Lewis Hamilton left Malaysia with praise for team meetings rather than track performance despite increasing his lead in the drivers' championship.
The Mercedes man finished second in Sepang behind the impressive Max Verstappen, who picked up his second career win for Red Bull.
Verstappen's team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was third as Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton's closest title rival, battled back from last on the grid to finish fourth.
After claiming a surprise pole on Saturday, Hamilton had no answer to Verstappen's pace with Vettel also quicker for large periods of the race as he fought up the field after engine trouble ruled him out of qualifying.
The lack of pace in the Mercedes left Hamilton and his team scratching their heads after the race, but the British driver was pleased with the discussions ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix next Sunday.
"A lot of analysis will happen in the next few days in terms of what we do for the next race," he said. ''I feel positive, the debrief was one of the best debriefs we have had. Period.
''It is often the case that when you have a win there is not a lot to say and everyone is riding on positives.
''When you have a difficult day, when the s**t really hits the fan, that is when there are more questions and you go into more detail.
''There is stuff you don't even know about that has been happening through the weekend that is not acceptable for this great team, and we all know that and need to work on those areas.''
Vettel picked his way into the points with an impressive drive for Ferrari, who lost Kimi Raikkonen due to a battery issue before the race had even begun.
The German may be 34 points adrift with five races remaining but his strong showing will give him confidence as he revealed only excessive wear of his tyres prevented him attacking for a place on the podium.
"We were pushing very hard to get to him (Ricciardo) and thought we would give it a go but we knew with tyres it would be critical so we ran out of tyres a bit at the end," Vettel said.
"I had a good start and nearly lost a wing into turn one, then it was a bit tricky to get past traffic. It was a train for a couple of laps. I think it was okay, P4 was probably the best we could get."
Vettel's topsy-turvy weekend ended in farce as he was involved in a collision with the Williams of Lance Stroll on the slow-down lap, which saw his Ferrari left with three wheels and left him hitching a ride back to the pits on the side of Pascal Wehrlein's Sauber.