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January 19 2018, 01:47 | Perry Erickson
Ricciardo threw himself into the action and quickly displayed his cocktail making abilities
Hamilton finished in second place eating humble pie 12.7 seconds adrift the Red Bull piloted by young Verstappen.
In Japan Vettel will be seeking to capitalise on the Ferrari's current blistering pace - something which the Ferrari team has comprehensively failed to do in the last two races.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen overtook Hamilton easily early on to win the race.
"I didn't make it very hard for him".
But the German has slipped to 34 points behind the Mercedes driver with five races to go and a maximum of 125 points still available. "At the beginning I had hoped I could finish second but then after the pit stop it was just about holding on to third", he said.
Despite being unable to seal an eighth win of the season, Hamilton still opened up his gap at the top of the Formula One championship over nearest rival Vettel.
When asked about the championship situation with Vettel, Hamilton said: "I feel good but we have some work to do with the vehicle. All weekend the auto has been in very good shape".
Lewis Hamilton says he had the title fight in mind when Max Verstappen caught him in the opening stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, a race he doubts Mercedes had a chance of winning on raw pace. I think it is the first time I have been able to do so in my career. "If they finished the races as they should have performed, we would not have increased our points advantage, but would have lost many points to them".
"The whole weekend has been a bit up and down in terms of happiness with the auto", said Verstappen. Vettel started from the back of the grid, but managed a fourth place finish. Birthday boy Max Verstappen got past championship leader Lewis Hamilton early on and never looked back.
Kimi Raikkonen had qualified second with Vettel sidelined but he could not even make the start this time around as a battery issue meant he was left in the garage.
'We need to see now what the problem was.
"I'm absolutely delighted for Max", Horner told reporters after the race.
The race did throw challenges in the way of Vettel, who rose to the occasion and put in a good effort to move from dead last (20th position) to 13th on the first lap.
"There are some real big problems that I can not really explain, but we need to rectify for next year's auto if we are going to have any chance of fighting both these teams next year when they step up their game".