World champ dodges drama in Baku, while Red Bull drivers end up in the dog house
James Attwood, digital editor
30 April 2018

Lewis Hamilton picked up an unexpected victory in a wild Azerbaijan Grand Prix, benefiting from a late-race error by Sebastian Vettel and a puncture for his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel led much of the race on the streets of Baku in his Ferrari until stopping for new tyres, with Bottas able to benefit by holding out for his stop until a late-race safety car. That allowed him to emerge in the lead ahead of Vettel and Hamilton.

Then Vettel’s attempt to reclaim the lead at the restart ended with him locking up and running wide, allowing both Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen to go past. The German then lost another spot to Force India’s Sergio Pérez.

The drama wasn’t over, because Bottas’s bid to win a second race in 2018 ended when a tyre blew in dramatic fashion after he ran over some debris. That gifted Hamilton an unlikely win – and, with it, the championship lead.

Here are more takeaways from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Hamilton: we have work to do

Despite claiming his first victory of the season, world champion Hamilton admitted that both he and Mercedes have work to do to match Ferrari.

“I’m definitely struggling to extract the car’s potential, but also my potential. It’s definitely been a little difficult, but I have to be happy with today.

“We’ve definitely got a lot of work still to do: we still are behind [Ferrari]. We’ve not got a terrible car by any means; we’ve just got to refine it a little bit.”

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Hamilton also acknowledged Bottas’s bad luck, adding: “He deserved to win. He did an exceptional job; a faultless drive. I couldn’t have got by him if he hadn’t had that tyre blowout.”

Vettel might have rued the ill-timed safety car that cost him victory but, given his win in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix was due to a well-timed safety car, he didn’t complain too much.

In addition, Vettel said he didn’t regret his attempt to pass Bottas: “I’m happy that I tried; I’m not happy that it didn’t work.”

Vettel now trails Hamilton by four points in the championship.

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Red Bull fighters in the dog house

For the third race in a row, Max Verstappen was involved in an on-track clash with an opponent – but this time it was his Red Bull Racing team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

The pair had battled for much of the event, even making contact early in the race. Ricciardo overtook Verstappen shortly before their stops, but the Dutchman was able to regain the advantage in the pits. 

Chinese GP winner Ricciardo then got a run on his team-mate heading down Baku’s long straight, only to run into the back of Verstappen, who appeared to be making multiple moves in an attempt to block. The stewards reprimanded both drivers for the collision, as did Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

“They are both in the dog house,” said Horner, who added that the two drivers have been summoned to the team’s Milton Keynes factory. “Drivers drive for a team, and they both recognise they have screwed up today. They will be apologising to the team, and all members of the team. It’s a team sport, and that seemed to get forgotten about.”

Baku bumper cars

The Red Bull duo weren’t the only racers to get physical on the tight-but-fast Hermann Tilke-designed Baku street circuit.

Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin was slapped with a grid penalty for the next race after being ruled to have caused a first-lap pile-up when he tagged the back of Pérez’s car. The resulting clash also involved Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Williams’ Lance Stroll. 

Sirotkin retired soon after due to another clash involving Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren). 

Haas racer Kevin Magnussen was given a time penalty for a clash with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.

Räikkönen and Ocon also clashed early in the race, although both escaped without censure. Räikkönen pitted after the incident, but was then able to run to the end of the race, grabbing an unlikely second.

Starring supporting roles

Pérez’s late-race pass on a hobbled Vettel secured Force India’s first podium of the season and it was the second time the Mexican has been on the podium in F1’s three visits to Baku. He was also third on the circuit in 2016, when the race was named the European Grand Prix for convoluted reasons.

Ferrari junior driver Charles Leclerc also impressed, dodging the troubles to claim his first F1 points with sixth in his Sauber.

Despite being involved in that lap one clash, Stroll recovered to claim eighth, the first points finish of the season for Williams. That means all 10 F1 teams have scored points in the first four races of the season.

Next race: Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona), 13 May 

Read more

Chinese GP takeaways: Ricciardo wins incident-packed race

Bahrain GP takeaways: Bottas holds off Vettel for victory

Jim Clark: how Autocar remembered an F1 great

Hermann Tilke on designing F1 circuits

Join the debate


30 April 2018

That’s 3 out of 4 races decided by when the safety car is deployed. If this decides the championship at the last race of the year the BBC HYS section will go into melt down!

It’s wrong and happens to often!

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

30 April 2018

 For every Lap the Safety Car is out add one lap, to make this viable make the Cars carry extra fuel say ten litres?, well of course it wouldn’t work but a safety has to deployed for the Cars and Marshall’s around the Track, this was just a weird Race where a Drivers did daft things and I had forecast that the Redbulls would crash not just in that order though, and then Vettel did the daft thing and trued to pass Bottas to soon, but, there’s the result, next Race please....!

Peter Cavellini.

30 April 2018

Virtual safety car (they'd sometimes use it anyway), close the pit lane and in the unlikely event anyone absolutely needs to go in make them wait in their box for 20 seconds to negate the advantage.

Max PerCrashen should be a passenger in the safety car for the next race too

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

30 April 2018

Just imagine, two Red Bulls on the front row, both drivers told not to crash into each other... 

Yesterday's action was inevitable given two determinendly aggressive drivers vying for the same piece of tarmac in equal cars. Red Bull should either impose team orders or put their drivers on different strategies. That way, they'd spend more time racing their competitors and less each other - and in an unpredictable race they'd have more options.

Still, it was fun to watch - and for once they can't plame their engine supplier. 


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