Daniel Ricciardo wins crazy Azerbaijan GP as Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel clash – ESPN
In a race that was chaotic from the opening lap, when Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen clashed while scrapping for second, Hamilton led through two Safety Car restarts and a full race restart following a red flag period. It was just before the second Safety Car restart where the flashpoint occurred, with Vettel running into the back of Hamilton as he managed pace behind the Safety Car.
In a moment likely to become the most controversial of the season, an irate Vettel then pulled up alongside Hamilton and drove into the side of his title rival, something which later earned the championship leader a 10-second stop-go penalty. The drama did not end there for Hamilton, as he was forced into an unscheduled pit-stop shortly after the final restart so Mercedes could secure his car’s headrest, which had come loose during the long wait in the pit lane.
Through all the drama Ricciardo, who had been forced into an early stop and had been 17th on lap six, rose through the order to lead. His drive back to the front included a ballsy lunge on the equally-impressive Lance Stroll mid-way through the race. Stroll held second until the final metres of the race, when he was caught and passed by Bottas, but still held on to a remarkable first podium of his F1 career. Bottas’ podium came having been last and a lap down after his early tangle with Raikkonen.
Vettel finished ahead of Hamilton in fourth, with the Mercedes driver repeatedly questioning why Vettel only recieved a ten-second penalty. Esteban Ocon recovered from a disastrous collision with Force India teammate Sergio Perez to finish sixth as the team appeared to squander big points for the second race in succession. Kevin Magnussen claimed seventh for Haas ahead of Carlos Sainz and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who lamented during the race that the team could have won the crazy grand prix with a better power unit. Pascal Wehrlein rounded out the top ten ahead of Sauber teammate Marcus Ericsson.
The chaotic race was not limited to the top ten. Kimi Raikkonen spent much of the race in the wars, suffering damage in the early clash with Bottas and then sustaining a puncture from debris at the mid-way point. Felipe Massa had been leading Williams teammate Stroll after the final restart but soon fell down the order with a car issue, eventually retiring. Nico Hulkenberg had appeared to be in a great position to attack for a first podium of his F1 career, but a brush with the wall ended his race prematurely.
Hamilton led away from pole position as Bottas blocked Vettel on the inside of Turn 1. Bottas then came under pressure from Raikkonen around the outside of Turn 2 and clipped the kerb on the inside, making contact with the Finn and putting his fellow countryman into the wall. Bottas’ car was left with a puncture and he crawled back to the pits for new tyres and a new nose, but emerged last.
The Toro Rosso drivers also continued their heated recent rivalry as Carlos Sainz was pitched into a spin he blamed on teammate Daniil Kvyat’s aggressive return to the track having run wide at Turn 1. Ricciardo soon pitted for Red Bull after collecting debris into his race ducts and emerged 17th. At this point Hamilton led Vettel by just 4s, suggesting Mercedes and Ferrari were closely matched on race pace.
There was soon drama for the other Red Bull as Verstappen, who had been battling for Perez and looking in great shape for a strong result, slowed and returned to the pits to retire. “Here we go again, for f—- sake,” was the teenager’s reply on the radio. It marked his fourth retirement in six races and the teenager cut a frustrated figure as he climbed from the car in the pitlane. The race was soon neutralised when Kvyat’s Toro Rosso suffered reliability issues and retired from 11th.