A horror pit stop cost Daniel Ricciardo dearly as Lewis Hamilton scored an emphatic win in the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton led from pole position to cruise to the chequered flag by 17.3 seconds at the Sepang International Circuit ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was third, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished fourth and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg fifth.
Vettel’s Australian teammate, Ricciardo, was lying fourth when he pitted with 15 laps to go.
But mechanics failed to secure his left front tyre properly and Ricciardo had to stop in the pit lane and be pushed back for the tyre to be fixed.
He then almost immediately had to return to the pits with a broken front wing and was then punished with a 10-second stop-go penalty for an unsafe release in the first pit stop.
He was retired with four laps remaining.
But the win was sweet for Hamilton, who has not topped the podium since Hungary last July and retired early at the season-opener in Australia.
Afterwards, he paid tribute to the victims of the mysterious MH370 plane disappearance, which cast a shadow over the race and was blamed for poor ticket sales with the Sepang circuit only about half-full.
“Incredible, incredible,” Hamilton said of the win. “I just feel so grateful particularly after such a tragedy three weeks ago. I would like to dedicate it to those people and their families.”
After a sombre minute’s silence for the MH370 missing, Hamilton got away smoothly from pole as his team-mate Rosberg squeezed inside Vettel and into second position on the starting straight.
Behind the leaders, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen clipped Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen’s right rear tyre, leaving him with a flat, and Pastor Maldonado crashed with Jules Bianchi.
Hamilton was streaking away in front and he had a 5.2-second lead by lap nine, with Rosberg nearly four seconds ahead of Vettel in third and Ricciardo fourth in the second Red Bull.
Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who was warned over the radio to stop attacking his team-mate, moved up a place when Magnussen had to come in for a stop-go penalty for his collision with Raikkonen.
Hamilton pitted after lap 15 and rejoined behind Force India’s Hulkenberg, who had yet to make his first stop, and he quickly regained the lead with an eight-second advantage over Rosberg.
Mercedes’ relaxed instructions to Hamilton were “just keep doing what you’re doing” as the former world champion extended to a 10-second lead by halfway and with Rosberg comfortably ahead of Vettel.
As rain started falling on parts of the track, the two leaders were the last to come in for their second pit stops and Hamilton regained with a healthy 12-second lead.
Behind the top five, Jenson Button was sixth for McLaren and Massa finished seventh, ahead of Bottas despite team instructions ordering him to let his team-mate pass.
Several drivers wore helmet stickers reading “Pray for MH370” and the Malay-language “Doa Untuk MH370” after 239 people were presumed killed in the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.