World Champion Lewis Hamilton suffered a late debacle in the Sepang F-1 GP in Malaysia on Sunday. His race ended under unfortunate circumstances, truly beyond his control, and at a time when he had looked certain to win. Besides leading the pack for most part on Sunday, the Briton also had a dominant performance over Friday and Saturday in practice sessions. However, a freak engine failure in closing stages in Sunday’s main event caused serious setback to Hamilton’s championship aspirations. The direct beneficiary of Hamilton’s misery at Sepang was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in a great 1-2 for his team as his teenaged teammate Max Verstappen tagged him right behind. The other Mercedes driver and current 2016 championship leader Nico Rosberg also benefitted from Hamilton’s retirement by taking the third place on the podium and enhancing his overall lead by 23 points. With just 5 races left this season, Hamilton is in deep trouble. He not only needs to ensure that he finds the podiums ahead of Rosberg and avoid crashes at all cost. Hamilton has to also guard himself against Ricciardo, who is 61 points behind him but if the British driver is not careful, the Australian can bridge that gap pretty quickly.
At Sepang GP in Malaysia, Lewis Hamilton had looked every bit a dominant force. He performed excellently in practice sessions and qualifying over the week-end that ended with the Brit getting the top pole position. On Sunday, he was off the blocks in a jiffy and looked certain to record his seventh win of the season. That would have taken him on top of the championship leaderboard. With just 16 out of 56 laps remaining, Hamilton held a whopping 20 seconds lead over Ricciardo. Then the hell broke loose for the reigning World Champion. The dynamics at the Sepang track went haywire as Hamilton’s power unit gave way just after the 40th lap. Plumes of smoke began billowing from the rear of his Mercedes and soon it was followed by blast of yellow flame. Hamilton jumped out of his Mercedes but the race was over for him. Quite understandably, the champion driver was highly frustrated to have missed a promising victory as he watched his burning car before leaving the scene. It was a bitter end to an otherwise dominant race. With Nico Rosberg taking the third place behind the two Red Bull drivers, Hamilton’s misery was further compounded as he lost more points on his championship standing.
Daniel Ricciardo, who had been trailing behind Hamilton; got lucky. He won the Malaysian Grand Prix from teammate Max Verstappen. But Nico Rosberg truly benefitted from Hamilton’s exit. The German had fallen back after his earlier tangle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel that required the safety car on the track. Vettel had begun quickly but Red Bull’s Max Verstappen caught up with him on the inside at turn one. The braking action taken by Vettel forced a collision with Rosberg. That resulted in the damage of Ferrari’s front suspension and Vettel went out of the race at that point. Though Rosberg escaped without any damage, he dropped back at the end of the field. From there, the current championship leader fought valiantly and kept improving with each passing lap. He was already fifth by lap 20 and later he found a strong opposition from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen for the fight for the fourth place. Rosberg got his opportunity in lap 39 by a courageous pass down the inside of the Ferrari. But since Rosberg had clipped Raikkonen’s car and damaged it, he was served a 10-second penalty. Regardless, the penalty had no effect since Hamilton went out of the race with the engine failure and Rosberg ended up at the podium behind Ricciardo and Verstappen. Raikkonen held on to his fourth position ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were sixth and eighth while Fernando Alonso was seventh in McLaren-Honda. The other McLaren-Honda driver Jenson Button took the ninth spot while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer finished tenth. With the other Williams driver Felipe Massa failing to score, the Force India team has stretched its advantage over Williams by three points for the battle for fourth overall in constructors’ standings. In the drivers’ standings, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg are 8th and 9th with 74 and 50 points respectively.