Ricciardo wins in Malaysia after Hamilton’s hopes go up in flames

World champions’ Mercedes catches fire as third place Rosberg extends lead to 23 points

Lewis Hamilton’s world championship hopes took a major blow after his Malaysian Grand Prix was ended when his Mercedes caught fire. Photograph: Gettys)

Lewis Hamilton’s world championship hopes went up in flames at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday. The world champion was closing in on a well-deserved victory after totally dominating the weekend in Kuala Lumpur – and the win would have seen him regain his lead in the race for the Formula One title.

But then fire burst out of the back of his Mercedes on the 41st of the 56 laps and he had to retire. "No! No! No!" he screamed in frustration as he pulled off the track. Then he held his head in his hands. On the pit-wall Toto Wolff, the team's head of motor sport, did exactly the same thing.

Nico Rosberg finished third, taking 15 points to boost his championship lead from eight points to 23.

The luck appeared to be with Hamilton, who was seeking his first victory since the end of July, at the start of the race when he dumped his great rival and Mercedes team-mate Rosberg to the back of the field. He was put in a spin after Sebastian Vettel collided with his right-rear tyre and dropped back to 21st place.


But the good fortune was with the German in Malaysia. That coming together could have ended his race. And he could also have sustained serious damage when he clattered into Kimi Raikkonen in a clumsy overtaking move which cost him a 10-second penalty.

There was also a big slice of luck for Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo winning ahead of his team-mate Max Verstappen. It was the team's first one-two since Brazil in 2013.

The race was also good news for the British driver Jolyon Palmer, who scored his first point in F1 after coming tenth, having made just one stop for fresh rubber in his Renault in the searing heat.

But it is unlikely he received any congratulations from a distraught Hamilton. He must be beginning to think that the championship is beyond him this year.

He has rarely looked as upset as he was here and there was a forlornness as well as frustration in his voice when he said afterwards: “I’ve just got to move on. I just can’t believe that there’s eight Mercedes cars and only my engines are the ones that have gone this way. Something just doesn’t feel right.

“It was a brand new engine ... it is what it is. It’s just odd, there’s been like 43 engines for Mercedes and only mine have gone. Right now I don’t even know if my car’s going to make it. I know we’ve got it in us but who knows what the next engines that I have are going to do.”

After his magnificent performance in qualifying on Saturday he deserves some sympathy. Later, Hamilton demanded answers from his Mercedes team when he said: “My question is to Mercedes. We have so many engines made for drivers, but mine are the only ones failing this year. Someone need 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. I will try and recollect myself and try to get myself together for the race next week. There are many decisive races but this is one of those. Someone doesn’t want me to win this year but I won’t give up. I will keep pushing.”

(Guardian service)