SEPANG, Malaysia — A furious Lewis Hamilton demanded answers from his Mercedes team after an engine failure cost him victory in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix and severely dented his chances of winning this year’s Formula One drivers’ championship.
Hamilton was leading on lap 41 of 56 at the Sepang International Circuit when his engine blew, handing the race lead and ultimately victory to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
It was Ricciardo’s first victory since the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, leading a one-two finish with his teenage teammate Max Verstappen.
More painfully, it gave Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg — who finished an impressive third — a 23-point lead in the championship. Rosberg had to fight back from 21st place after lap one when he was the innocent party in a collision with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
With five races left in the season, it will be difficult for Hamilton to make up the deficit to the ultra-consistent Rosberg in the championship tussle. The frustrated Hamilton was upset in the circumstances, and he hinted at perhaps more than that.
“My question is to Mercedes,” Hamilton said. “We have so many engines made for drivers, but mine are the only ones failing this year. Someone needs to give me some answers because this is not acceptable. We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing. It does not sit right with me.
“Someone doesn’t want me to win this year, but I won’t give up. I will keep pushing.”
Red Bull and Ricciardo took a lucky victory, given the circumstances that afflicted the Mercedes pair, but were in the right place to capitalize and make up for the win the Australian driver felt he was deprived of in Monaco when a team pit-stop misunderstanding cost him victory.
“Told you I’d win one. Sometimes you just need things to swing your way,” said Ricciardo, whose tears during the Australian anthem played after the race mixed freely with the copious sweat generated in the tropical conditions, which generated track temperatures consistently topping 50 degrees (122 F).
“It’s been an interesting, I would say, two years since my last victory and it feels awesome for sure. I am so grateful for it,” he said.
Ricciardo delighted many fans, and disgusted quite a few others, by celebrating victory with his newly adopted tradition of pouring the celebratory champagne into his sweaty race shoe and then drinking it — something he calls the `Shoey’. Not only that, he also convinced team principal Christian Horner, plus Verstappen and Rosberg, to also drink from the unconventional vessel.
Asked to comment on the flavor, Ricciardo said it had a fruity taste, but Rosberg deadpanned: “I hope he does not win any more races this year.”
Rosberg held onto third place despite incurring a 10-second penalty for an aggressive passing move on Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on lap 38. Raikkonen placed fourth, extending Ferrari’s winless streak this season.
Williams driver Valtteri Bottas made a one-pit stop strategy work to take fifth place, as did Renault’s Jolyon Palmer who finished tenth for his first ever points finish in F1.
Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg took sixth and eighth places respectively, separated by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who did well to finish seventh after starting the race from last on the grid. Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button was ninth in his 300th grand prix start.
The next race is in Japan next weekend, with Rosberg eager to press home the advantage over Hamilton in his quest for his first championship.
“I thought the race was all over (after the first-corner crash) so I am really happy to fight back all the way to the podium,” Rosberg said. “It is a good moment in general, and I look forward to the next one.”