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Story of the race: Ferrari headaches pile up as Verstappen wins on merit

Shock: On a weekend when the headlines were dominated by Mercedes and Ferrari, it was easy to overlook the pace of the Red Bull. But while the two championship-challenging teams struggled with very different issues, Max Verstappen and Red Bull came to the fore and took a well-deserved victory. Make no mistake, this was a race won on merit by a driver who has suffered more than his fair share of bad luck this season but has continued to perform at the highest level. Although there wasn't a Ferrari to challenge him, Verstappen had pace in hand as he spent the majority of the race with a comfortable margin over Hamilton. It was further proof of just how talented this newly-turned 20-year-old is.

Shocker: In a race with plenty of incident, Ferrari's failure to get Kimi Raikkonen away from the grid under his own power was the biggest missed opportunity. With Vettel starting from the back of the grid, the focus was on Raikkonen in second to make the most of Ferrari's superb race pace, but an engine issue on the way to the grid put an end to his race before it had begun.

2017 Mlaaysian Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen. Lars Baron/Getty Images
An investigation into this weekend's three engine issues (Vettel also suffered problems in FP3 and qualifying) will already be underway and Ferrari's bosses will want answers before the next grand prix in a week's time. But that won't change the fact that Vettel has scored just 12 points from two races where the car was good enough to claim 50. Meanwhile, the gap to Hamilton grows to 34 points.

Oddest collision: After 56 laps of action-packed racing, the Malaysian Grand Prix had one final twist in the tail. After a hard-fought race from 20th to fourth, Vettel was on his way back to the pits when he came across Lance Stroll. Drivers are free to make their way back to the pits at their own pace on the cool-down lap and Vettel, clearly keen to debrief with his team as soon as possible, went to pass Stroll on the outside of Turn 5. The collision wasn't caught on the main TV cameras, but onboard footage from Romain Grosjean's car showed Stroll fail to follow the line of the circuit as it turned to the left and he collided with the rear of Vettel's car as it came past. It was the last thing Ferrari needed after another disappointing weekend and could result in a five-place penalty in Japan if the gearbox is damaged.

Overtake of the race: Verstappen's move on Hamilton for the lead was the most important of the race, but Daniel Ricciardo's pass on Valtteri Bottas had more flair. The Red Bull went to the inside of Bottas at Turn 1 only for the Mercedes driver to hold his line as the track turned back to the left for Turn 2. Ricciardo was behind as they went into Turn 3, but that didn't stop him getting a better exit and completing the move into Turn 4.

Close call: As race leader Verstappen came to lap Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen, he found the two backmarkers warring for position. The three cars exited the final corner line astern in the order Magnussen-Palmer-Verstappen but the Red Bull quickly got past both on the pit straight. With a point to prove for 2018, Palmer saw an opportunity to take advantage and dived down the inside of Magnussen. As he did so, he carried too much speed into the corner and the rear of his Renault tipped into a spin -- just behind the rear wing of Verstappen's lead Red Bull. Palmer was left red-faced in the run off, Magnussen perplexed by the whole situation and Verstappen seemingly unaware of how close his race came to a disaster.

Driver of the day: Speaking on Saturday after qualifying, Verstappen said he still had a burning desire to win a Formula One race on merit. His remarkable debut victory in Spain last year was impressive, but would not have happened had the two Mercedes not collided on the opening lap. But his ability to win the race with pace in hand over Hamilton and teammate Ricciardo was enough to satisfy Verstappen's desire.

Author: Nate Saunders, ESPN UK
Source: http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/story/_/id/20878387/ferrari-headaches-pile-verstappen-wins-merit

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