Ric­cia­rdo wins drama-filled race

Hamil­ton and Vet­tel have a com­ing to­gether that costs them both

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - DPA

DANIEL Ric­cia­rdo of Red Bull won a dra­matic Azer­bai­jan Grand Prix yes­ter­day in a race de­fined by a re­mark­able clash be­tween world cham­pi­onship con­tenders Lewis Hamil­ton and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel un­der the safety car.

Lead­ing Mercedes Hamil­ton ap­peared to ‘brake test’ the pur­su­ing Vet­tel, slow­ing sud­denly and giv­ing the Fer­rari driver lit­tle chance to avoid a col­li­sion from be­hind. Vet­tel re­acted fu­ri­ously, pulling along­side Hamil­ton and de­lib­er­ately bump­ing him.

Af­ter the lift­ing of a red flag, to clear the de­bris of sev­eral col­li­sions from the 6.003-kilo­me­tre Baku street course, Hamil­ton had to pit to fix his head rest and Vet­tel was given a 10-sec­ond stop-and-go penalty for dan­ger­ous driv­ing.

That left Ric­cia­rdo, who had had to pit early to clear de­bris from his car, to romp to a fifth ca­reer win 3.904 sec­onds ahead of Val­terri Bot­tas in the other Mercedes and Wil­liams’ Lance Stroll.

Vet­tel fin­ished fourth to in­crease his stand­ings lead over fifth-placed Hamil­ton to 153139.

Hamil­ton started smoothly from pole but the drama be­gan im­me­di­ately be­hind him. Team­mate Bot­tas clipped a kerb and came off worse bump­ing into Kimi Raikko­nen’s Fer­rari, al­low­ing Vet­tel to snatch sec­ond.

Bot­tas pit­ted and emerged at the back of the field but the first of three safety cars, ini­tially to re­move Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso from the track, al­lowed him to grad­u­ally un­lap him­self.

The driv­ers com­plained about the slow pace of the safety car and a fran­tic restart saw Raikko­nen lose his turn­ing vane in a col­li­sion – caus­ing an­other safety car.

Hamil­ton ap­peared frus­trated at the lack of pace, point­ing out lost tyre tem­per­a­ture could prove dan­ger­ous.

He sud­denly slowed on a cor­ner and Vet­tel bumped him from be­hind be­fore pulling level with the Brit, ges­tic­u­lat­ing wildly and turn­ing into his ri­val.

“He brake-checked me, so what do you ex­pect? I’m sure he didn’t do it on pur­pose but I’m strug­gling,” Vet­tel said. “I don’t think it was nec­es­sary.”

The pair had pre­vi­ously been very re­spect­ful of each other in their world ti­tle bat­tle but the fall-out from this in­ci­dent could colour the rest of the sea­son.

“You saw it hap­pen, I don’t re­ally care about it,” Hamil­ton said.

“It’s done and dusted, we move on.

“It’s just not driver con­duct. Dan­ger­ous driv­ing (and) you only get a 10-sec­ond penalty for that kind of thing. I don’t need to say any more.”

Force In­dia saw their driv­ers col­lid­ing in one of the restarts, ef­fec­tively end­ing Ser­gio Perez’s chances of a podium po­si­tion but Esteban Ocon could con­tinue af­ter a tyre change.

The Wil­liams of Felipe Massa and Stroll moved up to third and fourth but Massa had a prob­lem when the red flag was lifted and im­me­di­ately lost ground at the re­sump­tion on lap 23 be­fore re­tir­ing.

Ric­cia­rdo flew up past both Wil­liams to third in a move which would even­tu­ally give him his first vic­tory since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix.

“It was a crazy race,” Ric­cia­rdo said. “We knew the podium was a chance af­ter the restart but then we heard the prob­lems with Lewis and Seb.”

Hamil­ton held off Vet­tel’s chal­lenge to open a gap of more than two sec­onds by lap 28.

But the leader was not un­scathed and was, al­most reck­lessly, told to ad­just his head rest man­u­ally. He drove one­handed, at more than 300kp/h, while un­suc­cess­fully try­ing to clip it back in place.

Hamil­ton was or­dered into the pits to fix the safety is­sue as Vet­tel was given his penalty for dan­ger­ous driv­ing.

Vet­tel emerged sev­enth to Hamil­ton’s eighth though, much to the out­rage of the Brit.

The ti­tle con­tenders moved through the field to­gether while in front Bot­tas con­tin­ued his as­ton­ish­ing come­back to over­take Ocon to reach the podium places.

“This shows never give up, you never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” the Finn said.

With 10 laps re­main­ing Vet­tel edged past Ocon as well and with Hamil­ton need­ing longer to do like­wise, opened a gap which en­sured he fin­ished ahead of his ti­tle ri­val.

Bot­tas, Stroll and Ric­cia­rdo were out of sight though Bot­tas some­how pipped Stroll on the fi­nal straight for sec­ond. The young Cana­dian Stroll could still cel­e­brate his first-ever podium.

“It was a hec­tic race, we just kept out of trou­ble,” Stroll said. “I think that was one of the clos­est fin­ishes ever.” Ger­many’s Timo Werner celebrates scor­ing the side’s sec­ond goal with his team­mates. Ger­many went on to win 3-1 to se­cure top spot in their group in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup in Rus­sia yes­ter­day. The world cham­pi­ons will now face Mex­ico in the sec­ond semi-fi­nal on Thurs­day, while Por­tu­gal and Chile will contest the other semi-fi­nal on Wed­nes­day.

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