Sebastian Vettel set to avoid Suzuka gearbox penalty

Red Bull's Max Verstappen holds his trophy as he celebrates with his team after winning the Malaysia Grand Prix at Sepang Malaysia on Sunday. — Reuters

Red Bull's Max Verstappen holds his trophy as he celebrates with his team after winning the Malaysia Grand Prix at Sepang Malaysia on Sunday. — Reuters

Vettel - who started from the back of the grid - fought back to finish fourth but he is now 34 points behind his rival with 125 points available in the remaining five races. But things have looked up recently as Stoffel Vandoorne has taken two consecutive seventh-placed finishes to not only leapfrog his experienced team-mate Fernando Alonso in the standings but also provide a much-needed boost for Honda.

Ferrari's two drivers, however, are calling for calm.

The Malaysian race has never been won from lower than eighth on the grid. Kimi's trainer, Mark Arnall, was calm as he observed the vehicle being pulled apart, but acknowledged it was an nearly certain victory gone.

"To beat Mercedes fair and square was beyond our expectation", Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. With one red auto out before the start, and the other having to climb back into contention, things were tough, especially as Ferrari ought to have walked both races.

Max Verstappen took the race win having passed pole-sitter Hamilton at the start of lap four and then pulling away from the Brit easily.

Referring earlier to Valtteri Bottas's recent struggles to match Hamilton's pace, and the tough race he had endured running the unsuccessful new aero configuration on Sunday, Wolff had said, "A wise man once said that smooth seas do not tough sailors make".

Red Bull cannot be discounted, particularly after Verstappen clinched his first victory of the season in Malaysia, and could take points off Mercedes that in turn would help Ferrari's cause.

Vettel continued: "The truth is that we have a vehicle that can win anywhere".

Max Verstappen overtakes Hamilton during the race.

Knowing that a tussle with Verstappen could jeopardize his championship hopes and acknowledging the superior pace of the Red Bull, Hamilton did not even make an attempt to defend the pass. Hamilton pitted and came out ahead of both Bottas and Vettel. He was forced to pit on Lap 2 and from then on he was up against it.

"We knew Ferrari had eight tenths (seconds fast per lap) on us, it did not surprise us". Ricciardo, however, had more durable tyres.

But was Vettel's crash another "mistake"?

Vettel was up to sixth by Lap 17 and pushing hard. The Frenchman's recdnt run of form has brought him to within half a point of the championship lead but, for now, he insists that he would rather continue to gain F1 experience by racing at the Circuit of the Americas... Most strategists had modelled his race and had him finishing fourth, catching Ricciardo at the end.

Sebastian Vettel pointed the finger of blame at Lance Stroll following their "completely unnecessary" post-race collision at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but the young Canadian insisted he was not responsible. Hamilton, meanwhile, will begin on pole.

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