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Malaysian GP: Winners & Losers from Sepang

Written by  Oct 01, 2017

Last weekend's final Malaysian Grand Prix saw the 2017 Formula 1 season take another twist as Max Verstappen rose to end Lewis Hamilton's three-race winning streak, while Ferrari's championship chances suffered once again as engine problems impacted both cars just when they were expected to dominate at Sepang.

But who ended up leaving Kuala Lumpur with their head held high and who will be looking for an immediate response this Sunday at Suzuka? Here are our winners and losers from Malaysia.

Biggest Winner:

Max Verstappen:

After a bumpy season that saw him lead the ‘least laps completed’ list with just 54% of all laps before last weekend, Verstappen was able to grab a much needed and well-deserved win in Sepang, welcoming his first day as a 20-year-old in the best way possible. Qualifying third meant he was second with

Qualifying third meant he was second with Raikkonen's failure to take the start and just a few laps into the race the young Dutchman used Red Bull's superior pace and produced a bold move on Hamilton to snatch the lead. he never looked back, a great drive and an amazing result putting him in the biggest winner position.

Once in the clear, he never looked back producing a great drive and an amazing result putting him in the biggest winner position.

Winners:

Lewis Hamilton:

Struggling for pace in all three practice sessions, Mercedes were expected to be the third best team in qualifying yet when it counted, Hamilton delivered once again producing an excellent lap to claim his 70th pole while his championship rival Vettel was way down the grid after his turbo problem in Q1.

Although Hamilton lost his lead to the aforementioned Verstappen, he remains a winner after being able to increase his lead on top of the championship table to 34 points when all the indications earlier in the weekend meant he was expected to lose some of his advantage.

The triple world champion knew there was no point fighting for the win, so he just controlled his race and took his Mercedes home safe.

Stoffel Vandoorne:

Another strong race for the Belgian as he starts to show some of his potential in F1, Vandoorne was the lead McLaren Honda all weekend, making it into Q3 and then scoring some valuable points in seventh.

His second success points finish, after also finishing P7 in Singapore, saw the 2015 GP2 champion move ahead of Fernando Alonso in the Drivers' standings after out-pacing the Williams' over the second half of the race.

Give Vandoorne a more competitive engine in 2018 and the potential future star could begin to make his presence felt at the front of the grid.

Williams:

Following a dip in form lately, especially in qualifying, Williams received a much-needed boost at Sepang with the new updated Mercedes engine, which allowed both drivers to move higher up the order.

Couple that with the ability to make up places in the race, which the British team has continually done since their problems began in Austria and another double point finish was the result.

Though a decision to switch drivers after the pit-stop, when Felipe Massa was able to jump ahead of Lance Stroll, prevented them from challenging Vandoorne, eighth and ninth, though not the highest scoring points places, still represented the consistency that has been the case for quite some time now.

Sergio Perez:

If everyone earned his result at Malaysia then Sergio Perez earned his sixth place more than most after taking on one of F1's toughest race while suffering from illness. On an IV drip earlier in the weekend, the Mexican thought he would have to give up but, albeit in a lonely race, he battled through the 56 laps and once again showed why he is the top midfield driver currently in F1.

Biggest Loser:

Ferrari:

Wow, where to begin. Just when it seemed the Scuderia would be able to bounce back from being humiliated at Monza, everything goes completely wrong. After being the fastest team but then seeing it come to nothing in Singapore, Ferrari looked on course to recover in Malaysia after a solid Practice form, but then the troubles hit.

Sebastian Vettel was forced to miss qualifying on Saturday before his teammate Kimi Raikkonen had to miss the race, both likely due to the same engine problem. Although Vettel was able to battle back, finishing P4, the result was far from what was hoped as Hamilton extended his championship lead.

Just when you thought it was over, there was one more twist as Vettel collided with Williams’ Lance Stroll on the post-race in lap resulting in serious damage potentially to the gearbox, with a five-place grid drop looming at Suzuka if it has to be replaced.

The Italian team will need to find answers quickly with just five races left to go because now there is no room for error if they want to end Mercedes' run of success.

Losers:

Valtteri Bottas:

Another poor performance for the Finn, Bottas struggled for pace throughout the weekend finishing fifth and quite some way behind the rest of the leading drivers. The 28-year-old stuck to some new upgrades, which were brought in Malaysia, but on his car, they did not seem to give the intended result.

What made this result even harder to accept is how Vettel was able to finish ahead of Bottas having started from the back of the grid and beat him by almost half a minute. After Singapore, he closed the gap to the German in the championship standings and was aiming to narrow the gap but that was far from the case in Sepang.

Fernando Alonso:

The double world champion failed to build on his Q3 appearance, starting 10th and had lots of ups and downs during his race including earning the wrath of Vettel after being quite naughty in holding up the Ferrari.

It was a rare story of Alonso simply not being good enough as he won out-shone by his teammate and finished the race eleventh just out of the points After constantly telling the world he simply needs a good car to become champion, Malaysia was just one of those weekends where you wondered if he is still as good as he makes out.

F1 as a whole:

It was sad that this past weekend marked the final running of the Malaysian Grand Prix, even if it went out with a bang. However, the whole F1 world will miss the Sepang circuit which has held plenty of superb races down the years, produced some excellent memories and actually had some character compared to many others on the calendar.

Though organisers feel the sport isn't paying back what the high cost deserves, hopefully in the future we can see cars back tackling the sweeping corners and fly past the iconic grandstands in the not too distant future. 

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