Lewis Hamilton has broken his duck in Baku, but he will have been as surprised as anyone when he crossed the line to take victory in the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“That was just a brutal race and probably exactly the kind of Grand Prix that fans want to see, with twists and turns at every point,” reflected Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. He’s absolutely right. From a neutral perspective this was one of the most entertaining races we can remember.
A safety car was triggered on the first lap as Kimi Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon collided. Both drivers played the blame game, but for what it’s worth we think Kimi was perhaps the most at fault. Anyway, a very good restart from Sebastian Vettel followed and he quickly built up a lead over the chasing Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari look strong this season and few would argue that they have the quickest car. Midway through the race it looked for all the world that Vettel would take maximum points, but in F1 you have to expect the unexpected…
It came on lap 40 when Daniel Ricciardo committed the cardinal sin and crashed into the back of his team-mate, ending the races of both Red Bull drivers. Christian Horner was not amused, saying: “The most important thing is they recognise it is unacceptable. Both will take valuable lessons from it.”
But was is all Ricciardo’s fault? The fact the two Red Bull pit stops on the previous laps meant Verstappen ended up ahead of Ricciardo, despite the Australian pitting first, won’t have helped. Maybe Ricciardo let frustration get the better of him, but others believe Verstappen was the guiltier party. Niki Lauda commented that the incident was: “70% Verstappen’s fault because he moved too many times”.
Either way this was a disaster for Red Bull. After a double DNF in Bahrain, Baku has not proved any happier as a hunting ground. Four races in and already Red Bull can see their aspirations of winning the Constructors Championship slipping away.
The Red Bull crash prompted another safety car, where Valtteri Bottas pitted and was able to emerge in the lead. Vettel must have been seething at this point, especially as a bizarre incident followed when Romain Grosjean managed to crash whilst under safety car. This prompted a further delay, as a flat bed truck was sent to recover the stricken Haas.
The final restart saw Vettel make a desperate lunge to pass the Mercedes. This backfired as he locked up and overshot the first corner. Bottas now had the race at his mercy but in a cruel twist of fate he sustained a puncture from debris on the track with three laps to go, which ended his race. The Finn was gracious in defeat saying: “It’s just unfortunate and unlucky”. He must feel devastated on the inside having driven a near perfect race until that point.
So, Lewis Hamilton eased past his stricken teammate to take the most unlikely victory, which some National Newspapers have claimed to be the ‘luckiest of his career’. Lucky it certainly was but what a brilliant advert for Formula One. If you can’t get excited from watching a race like that, then we suggest you try a different sport.
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