Ricciardo wins drama-filled race
Hamilton and Vettel have a coming together that costs them both
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.