Ric­cia­rdo pulls off un­likely win

Ellenbrook Advocate - - SPORT - Bill Buys

START­ING from 10th on the grid, then drop­ping to 17th af­ter an early pit stop did not auger well for Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, but af­ter 51 laps of Baku’s fast street cir­cuit, he won the chaotic and hugely en­ter­tain­ing Azer­bai­jan Grand Prix.

The Dun­craig-raised Red Bull driver laughed out loud as he crossed the fin­ish line ahead of Valt­teri Bot­tas, who nosed his Mercedes past young Cana­dian Lance Stroll’s Wil­liams right on the fin­ish line.

It was the fifth Grand Prix win of Ric­cia­rdo’s ca­reer, and the most un­likely, given his crash in qual­i­fy­ing that put him way back on the grid.

It was a race that had seven re­tire­ments, four safety car de­lays and was red-flagged and re-started af­ter an end­less se­ries of in­ci­dents, in­clud­ing a dis­play of road rage by Ferrari’s Se­bastien Vet­tel that cost him a 10-sec­ond stop-go penalty – and vic­tory.

The Force In­dia team put in a great run and could po­ten­tially have had a 1-2 win, but Este­ban Ocon tried to squeeze past team­mate Ser­gio Perez, who was try­ing to pass Vet­tel, broke the Mex­i­can’s car and punc­tured a tyre on his own.

Vet­tel had ear­lier smacked into the back of race leader Lewis Hamil­ton’s Mercedes while trav­el­ling in a slow con­voy be­hind the safety car, blamed Hamil­ton for brak­ing un­ex­pect­edly, then drew along­side and drove into the Merc’s front wheel as payback.

There was so much crash de­bris on the cir­cuit that the race was red-flagged on lap 22 to al­low a clean-up.

Ric­cia­rdo had by that stage moved to fifth and made a blind­ing move at the re-start to get by both Wil­liams cars to slot into third place.

Hamil­ton later lost his lead when the head­rest of his car came adrift. He tried to hold it down with one hand while do­ing 350km/h down the Baku cir­cuit’s long straight, but was or­dered into the pits to fix it.

They were among a suc­ces­sion of in­ci­dents that spiced the race, among them a clash of wheels be­tween the two Saubers, Toro Rosso’s Car­los Sainz spun his car on lap 1 to avoid team­mate Kvyat’s wild cor­ner­ing and Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen blew up his car’s en­gine while in third place on lap 13.

Bot­tas, in par­tic­u­lar, put in a stir­ring drive to come from last af­ter a first-lap brush with Raikko­nen’s Ferrari, to steal sec­ond place at the fin­ish.

The Wil­liams pair of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll ran strongly un­til three-quar­ters dis­tance, when Massa’s car had a chas­sis mal­func­tion and let Stroll in sec­ond place, be­hind Ric­cia­rdo af­ter Hamil­ton’s trip to the pits.

“That was fun, it was very fun,” Ric­cia­rdo said of his first win since Malaysia in 2016. “It was a crazy race. “Did I think I would win today? “Ab­so­lutely not. I’d have put all my money on it. “I was gig­gling like a lit­tle school­boy when it hap­pened.’

He fin­ished four sec­onds ahead of Bot­tas, who was just 1/100sec ahead of Stroll, with Vet­tel fourth, fol­lowed by Hamil­ton, Ocon, Mag­nussen in the Haas, Sainz (Toro Rosso), Fer­nando Alonso ninth for McLaren and Pas­cal Wehrlein 10th in the Sauber.

Egged on by podium com­pere David Coulthard, Ric­cia­rdo slipped off his Puma and filled it with bub­bly for Lance Stroll to do a ‘shoey’. The Cana­dian rookie did so with gusto, but Bot­tas fled.

Daniel Ric­cia­rdo ponders his sur­prise vic­tory.

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