Márquez topped qualifying but a six-place penalty relegated the Spaniard to seventh on the grid, behind pole-sitter Zarco.
Equipped with Medium MICHELIN Power Slicks front and Soft rear, it was second-placed Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP/Michelin) who got away to the best start, however, to lead through Turn 1 and complete the first of the race’s 20 laps ahead of Zarco and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing Team/Michelin).
A sequence of strong laps then helped the Yamaha ace to pull clear of his chasers and only Márquez – who was up to second place by Lap 5 – managed to match the Italian’s pace before a mistake on Lap 17 ruined the latter’s hopes of securing his first victory of the season.
Márquez went on to claim his ninth win of the campaign (his 44th in motorcycle racing’s premier series and his 20th on Michelin rubber) and put the seal on Honda’s 24th Manufacturers’ crown.
Rins was rewarded for an incisive fightback from eight on the grid with second place at the flag after squeezing past Zarco last time around. The Suzuki rider was also accredited with the fastest race lap.
Third place for Zarco allowed the Frenchman to recover the lead in the provisional Independent Team Rider standings, a point clear of Cal Crutchlow who was forced to sit out the Malaysian round.
Maverik Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP/Michelin), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team/Michelin), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team/Michelin), Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team/Michelin), Miller, Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing Team/Michelin) and local hero Hafizh Syarhin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3/Michelin) rounded out the afternoon’s Top 10.
The majority of the field chose Medium MICHELIN Power Slicks front and Soft rear for Sepang, although Miller went for the medium option and Scott Redding (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini/Michelin) and Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS / Michelin) chose to combine a hard front with a soft rear.