SEPANG • Lewis Hamilton's World Championship hopes went up in flames, as Daniel Ricciardo led a Red Bull one-two at a dramatic, action-packed Malaysia Grand Prix yesterday.
Hamilton, who had pole, was leading with 15 laps to go when his engine exploded at the Sepang International Circuit.
"No, no," cried the Englishman as flames appeared at the back of his car, leaving Ricciardo to take the lead ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen.
Championship leader Nico Rosberg survived a first-bend spin involving Sebastian Vettel and a 10-second penalty to take third place and extend the gap over his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton to 23 points with just five races remaining.
Hamilton was almost in tears with his head in his hands after the dramatic end to his race, which has dealt a severe blow to his chances of securing a third drivers' championship in a row and his fourth overall.
WHY ALWAYS ME?
I just can't believe that there are eight Mercedes cars and only my engines are the ones that have gone this way.
LEWIS HAMILTON, bemoaning his bad luck with mechanical failure this season.
After his magnificent performance in qualifying, he deserved some sympathy and he made sure that his thoughts were heard by demanding answers from his Mercedes team.
"I just can't believe that there are eight Mercedes cars and only my engines are the ones that have gone this way, and it was a brand-new engine," said Hamilton.
"My question is to Mercedes. We have so many engines made for drivers, but mine are the only ones failing this year. Someone needs to give me some answers because this is not acceptable.
"I will try and recollect myself and try to get myself together for the race next week. There are many decisive races but this is one of those.
"Someone doesn't want me to win this year but I won't give up. I will keep pushing."
Hamilton had looked all set to snatch back the series lead from Rosberg, who was relegated from second on the grid to 21st after he was hit by Vettel on the first bend.
Vettel was forced to retire with a broken front suspension in the incident that also involved Verstappen.
Hamilton had got away cleanly from pole position and sped off into the distance, clear of the trouble behind him. He looked to be heading for a comfortable win until his engine let go in the most spectacular fashion.
An ecstatic Ricciardo celebrated his first win of the season on the podium with a "shoey" - drinking champagne from his driving boot.
"It was a race of challenges," said the Australian.
"It has been two years since (my) last win, and it has been a bit emotional. I said two weeks ago we would win one and we did."
Verstappen, who turned 19 on Friday, celebrated his podium finish and his birthday by also drinking the sweaty cocktail.
The Red Bull pair battled thrillingly wheel-to-wheel through six bends at one point, with Ricciardo just managing to hold off the teenage Flying Dutchman.
Rosberg sliced his way back through the field imperiously after the first-corner drama and was lucky to make the podium.
Hamilton's failure to finish and Rosberg's third place mean that Mercedes missed a chance to clinch the constructors' championship in Sepang.
They have 553 points but Red Bull, who picked up 43 points for the one-two, have closed the gap to 194 points with a maximum of 215 up for grabs in the remaining five races of the season.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN