Rate the Race and Driver of the Weekend Sepang, Malaysia, 2017
Mean Reader Score :7.31
Malaysia’s swansong may have drawn in the crowds but it didn’t draw in the votes from our discerning readers. This year’s score of 7.35 was lower than 2016 (7.82) and 2015 (8.25)
With this track being technically difficult, fast and wide enough for overtaking to take place surely we would get the showdown between Hamilton and Vettel ‘we’ve all been waiting for’?
Nope. Looks like we’re going to have to wait a little while longer for that one. Ferrari hadn’t quite used up all the bad luck in the world last time out: they left just enough to test the mettle of the Tifosi this race as well. Shock horror No1 came when, having failed to set a time, Vettel was out in Q1. Shock horror No 2 came on race day when Raikkonen failed to start (having qualified in P2, 0.046s behind Hamilton) with a similar (if not exactly the same) problem to Vettel the previous day.
At the start there was a gap on the front row where Kimi should have been, so we didn’t have a three car pileup as in Singapore: Bottas overtook Ricciardo and nearly made it into P2, but Verstappen wasn’t having any of it. In fact not being a teenager any more, he wasn’t going to settle for second best and Verstappen promptly took the lead from Hamilton on lap 4.
Vettel moved his way easily through the field (P20 to P12 on Lap 1 ) and systematically picked off the back markers with relative ease until he came up behind the very wide Mercedes of Bottas, when he pitted for a fresh set of supersofts. The newly invigorated prancing horse was taking about a second a lap back from Ricciardo out in front: it looked as if he could have challenged for a podium position but this was not to be, as one significant challenge and a few back markers later , Vettel crossed the line in fourth place.
Pierre Gastly made his F1 debut, and provided us with possibly the best tee shirt quote of the race as his engineer told him to ‘follow Vettel’ as the four times world champion lapped the rookie in his first race. (Marginally better than Vettel’s ‘I thought you were better than that’ addressed to Alonso who took rather longer than Vettel would have iked to get out of the way.)
Alonso had a couple of scraps, Palmer a couple of spins, and Van Doorne beat his illustrious teammate in both qualifying and the race. So, who, I wonder won our Driver of the weekend…..yes, you guessed it, it was
Driver of The Weekend: Max Verstappen 47.01% of reader vote
Max the Wonderkid got off to a great start at the beginning of the week, being fastest in FP1. Come qualifying he didn’t have it all his own way (even with Vettel starting in P20) as he made P3 behind Raikkonen and Hamilton (who took his 70th career pole.) BUT no points for Saturday, and being the birthday boy of qualifying he didn’t seem to be too unhappy. He was even happier come race day when he was effectively elevated to P2 due to Raikkonen’s DNS. A bit of a scrap with Bottas at the start saw him loose and regain P2, but not for long as by lap 4 he was leading the race and that’s where he stayed until the chequered flag. Afterwards he revealed his new race strategy: Get out of my way, you have more to lose. Hamilton duly complied, didn’t put up a fight and bagged an additional 18 points to add to his championship tally. So, max scored his second ever win on day 2 of being 20 years old. Well done Max!!