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Ricciardo wins ‘crazy’ Azerbaijan GP, Vettel hits Hamilton

Daniel Ricciardo took an opportunistic victory for Red Bull Racing in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, after a chaotic race, which saw Sebastian Vettel drive into Championship protagonist Lewis Hamilton, but still extend his lead.

It was Ricciardo’s fifth win of his career and his fourth podium in as many races after three thirds in Spain, Monaco and Canada.

“Honestly, I’m speechless. After the race on the cool down lap I was kind of just giggling; giggling like a little schoolboy,” Ricciardo said.

“It was a crazy race. We knew the podium was a chance after the re-start but then we heard the problems with Lewis and Seb.

“I made an unplanned pit stop at the beginning. After a few laps we had some debris I think in the brakes so we had to stop and clean it, so we dropped back to, I think, 17th place. Did I think then that I would the race today? Absolutely not. I would have put all of my money on it that it was very unlikely. Crazy!”

The race at the Baku City Circuit was incident-packed, punctuated by three safety car periods and a 25 minute red flag period due to debris on the track – and this was all before half distance.

Hamilton seemed to be in control at this point, having made the most of pole position to lead the pack into the first corner. He later slipped back, however, and had to pit from the front when the headrest on his Mercedes came loose, costing him the victory and the chance to eat into Vettel’s championship lead.

Vettel was given a 10-second stop-go penalty – and 3 penalty points on his licence – after he drove into the side of Hamilton at the second safety car re-start, the Ferrari ace losing his cool as he felt he had been brake tested by his British rival.

After serving his penalty Vettel re-joined just in front of Hamilton, and remained in front from then on, the two eventually coming home fourth and fifth. Vettel consequently increases his lead in the Drivers’ Championship from 12 points to 14.

“It’s difficult to swallow a result like this after a strong weekend. I drove my heart out today right to the line – I gave it everything. I know the team will be devastated about the issue with the headrest, but what we have to take away from this weekend is the great performance we have shown. We all feel that pain, but it’s on me to gather my thoughts and try and lead the team through this adversity. We’ll pull together and move forwards,” Hamilton said.

“I definitely didn’t brake-test Sebastian. I controlled the pace under the Safety Car and, just like with the other restarts, I slowed down in the same place on the entry to T15. At that point, it is up to me to control the pace and then I felt a bump from behind. But that wasn’t the issue for me – everybody saw clearly what happened after. All the young kids in other series look up to us, as champions, to set an example and that is not the behaviour you expect to see from a multiple champion. But we know that when times get tough, true colours show, and we have managed to apply some good pressure in the last weeks. Personally, I want to do my talking on the track and win this championship in the right way. More than ever after this weekend, I believe we can.”

“First of all, I think that today the car was very good,” Vettel added. “The pace was strong in the race. I think you could see that we were losing a bit here and there, but overall it was a good race. It was a very busy start, and Vallteri was very aggressive.

“As for what happened at the restart from the safety car, I don’t know why I got the penalty and Lewis didn’t. It’s disappointing, because it could have been a better result. I don’t have a problem with Lewis but I just think that what he did on the track was not ok. By now the decision is done but, in an episode like this one, I still think that if you give out a penalty, then it should be to both drivers.”

Meanwhile, Mercedes #2 Valtteri Bottas snatched second from Lance Stroll on the line, out dragging the Williams driver on the start-finish straight.

Bottas had been running last after an opening lap skirmish with Kimi Raikkonen, but was able to regain time due to the safety car periods.

For Stroll it was his second points’ finish in a row and makes him the youngest rookie podium finisher ever.

“I was one lap down in the beginning and during the safety car I had to overtake everyone and catch them again. But this just shows you should never give up, you never know what is going to happen in the race,” Bottas noted.

“I just kept my head down, kept pushing, and the team also, during the red, I’m glad they managed to fix the car a little bit – they did a really good job during that. I really enjoyed it and just had fun.”

“I’m just lost for words right. I don’t even know what to say. I can’t quite realise what just happened,” Stroll continued.

“It was a hectic race… people crashing. We just stayed out of trouble and I just kept my head cool. I just lost out to Valtteri there in the end. I think that was probably one of the closest finishes of all time. But what race! I couldn’t believe coming into the weekend that I would be standing on the podium. It’s amazing.”

Further back, Force India’s Esteban Ocon recovered from a collision with his own team-mate, Sergio Perez to take sixth.

Haas F1 pilot Kevin Magnussen was next up, with Carlos Sainz taking eighth passing fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the final 10 or so laps. Still Alonso did come home ninth, giving McLaren Honda its first points finish of the season.

Pascal Wehrlein took the final point for Sauber, with Marcus Ericsson one spot back in the sister car followed by McLaren Honda’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Haas F1 man Romain Grosjean.

Raikkonen was classified 14th despite not finishing, the Ferrari man experiencing a torrid afternoon, first making contact with Bottas at the start, and then picking up a puncture after the second safety car period.

In total there were six DNFs, with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat both retiring early on due to mechanical issues – the latter stopping at Turn 12 and triggering the first safety car period. Max Verstappen then retired on lap 12 (with suspected engine issues), before Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa both went out 10 or so laps later. Hulkenberg broke his front suspension after hitting a wall, while Massa – who was on for a podium at this point – dropped back with a broken front damper, eventually forcing him out. Perez – despite that contact with Ocon – was able to re-start, like Raikkonen, following the red flag period, but retired for good with 11 laps remaining.

Race Result available – HERE.

Picture credit: Red Bull Racing

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