Max Verstappen celebrated his birthday by winning the Malaysian Grand Prix in style last night, while Lewis Hamilton finished second to extend his Formula One championship lead over Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel started the race from last but drove brilliantly to take fourth behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and limit the damage to his title hopes. Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen did not even start, despite qualifying second. Moments before the race, mechanics wheeled Raikkonen's car back to the garage but could not get it ready.

Hamilton secured the 70th pole of his career, and his fourth straight in Malaysia, while Vettel failed to set a time because of an engine problem.

The day after turning 20, Verstappen turned on the style, making a fine move to overtake Hamilton on lap four and then held his nerve with his father watching from the team garage.


Vettel's last win came at the Hungarian GP before the summer break, moving him 14 points clear of Hamilton. But the British driver has won three of the four races since and now leads Vettel by 34 points with five races remaining.

"Welcome to being a 20-year-old," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "Great start to a new decade for you."

His father, the former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, looked emotional as his son stood on the podium. Horner also appeared teary-eyed.

Dutch fans poured on to the grid to join the celebrations, with one fan applauding with a pair of clogs.

Vettel saved Ferrari's blushes with a superb drive but, as if Ferrari's luck could not get any worse, Williams driver Lance Stroll smashed into the side of him on the warm-down lap, cutting the Ferrari almost in half.

Verstappen won the Spanish GP on his Red Bull debut last year, and became the youngest driver on the front row when he qualified second for Monaco. He was still 18.

Until yesterday, however, his season had been blighted by engine problems. Since placing third at the Chinese GP, the second race of the year, he failed to finish seven times.

But his luck held this time, and he delivered a composed performance in keeping with the predictions that he will become a future great.