Nico Rosberg has tightened his grip on the race for the 2016 F1 World title after Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of winning Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit go up in a puff of smoke.
Hamilton was on course to retake the championship lead when leading the race, only for the engine of his Brackley-based Mercedes AMG Petronas failed in spectacular fashion.
His victory seemed a mere formality having dominated throughout the weekend when, quite unexpectedly, his turbocharged hybrid powerplant suffered a major failure, sending smoke and flames pluming from its rear.
The retirement meant that Hamilton failed to claim any points and with the British racer parked at the side of the track, the two Milton Keynes-based Red Bull cars swept into the lead to score an impressive 1-2 finish.
Victory going the way of Australian racer, Daniel Ricciardo, with 19-year-old Max Verstappen, claiming second while third place went to Rosberg who extended his lead in the standings to 23 points.
A visibly frustrated Hamilton said afterwards: “I don’t know why I keep having these engine issues. We need to know why I am suffering this season, and not those around me. Something has to be wrong and the team need to take a close look at what is going on.”
Rosberg was delighted with his podium finish, especially after surviving an early incident with Sebastian Vettel, saying: “I didn’t see him coming.
“All of a sudden there he was. I was lucky to continue so third is a good result for me and I now have a good title lead with the next race taking place this weekend.
“I know it will be tough for the rest of the season, but I am just taking each race as it comes and I will attempt to score good points in each of them.”
Having confirmed his place with the Silverstone-based Sahara Force India team again for next season, Sergio Perez drove well in Malaysia to finish sixth, two places ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.
Perez said: “I am happy to confirm I will once again be driving for Force India next season. We have a good car, a close team and I feel that we have the potential to really do something.”
Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat both finished the race outside of the top ten with their part Bicester-based Toro Rosso-Ferrari cars.
Sainz suffered an issue at the start of the race that hampered his progress, eventually crossing the line 11th, while Kvyat was14th at the flag.