Daniel Ricciardo described his Malaysian Grand Prix as "a bit lonely" until he was caught late on by Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel, defending well to take the third place as Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen claimed his second Formula 1 victory.

Ricciardo started fourth in Malaysia and said on Saturday that his race would have to be "pretty s**t" if he were to be caught by Vettel, who lined up last following an engine issue in qualifying.

However, Vettel's race day pace, as well as time lost in an extended battle with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas for third place, meant Ricciardo had to defend his podium finish from the Ferrari driver late on.

"The plan was to keep him behind. My engineer kept telling me he was catching me and I was like 'alright, thanks, I know,'" Ricciardo said.

"So I didn't get to a point where I told him to shut his mouth I wasn't getting much feedback on the radio, because I think he got the picture of it."

When Vettel finally caught Ricciardo, having made up 16 places to sit fourth, the Red Bull driver had to mount a strong defense until tyre and fuel management caused the Ferrari to drop back.

"I obviously expected him to attack until the end, I was obviously going to do all I could to keep him behind but I expected him to keep coming and I guess maybe he killed the tyres trying to chase me and getting close to me," Ricciardo said. 

"I think having a battle, having Seb catch me and keep me on my toes made it easier."

Finishing some nine seconds back from second-placed Lewis Hamilton and over 20 behind Verstappen, Ricciardo admitted it was a quiet race until the late fight, but was nevertheless delighted with the result.

"A bit of a, for the most part, a lonely race but obviously congrats to Max," Ricciardo said.

"He was strong all weekend. Our first double podium of the year so a good result."

 

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