Daniel Ricciardo beamed with joy and guzzled champagne from his racing boot after he grabbed his first win of the season ahead of his Red Bull Racing team-mate Max Verstappen in a dramatic and sweltering Malaysian Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Aussie racer took full advantage of another Mercedes engine failure for Lewis Hamilton – who had led the race from pole position – as he led Red Bull Racing to their first one-two triumph since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.
“It was only two weeks ago, after the race in Singapore, that I said we’d win one this year and there you go -- next race we win,” said a delighted Ricciardo who thanked his team, family, friends and fans for their support.
"Since Monaco, I kept the faith and believed we could win one this year and we’ve got it. I’m feeling pretty emotional -- I won’t lie. It’s overwhelming and I have a lot of feelings right now. I’m super-grateful to everyone.”
He shared his happiness on the podium by removing his right boot, filling it with the victors’ champagne and sharing it with team boss Christian Horner and both Verstappen and Rosberg.
When fellow-Australian Mark Webber arrived to congratulate him and carry out the post-race interviews, he rejected the offer of a drink and threw the alcoholic footwear into the crowd. “I’m not touching that,” said Webber with a grin.
Hamilton was forced into retirement when his car burst into flames with 15 laps to go, leaving him cursing his luck and the irony that he is the only driver of the eight on the grid with Mercedes engines to suffer consistent failures this season (see separate story).
“Someone has to give me some answers and it is not acceptable. Something or someone doesn't want me to win this year,” he said.
The incident meant Mercedes could not secure the constructors’ title again although they look certain to retain their crown with 553 points to Red Bull’s 359.
The defending three-time champion’s blow-up gifted victory to Ricciardo who had to fend off a vigorous challenge from Dutch teenager Verstappen, who was 19 on Friday, as he cruised to the fourth victory of his career.
An emotional Ricciardo later dedicated his win to the late Jules Bianchi, the French driver who died last year from injuries suffered in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix before flying to Tokyo ahead of next Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
"I want to dedicate this one to Jules, as well,” added Ricciardo.
“I’ve been waiting for a victory, waiting to dedicate this to him. My life definitely changed since that incident. I’m extremely grateful and appreciative of everything I’ve got. I’ll dedicate this to him..."
Asked about his plans for a celebration party, he said: “I think we might have a few drinks on the plane and then a good sleep. What a day it has been! It’s sinking in now… it’s been a long time between drinks!”
Hamilton had started the weekend eight points adrift of Mercedes team-mate German Nico Rosberg in the title race and, showing great focus, dominated qualifying to secure his 57th pole position and 100th front row start.
He stayed on top from the start until his car stopped in a blaze of flames and smoke, leaving Ricciardo to lead Verstappen home ahead of Rosberg, who recovered from a first corner collision when he was tagged by four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
Their crash caused Vettel to retire with a broken front left wheel while Rosberg had to recover after spinning down the field and fight his way back up to finish on the podium.
That result, and Hamilton’s retirement, lifted Rosberg 23 points ahead of the champion with five races remaining. Rosberg has 288 points ahead of Hamilton on 265 with Ricciardo third on 204.
Vettel dived down the inside of Turn One at the start, sending Rosberg spinning to the back of the pack. "I just got T-boned by a four-time world champion out of control," said Rosberg.
“I thought it was all over. I'm happy to be able to fight back all the way to the podium. In general I wished for a better day, but that is how it is sometimes. It doesn't feel like a win, but it is third place. It was a tough one.
“I thought I was finished at the start. For Lewis, I have been in his position and know how terrible it is in that moment so I know what he is going through..."
Finn Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, came home fourth ahead of compatriot Valtteri Bottas of Williams, Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso who had started at the back of the grid in his McLaren Honda, due to penalties.
German Nico Hulkenberg was eighth in the second Force India ahead of 2009 champion Briton Jenson Button who celebrated his 300th race by finishing ninth in the second McLaren. Another Briton Jolyon Palmer, in his rookie season, finished 10th to claim his first world championship point for Renault.