A right rear puncture put Lewis Hamilton back on top of the world in Baku – a final twist to a crazy Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
With three laps remaining, Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was leading when, pop, his tyre went and suddenly the Briton was leading and on the way to his first win of a season dogged by doubts.
Bottas’s race was over, a blow-out at 220mph caused by running over debris. And Hamilton’s chief rival for the title, Sebastian Vettel, finished back in fourth on a weekend during which he had been faultless for so long – until the final frenetic laps when he over-extended trying to pass Bottas for first place. He ran off and Hamilton came through into second and was well-positioned to take over once Bottas’s luck run out.
Lewis Hamilton holds the winners’ trophy aloft in front of second placed Kimi Raikkonen (left) and third placed Sergio Perez
Lewis Hamilton gives the thumbs up after winning a dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku street circuit
Hamilton sprays champagne on the podium alongside Ferrari’s Raikkonen (centre) and Force India’s Perez (right)
Hamilton gives the thumbs up to his Mercedes team in the paddock after taking victory in Azerbaijan
Mechanics greet the world champion who took his first race victory since October to take the lead of the world championship
Hamilton had otherwise endured a poor afternoon in Baku before the clash between Red Bull drivers changed the race
Kimi Raikkonen was second and Sergio Perez third.
Hamilton is now four points ahead of Vettel – the first time he has led the standings this season. It was his first win since last October.
The final madness was brought about when the two Red Bull collided.
Vettel, on the restart after a safety car, heavily locked up trying to pass Bottas before losing three places as a result
Bottas had been course for a victory but picked up a puncture with just three laps from the end of the race
Having been forced to retire from the race from the lead, Bottas climbs out his stricken Mercedes as a marshall looks on
The right rear puncture denied Bottas the chance to claim his first win of the season and put him in the championship hunt
To the backdrop of the backstreets of Baku, Bottas trudges off as bystanders look on at the Finnish driver behind fencing
A dejected Bottas contemplates on a win that got away, having driven a superb grand prix by looking after his tyres
Vettel, who was on course to win, puts his foot on his Ferrari having flatspotted his tyre late in the race before finishing fourth
Bang! It had been coming all afternoon – a nip-and-tuck race between those two Red Bulls, one ahead and then the other, no quarter given, but for the most part conducted respectfully.
Then on lap 40 of 51, along the main straight, Daniel Ricciardo was all over the back of Max Verstappen. Verstappen made a move to hold off the advancing Australian. It seemed fair. But Ricciardo locked up and ploughed into the back of the Dutchman.
Sparks went flying everywhere and the two drivers sat in their cars, their participation over. They had been fighting for fourth place at 220mph – on the fastest piece of tarmac in the world.
Daniel Ricciardo crashed into the back of Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen trying to overtake on the start-finish straight
Ricciardo collided with his team-mate after the Dutchman had attempted to defend in the battle for fourth position
The collision put both drivers out of the race as both cars skidded into the run-off area at turn one
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (left) was involved in a first lap crash that put Esteban Ocon of Force India out of the race
AZERBAIJAN GP RESULTS AND STANDINGS
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 43mins 44.291secs
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:43:46.751
3 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:43:48.315
4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:43:49.620
5 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault 1:43:51.806
6 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber 1:43:53.449
7 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:43:55.222
8 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 1:43:56.837
9 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1:43:58.443
10 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Toro Rosso 1:44:02.321
11 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 1:44:02.803
12 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso 1:44:08.711
13 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 1:44:14.924
14 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes at 3 laps
Not Classified:15 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas 42 laps completed, 16 Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 39 laps completed, 17 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 39 laps completed, 18 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 10 laps completed, 19 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 0 laps completed, 20 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 0 laps completed
Fastest Lap: Valtteri Bottas 1min 45.149secs on lap 37
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 70pts
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 66
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 48
4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 40
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 37
6 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 28
7 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 22
8 Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 18
9 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 15
10 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault 13
11 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso 12
12 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 11
13 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber 8
14 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 8
15 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 4
16 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 2
17 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1
18 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Toro Rosso 1
19 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas 0
20 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 0
Constructors: 1 Ferrari 114pts, 2 Mercedes 110, 3 Red Bull 55, 4 McLaren 36, 5 Renault 35, 6 Force India 16, 7 Toro Rosso 13, 8 Haas 11, 9 Sauber 10, 10 Williams 4
Adrian Newey, the design guru whose pencil drew the cars that were soon hoisted off the track, folded his file on the pit wall and walked off. Team boss Christian Horner remained in his seat impassively.
The incident was the fifth time they had gone wheel-to-wheel, including one coming together of their front tyres.
There was a huge slice of luck in Hamilton’s win and Ferrari remain super-fast. ‘I was fortunate today. It was an untidy race for me.’
The crucial safety car stayed out longer than expected after Romain Grosjean pranged his Renault into the wall as the field were being escorted round. What a plonker he must have felt.
Fernando Alonso recovered from a double puncture on the first lap to take seventh place for McLaren
The highly rated Charles Leclerc took his first ever Formula One points by claiming sixth for Sauber
Hamilton had been running second in front of Bottas earlier in the race but struggled on his red banded supersofts
Vettel drives down one side of the track as a Sauber driver makes his way round the track on another part of the circuit
Raikkonen makes his way up the hill as a spectator from a window attempts to take a photo of the on-track action
Hamilton poses alongside popstar Christina Aguilera who was present at the grand prix as a guest