Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo won a rollercoaster Grand Prix in Azerbaijan on Sunday, as rookie Lance Stroll took his maiden podium for Williams, pipped on the line by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to fourth place, despite being penalised for dangerous driving after hitting his Mercedes rival behind the safety car.
It was an afternoon of non-stop drama at the Baku City Circuit, featuring no less than three safety-car periods and a red-flag race stoppage.
Ricciardo might well have sniggered to himself as he crossed the finish line. The Australian had gone from the back to the front after an early pit stop to have debris cleared from his brakes dropped him to 17th place, and was perfectly placed when leaders Hamilton and Vettel had to make unplanned pit stops after a clash under the safety car had left their entente cordiale well and truly broken.
Hamilton had led Vettel easily until the 13th lap when the safety car was deployed for the first time to rescue Daniil Kvyat’s broken Toro Rosso.
No sooner had the racing resumed on the 16th lap than it was sent out again because of debris, after the Force Indias had collided as Esteban Ocon made an aggressive Turn 2 pass on team mate Sergio Perez at the restart.
This time the field bunched behind Bernd Maylander’s Mercedes until the 21st lap, during which time Hamilton had complained repeatedly that it was running too slowly, and then himself had a slow exit from Turn 16 on the 20th lap. Vettel, taken by surprise, hit him in the rear. Clearly believing Hamilton had done it on purpose, the German then pulled alongside and drove his Ferrari into the side of the Mercedes. He would subsequently receive a 10-second stop-and-go penalty from the stewards, something about which Hamilton was very unhappy.