Lewis Hamilton takes the first Mercedes win of the 2018 season at an eventful Azerbaijan Grand Prix that ends in a 4 lap sprint.
The drama unfolded on the opening lap when the safety car was brought out when the Force India of Esteban Ocon was in the wall at Turn 3. Ocon and Kimi Raikkonen had been running side-by-side with Ocon trying to make the move around the outside of Raikkonen’s Ferrari when the two collided and Ocon went crashing into the wall.
A second incident in the same period prior to the safety car saw Sergey Sirotkin run into the back of the Sergio Perez, and on the exit of Turn 2 was sandwiched between the McLaren of Fernando Alonso on the inside and Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault on the outside. Hulkenberg clipping Sirotkin into Alonso where he would damage the front left of his car and retire immediately whilst Alonso suffered punctures on both the front and rear of the car and dragged his car back to the pits.
On the restart, Sebastien Vettel backed the field behind into each other and broke away at the last possible moment, where he would then extend a comfortable lead over Hamilton. Hamilton narrowed down an eight second lead to four before he locked up his tyres and was forced to pit on lap 21 for a fresh set. Vettel and Valtteri Bottas were able to continue for longer with Vettel pitting on lap 30 and Bottas holding on until lap 40.
The two Red Bull’s struggled on the restart with their tyres and saw the two Renault’s pass them before they were to retake these track positions when Hulkenberg crashed into the wall and Sainz pitted.
The battle between Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo was tight. Ricciardo looking the faster driver at various points, but not able to make a move stick. He got the place from his younger teammate on Turn 1, but Verstappen got it back during the pit stops, stopping a lap later and taking back the position.
Still lapping quickly Ricciardo looked to repeat his move in Turn 1 on lap 40 but instead ended up rear-ending Verstappen ending both of their races and bringing back out the safety car. Both drivers were reprimanded for the collision.
The safety car period didn’t end for a number of laps due to Romain Grosjean losing the rear of his Haas whilst warming his tyres and pitching into the wall.
There were four laps left when the safety car period ended and Vettel used the restart to try and retake the lead, lunging down the inside of Bottas into Turn 1 locking up and running wide which would drop him down to fourth with flatspotted tyres.
Bottas was clear of Hamilton and Raikkonen, but ran over debris at the end of the lap causing him a left-rear puncture and his retirement.
Hamilton went on to take the win ahead of Raikkonen whilst Perez fought past a struggling Vettel to take the final podium spot.
Sainz had his best result with Renault in fifth and Charles Leclerc scored his first Formula 1 points in sixth avoiding the chaos in the opening lap.
Alonso went on to score points after his first lap drama with Lance Stroll scoring Williams their first points of the season. Stoffel Vandoorne finished ninth to give McLaren a double points finish ahead of the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley in the last of the points positions.
Hamilton leaves Baku with a four point championship lead.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix results
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes:
2) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: +2.460
3) Sergio Perez, Force India: +4.024
4) Sebastien Vettel, Ferrari: +5.329
5) Carlos Sainz, Renault: +7.515
6) Charles Leclerc, Sauber: +9.158
7) Fernando Alonso, McLaren: +10.931
8) Lance Stroll, Williams: +12.546
9) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren: +140152
10) Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso: +18.030
11) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber: +18.512
12) Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso: +24.720
13) Kevin Magnussen, Haas: +40.663
14) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes: DNF
15) Romain Grosjean, Haas: DNF
16) Max Verstappen, Red Bull: DNF
17) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull: DNF
18) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault: DNF
19) Sergey Sirotkin, Williams: DNF
20) Esteban Ocon, Force India: DNF
Feature image credit: Mercedes AMG F1