ed Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took his fifth career win in Baku after a chaotic race from start to finish.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton led the field away at the start after taking a brilliant Pole position on Saturday. Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari seized 2nd after Hamilton’s teammate Valtari Bottas and Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikonnen came together at turn 2, leaving the Mercedes driver needing a new right rear tyre and Raikonnen with a rear puncture which eventually lead to a rear wing change in the garage.
Ricciardo was forced to make an early pit stop after just seven laps and dropped back to 17th place, whereas Brit Jolyon Palmer retired again the early stages, and with former driver Robert Kubica testing again for the Renault team, his seat could well be in jeopardy.
On lap 20, the Toro Rosso of Danial Kvyat broke down, and although the car was well off the racing line, the stewards were taking no chances and sent out the safety car.
Once the stranded car was eventually cleared, the race restarted, but with contact between various cars jostling for position, it caused the 2 Force India’s to come together at turn 2, and leave debris stranded all over the track. Even though the stewards tried to restart the race again, there was so much debris at various points all around the circuit, they safety car was deployed for the 3rd time in just six laps, and eventually yellow flags soon turned to red. The stewards considered the track conditions to be too dangerous, so the race was stopped to give the marshals chance to clear it all up.
After a short delay, the race restarted on a rolling start, and Hamilton continued to lead from Vettel. However, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, now up to 6th place, pulled off a brilliant move, over taking three cars down the pit straight and into the turn 1 to leap up to 3rd place.
However, the safety car was deployed again a short time later and then the fireworks really began!
As Hamilton was slowing the pack down to prepare for the restart, Vettel behind ended up rear ending the Mercedes, damaging his front wing in the process. However, Vettel did not take this kindly and pulled alongside the Mercedes to display his displeasure, and appeared to deliberately bang wheels with Hamilton’s car!
This has been the main talking point since the race, with Hamilton calling Vettel a disgrace, and saying, “If he wants to prove he’s a man, we should do it out of the car face to face!”
Strong words from Hamilton, and we certainly haven’t heard the last of this. Vettel faces the possibility of a race ban if he receives three penalty points from the FIA, and could potentially miss the next race in Austria.
Believe it or not, this was not the end of the drama. After the restart, it was clear that Hamilton’s head restraint on his car was very loose. The Stewards ordered Hamilton into the pits to get it repaired as it was deemed unsafe for the driver. Not long afterwards, Vettel was issued with a 10 second stop/go penalty for dangerous driving, and Ricciardo took over the lead.
Hamilton dropped down to 9th place, but Vettel got out of the pits after his penalty in front of the Mercedes. The last 15 laps were a sprint to the finish, with Ricciardo leading the way. Williams rookie Lance Stroll, was 2nd with Bottas in the Mercedes in 3rd hunting him down, just 12 seconds behind.
Ricciardo eventually took the win, the 5th of his career after 51 chaotic laps, and Bottas beat Lance Stroll to 2nd place in a drag race to the line to beat the young Canadian by 0.1 seconds!
This was certainly a contender for race of the season, but the fallout from it will surely last for some time!
Next time on Formula 1, Round 9:………………………..Austria!