Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen has heralded his second career victory as the highlight of a ‘season to forget’.
The Dutchman won the race comfortably from Lewis Hamilton to claim his second podium of the year, and second career victory.
“It’s been a dramatic season so far, so of course I’m very happy to win this race,” Verstappen said.
“Hopefully from now onwards it will be okay. I wouldn’t say we’re going to win every race, but at least score some good points, because up until now it’s really a season to forget.”
The 20-year-old seized the race lead with a move on Lewis Hamilton in the early stages, making the most of the Mercedes driver’s more conservative approach owing to his championship position.
“Once I passed Lewis I could basically just focus on my pace and look after the tyres,” Verstappen explained.
“When I needed to speed up I had the pace to do it, so that was of course very pleasing.
“It’s the first time I’ve had that in my career so far.
“I almost got taken out at turn one when I passed two backmarkers, but from there onwards I could control everything.”
For a time it looked as though Red Bull might net a 1-2 finish as Daniel Ricciardo chased down Hamilton in the middle part of the race.
That charge fell short however and Ricciardo instead found himself fighting a rearguard action in the closing stages against Sebastian Vettel.
“I expected him to keep coming, keep coming, but I guess maybe he killed the tyres trying to chase me and then getting close to me,” Ricciardo said.
“I kind of defended a bit and I saw Seb as still coming, so I closed the door a bit later towards the apex.
“I don’t know if he was unhappy about it or whatever, but it didn’t seem overly aggressive from my side, it didn’t feel like I did a really late move or anything.”
At the start, Ricciardo slipped behind Valtteri Bottas, and remained tucked up behind the Mercedes in fourth during the opening stages.
It proved the decisive period of the race for Ricciardo, who was too far behind Hamilton to bridge the gap throughout the remaining laps once clear.
“Off the start I chose to go to the inside, and in the end he had a better run on the outside, so that was not the best line.
“We had a couple of goes at him – he defended pretty well initially and then finally got around him, but by then Max and Lewis had obviously taken off.”