’t much of a consolation for the Ferrari driver. In addition, Ferrari lost Kimi Raikkonen to a turbo problem right before the race began.
To add insult to injury (or injury to injury), Vettel was forced to hitch a ride on another car after he lost his right rear tyre to a collision with Lance Stroll… in the slow-down lap.
This is the last installment of the Malaysian Grand Prix, because the government will no longer be funding the event in the future. Vettel can at least take solace in the fact that he still has the most wins in Sepang, with four victories.
Red Bull got two drivers in the podium, as Daniel Ricciardo staved off the furious run by Vettel to clinch third place. Valtteri Bottas, in the other Mercedes car, finished fifth.
The most important takeaway from all this is that Hamilton is now up 35 points in the championship race. He has Ricciardo to thank for this one; Vettel was really plowing through everyone until it was time to pass the Red Bull.
With five races left to this season, Hamilton has a firm grasp on that title. Vettel’s championship hopes are still alive, though, so it will be interesting to see how he and the Ferrari team approaches the Japanese Grand Prix next weekend.