Daniel Ricciardo recovered from the rear of the field to claim a fifth Formula 1 career victory as title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel clashed amid a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix on the streets of Baku.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas similarly recovered from a puncture on the opening lap to claim second on the line from Williams’ Lance Stroll, who in taking third became the youngest podium sitter in Formula 1 history at 18 years of age.
The two Silver Arrows made a level start at the front ahead of the Ferrari pairing of Vettel and Raikkonen, with the only casualty of the tight left-hander at Turn 1 being Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso as he spun avoiding team-mate Daniil Kvyat as he rejoined the circuit.
Bottas’ race appeared to have unraveled moments later as he skated over the apex at Turn 2 and hit Raikkonen on the outside line, forcing a front-wing change for the Mercedes. Raikkonen continued, albeit dropping back to fifth as team-mate Vettel capitalized on the clash to seize second.
Jolyon Palmer’s recent poor luck for Renault continued in the early stages as the hapless Brit slowed with suspected engine problems, whilst Ricciardo made an early stop to switch from the super-soft to the soft tyres, dropping him to 17th.
The safety car made the first of three appearances as Kvyat’s Toro Rosso stopped out on circuit in the middle sector.
Disaster then struck for the second race in succession for Ricciardo’s Red Bull team-mate, Max Verstappen. The Dutch teenager, who encountered battery problems in Montreal, was forced to slow with another mechanical problem and duly retired.
The safety car prompted a wave of pit stops, though race leader Hamilton raised concerns over the radio with the FIA about it’s pace, believing the slow speeds to be dangerous as drivers were unable to generate proper heat into their tyres and brakes – made especially significant at Baku by the heavy braking zone at the end of the main straight.
Vettel fended off an early challenge from Sergio Perez’s Force India for second on the restart, but debris from the sister Ferrari of Raikkonen prompted the race to be suspended again to allow the circuit to be cleared.
Then came the carnage. Contact between the two Force India’s whilst disputing third left Perez bound for the pit lane with a broken front-left wishbone and no front wing, whilst team-mate Esteban Ocon was also forced to pit for repairs.
A puncture for Raikkonen then necessitated a thirty safety car period, shortly before a moment of hot-headed madness that deprived Vettel of any chance of victory.
Shortly before the restart, Hamilton slowed in an attempt to allow the safety car to leave the circuit – as per the regulations setting the pace in these circumstances is the race leader’s prerogative – however Vettel made contact with the rear of the Mercedes and – believing Hamilton to have “brake-tested” him, pulled alongside the Mercedes before turning right into the Brit and making contact.
The German was eventually handed a ten-second stop and go penalty for his actions in causing a collision, though Hamilton called for a more severe punishment. Hamilton was not punished for his actions.
The race was stopped due to excessive debris on circuit, with the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Stroll capitalizing on the chaos to move into third and fourth respectively.
Massa’s race, however, would fail to make the distance, with a broken damper for the Brazilian causing him to sink like a stone before pulling in to retire.
Then came the suckerpunch for Hamilton, as his protective headrest came loose and forced him to pit, despite frantic attempts by the three-time World Champion to redress the problem himself using physical force on the straights.
That left Ricciardo out in front from Stroll and Ocon, though the recovering Bottas made light work of the Force India – as did Vettel and the chasing Hamilton – and began to close in on the Canadian.
The final stages of the race became a game of cat-and-mouse as Bottas chased Stroll – literally to the line – and claimed second in dramatic fashion. Ricciardo’s run to victory was much more muted, whilst Hamilton – despite his best efforts – was unable to overturn Vettel and slips 14 points behind the German in the standings.
Ocon would eventually finish sixth ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Sainz. Fernando Alonso scored McLaren-Honda’s first points of the season in ninth, with Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber completing the top ten.
The championship heads next to the Red Bull Ring in Austria on 8th July.
2017 FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX – RESULT (51 LAPS):
|1||Daniel RICCIARDO||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer|
|2||Valtteri BOTTAS||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||+3.904s|
|3||Lance STROLL||Williams Martini Racing||+4.009s|
|4||Sebastian VETTEL||Scuderia Ferrari||+5.976s|
|5||Lewis HAMILTON||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||+6.188s|
|6||Esteban OCON||Sahara Force India||+30.298s|
|7||Kevin MAGNUSSEN||Haas F1 Team||+41.753s|
|8||Carlos SAINZ||Scuderia Toro Rosso||+49.400s|
|10||Pascal WEHRLEIN||Sauber F1 Team||+1:29.093s|
|11||Marcus ERICSSON||Sauber F1 Team||+1:31.794s|
|13||Romain GROSJEAN||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap|
|14||Kimi RAIKKONEN||Scuderia Ferrari||+1 lap|
|DNF||Sergio PEREZ||Sahara Force India||Accident damage|
|DNF||Felipe MASSA||Williams Martini Racing||Mechanical|
|DNF||Nico HULKENBERG||Renault Sport Formula 1 Team||Accident damage|
|DNF||Max VERSTAPPEN||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||Mechanical|
|DNF||Daniil KVYAT||Scuderia Toro Rosso||Mechanical|
|DNF||Jolyon PALMER||Renault Sport Formula 1 Team||Mechanical|