Ferrari had been looking strong, with Vettel ending Friday's opening day of practice fastest ahead of Raikkonen, before the Finn reversed the order in final practice on Saturday.Mercedes, on the other hand, had struggled.
"Whether it was in the wet, the dry, long runs or single lap, we lacked pace today", he said.
Hamilton and his mechanics opted to strip the vehicle of the updates for Saturday and it did the trick. Before qualifying I was thinking of going back to the new package because Valtteri's and my times were very similar and Valtteri seemed really happy with it and so I didn't want to carry a penalty going into qualifying.
Explaining the incident, Whiting said that some welding came loose on a Sepang circuit he claims is "fatigued" as it hosts a race for the last time. "The vehicle felt good".
For Ricciardo it was an eighth podium in 11 races, and another sign that Red Bull is coming back strongly.
Both Red Bull and Ferrari were quicker than Mercedes for much of the weekend and, even though the team now head to the Japanese Grand Prix in a week's time in a stronger position, Hamilton admits there is work to be done on an inconsistent auto.
"Now the championship is not as it was before Singapore where the two were equal", said Alonso.
Vettel was only fifth quickest in the morning, four-tenths slower than Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
"Fridays are when you play around and try some things", Vettel said.
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The victory was the second of Verstappen's grand prix career, after a first in Spain a year ago, and came a day after his birthday.
"It is often the case that when you have a win there is not a lot to say and everyone is riding on positives".
"To be honest, I don't know if we're going to miss it". What changes have you seen that makes it any more exciting than in the Bernie days, in terms of the sport, in terms of racing, what have they done? "But we go tomorrow".
Verstappen impressed on his 20th birthday, with his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.
He will share the second row of the grid with the Dutchman who engaged in a bit of fun banter with Raikkonen after qualifying.
The Australian sensed an opportunity on Sunday.
"I don't think there's much assessment necessary".
Sebastian Vettel believes his chances of securing a fifth title this season remain intact despite the current gap with arch-rival Lewis Hamilton.
Meanwhile, the organiser of one of the support events apologised to spectators after every vehicle ran out of fuel and embarrassingly failed to complete the race.
"I was made to understand that there was a fuel miscalculation and everyone was affected".
Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sunday said Formula One could return to Malaysia and pledged the Sepang circuit will not become a "white elephant".