Daniel Ricciardo took the win in an incident-packed race in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas stole second moments before the finish line, with Lance Stroll still happy to accept third position and a podium place.
Baku hosted the eighth Grand Prix of the season as the battle for the world championship got even tighter. Lewis Hamilton began the race in pole position after a last-lap drive for pole on Saturday in what he described as ‘the perfect lap’. Hamilton was followed in second by team-mate Valtteri Bottas, completing a Mercedes 1-2 start. This could have proven to be very difficult for the Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel who started the race in 4th. Azerbaijan’s capital street circuit proved to be a tough race, boasting one of the tightest circuits in Formula 1.
Laps 1-10 – At lights out, everything seemed to be going Hamilton’s way as he got away out front – contact between Raikkonen and Bottas allowed Vettel to get into second. Only minutes later, the damage to the car of Bottas seemed evident, with him needing a new front wing and tyres, prompting a yellow flag and the introduction of a safety car. Daniel Ricciardo made an early stop to clear some debris from his brakes, as Vettel continued to keep up the pace in second. The earlier Raikkonen-Bottas incident was reported, but no further action was taken. However, Jolyon Palmer’s luck came to an end, along with his race, as he reported smoke coming out of his car. Ricciardo managed to nudge his way back up into 13th after his early pit stop. During lap 10, Dani Kvyat came to a halt and retired his car.
Laps 11-20 – Max Verstappen also had to retire in lap 12 after declaring an issue with his engine and was persuaded to stop. The safety car was again deployed for Kvyat’s halt. Lap 17 saw the safety car back out again after debris was seen coming off the back of Raikkonen’s car. As the safety car prepared to come in, Vettel made contact with the back of Hamilton’s car and then proceeded to pull alongside Hamilton and unnecessarily nudged into the side of his car.
Laps 21-30 – Lap 21 saw another appearance of the safety car after a small collision between Perez and Ocon, and the rear wing of Raikkonen looking very damaged. Perez and Raikkonen appeared to have retired. Lap 22 saw a red flag as the cars were called back to the pit lane. The race continued as the field was led out again by the safety car, with Raikkonen and Perez back in business and ready to continue racing after the break. Hamilton kept the lead, with Vettel in second, and Ricciardo making a brilliant move and getting himself into third. Lap 26 saw the retirement of Massa who was struggling with the rear of his car, and Hulkenburg who collided with the wall.
Everything seemed to be going perfectly for Hamilton, until lap 29 when his headrest came loose, causing a safety issue and a chance for more debris to grace the track.
Laps 31-40 – Hamilton did all he could to adjust it downwards, but could not clip it down. He was urged to pit and came back out in ninth. Vettel leads the race, until the result of the earlier incident between Hamilton and Vettel was fully investigated, and Vettel was given a 10-second stop-and-go for dangerous driving. After completing the penalty, Vettel came out of the pits in front of Hamilton in eighth, as Ricciardo took the lead, followed by Stroll and Magnusson. By lap 39, Ricciardo had a substantial lead, with Vettel in fifth and Hamilton sixth.
Laps 41-51 – Perez had to retire, for good this time as the earlier collision took its toll. Bottas became the fastest man on the track, making ground and positions, taking him into third. The race was then relatively incident free, with Vettel up into fourth and Hamilton in fifth still pushing for a podium. Ricciardo kept out of trouble and went on to claim a shock win for Red Bull. Just moments before the checkered flag, Bottas stole second from Stroll on the line.
This race turned out to be quite remarkable and although Ricciardo had quite the race, it will be the collision between Vettel and Hamilton that will be the talking point.
1: Daniel Ricciardo. 2: Valterri Bottas. 3: Lance Stroll. 4: Sebastian Vettel. 5: Lewis Hamilton. 6: Esteban Ocon. 7: Kevin Magnussen. 8: Carlos Sainz. 9: Fernando Alonso. 10: Pascal Wehrlein. 11: Marcus Ericsson. 12: Stoffel Vandoorne. 13: Romain Grosjean.
Did Not Finish:
Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa, Dani Kvyat, Max Verstappen, Joylon Palmer.