Birthday boy Verstappen takes victory in Malaysia

Max Verstappen wins in Malaysia, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo third
Max Verstappen wins in Malaysia, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo third

Max Verstappen celebrated his 20th birthday in perfect fashion by taking the chequered flag in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman, starting third on the grid, inherited second spot when Kimi Raikkonen's car was wheeled off before the start, but cruised up behind Lewis Hamilton to take the lead early in the race.

From there, Verstappen never looked back, building a lead over the Mercedes and putting in a faultless drive to claim the second victory of his career.

Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a similar battle with Hamilton's Mercedes partner Valtteri Bottas, eventually overcoming the Finn to claim third spot. The Australian had to be on his toes in the latter stages though to deny a fast catching Sebastian Vettel, who started from the back of the pack, but held off the German to keep his podium spot.

Verstappen has been plagued with bad luck all season long, and his victory in Malaysia is only the second time he has stood on the podium this season.

He said: "In the beginning the car felt good. I saw Lewis was struggling with traction, and e has more to lose in the championship so I went for it!

Verstappen is congratulated by Lewis Hamilton

Verstappen is congratulated by Lewis Hamilton

"My car was unbelievable, but if I had to speed up, I could.

"After the season I've had, this victory has come at a very good time!"

Ricciardo added: "Seb came so quick at the end I thought I was going ot have a handful, but he only had enough for one attack. It was pretty lonely other than that. But congratulations to Max, he deserved it."

Team boss Christian Horner said after Verstappen's dreadful run of results this season, it is exactly what the Dutchman deserved.

"He has endured so much bad luck this year - first lap incidents, breakdowns, but he has never let his head drop," Horner said. "He turned 20 this weekend and what better way to start a new decade? His last podium was in April! This is the injection he needed.

"It was a brilliantly controlled race. We knew Lewis would be thinking about the chamopionship so we told Max 'now is your moment,' he threw it up the inside and it worked.

"He did a great job not abusing the car too much - he kept it really cool out there.

"After the start, Max came around in P2 and Daniel was P4, so we had to manage against both Mercedes. It took Daniel a few more laps to pass Bottas, and by then the front two had made a break for it."