Vettel set to avoid Suzuka grid penalty

Lewis Hamilton has made it clear to his Mercedes team what he wants from his vehicle for the next round of the Formula One world championship in Japan having struggled for pace at the Malaysian Grand Prix, finishing second to the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. "Our championships in the past three years have come because we have never taken success for granted and, even in the good times, we were able to put our finger in the wound and work on our weaknesses".

Vettel, meanwhile, crashed out in Singapore and took both Verstappen and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen with him, and was only fourth on Sunday.

Yet the mood after Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix was nearly despondent, despite Hamilton finishing in second place and Vettel fourth.

The likely line-up at the start was anticipated to be the Ferraris followed by the Red Bulls then the Mercedes.

That however, was not how events were meant to transpire for Ferrari and in particular Sebastian Vettel. "I thought we had a great race auto but I didn't think it was going to be quite that great".

Hamilton now has 20 scoring finishes in a row, the longest such run of his career.

Lewis Hamilton took his ninth podium of the season before coming home second in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit.

Mercedes is giving a false impression of dominance in this season's Formula One championship.

Vettel was up to sixth by Lap 17 and pushing hard. Whether Hamilton made his life easier or not, this was a rare moment: passes on the Briton don't come around very often.

Honda are set to supply Toro Rosso next year, which may fill the Red Bull-owned team with a sense of foreboding. If their struggles continue this opens the door for Hamilton to lose points not only to his main rival Vettel, but to the likes of Max Verstappen who beat the Brit to victory in Sepang. Alonso again finished ahead of the Mercedes in a session where the Silver Arrows struggled with their vehicle set up.

Daniel Ricciardo began his lap 9 pass of Valtteri Bottas by opening the DRS on the pit straight.

"We were half a second down on Ferrari [per lap] and probably if Max had pushed to the end we would have been half a second down on Max".

The one chance that Vettel had to overtake Ricciardo was aggressively defended by the Australian.

In Malaysia an engine failure saw Vettel fail to set a qualifying time, condemning him to the back of the grid despite Ferrari having been fastest in practice.

It was purely damage limitation, as he drifted 34 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the title race, but it softened the blow for Ferrari.

Stoffel Vandoorne helped McLaren finish seventh, while Lance Stroll, who collided with Vettel post race finished eighth, ahead of Felipe Massa's Williams in the ninth - who had two incidents with Esteban Ocon, who finished tenth, giving a double point to Force India.

  • Leroy Wright