Daniel Riccardo took an unexpected win in a thrilling, chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, his fifth Formula 1 victory, but the race was overshadowed by contact between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
At the end of a safety car period, exiting Turn 15, Hamilton slowed to build a gap, with Vettel hitting the rear of the Mercedes.
The Ferrari driver then proceeded to draw alongside and ram the leader - for which he received a 10 second stop-and-go penalty - much to Hamilton's chagrin.
That penalty, and Hamilton later being forced into the pits to fix a loose headrest, handed Ricciardo a comfortable cruise to the flag after the final safety car period, but only after he made a brave move up the inside of Felipe Massa into Turn 1.
Valtteri Bottas recovered from a first lap puncture and being lapped to take second by the narrowest of margins from Williams’s Lance Stroll, whose composed, measure drive put many of the more established stars to shame over the entire weekend.
Vettel and Hamilton came home fourth and fifth having both recovered from their unscheduled visits to the pits, scything through the field together – including going wheel-to-wheel with Fernando Alonso, albeit briefly.
Esteban Ocon arguably could have won the Grand Prix – but after a safety car restart, collided with Force India team-mate Sergio Perez, giving Ocon a puncture and Perez ultimately fatal damage to the car.
The race was red flagged for 20 minutes, owing to the large amounts of debris on the track needing to be cleared.
Kvyat starts the chaos
At lights out, Bottas made contact with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 2 that gave the Finn a puncture and by the time he limped around to the pits, he had been lapped and was last.
Over the opening laps, Hamilton and Vettel took tenths out of each other, as the gap hovered around the three second mark, but on lap 11, Daniil Kvyat stopped his Toro Rosso, after he had just exited the narrow castle section.
Finally, the safety car was called for to allow the marshals to recover the stricken Toro Rosso. During this time, all the leading drivers elected to make a pit-stop, switching from super-soft to soft compound Pirelli’s.
After the race was restarted, the safety car was deployed once again due to the large amount of debris on track – something that left Hamilton confused, asking why the Virtual Safety Car had not been deployed instead.
At the end of this period of safety car, the flare up between Hamilton and Vettel occurred, with the Brit aghast at Vettel’s actions, while the German was unapologetic at what happened.
The stewards decided that Vettel was at fault and hit him with three penalty points on his licence, taking him to nine for the last 12 months. If he reaches 12 before the British Grand Prix, he will receive a one race ban.
Seconds later however, there was even more drama, as the two Force India drivers collided after Ocon clouted the kerb at Turn 2, forcing himself into Perez, robbing the team of a probable 1-2 finish with what was to happen later on.
Raikkonen picked up a right-rear puncture while battling, and destroyed the rear of the Ferrari as the tyre carcass began to unravel.
Perhaps with a little tongue in cheek, seeing as he was running in eighth at the time, Alonso called for the race to be red flagged - owing to the debris out on track – the stewards took the same opinion after all that action had happened in just 10 laps following Kvyat’s retirement.
Ricciardo makes the move
Under the red flag period, Force India and Ferrari pulled both Perez and Raikkonen into the pits, to work on the cars to try and fix them.
This they both did, but both were subsequently handed drive-through penalties as they were worked on outside the fast-lane of the pit-lane.
The drama wasn’t over just yet however, with Hamilton’s headrest not being fastened down correctly, forcing him into the pits to have it fixed, despite his efforts to push it back into place.
At the same time as he pitted, Vettel received a 10 second stop-and- go penalty – when he was told the penalty was for “dangerous driving” - he sensationally asked “When did I do dangerous driving?”
As he served this penalty, Ricciardo inherited the lead as he had made a lunge up the inside of Massa, who was limping with a rear damper failure.
Nico Hulkenberg was on course for a good result, but binned it at Turn 7, hitting the inside wall and running down the escape road.
The Chase is on
As Vettel emerged from the pits after his penalty, he did so just ahead of Hamilton, and the two swiftly dealt with Alonso, Ocon and Magnussen, as attention turned to the battle for second between Stroll and a charging Bottas.
The Finn was about 10 seconds down with 10 laps to go, and began carving chunks of time out of the rookie.
He hauled himself into slipstream contention and DRS on the final run to the line, and took a full second out of the Williams in the final sector, to claim second by just one tenth.
The two Sauber’s made contact and soon ordered Wehrlein through to stave off the closing McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne.
Marcus Ericsson was unhappy at this as there was an agreement to let Ericsson back through to take his first point of the season, but it didn't happen as Vandoorne and Romain Grosjean in the Haas were the final classified finishers.
Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg, Max Verstappen, Daniil Kvyat and Jolyon Palmer were the drivers not to see the chequered flag.
|1.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||2:03:55.570s||25|
|6.||Esteban Ocon||Force India||+30.298s||8|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Toro Rosso||+49.400s||4|
|13.||Romain Grosjean||Haas||+1 lap||0|
|DNF||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||Accident damage||0|
|DNF||Sergio Perez||Force India||Accident damage||0|
|DNF||Felipe Massa||Williams||Damper failure||0|
|DNF||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Engine||0|
|DNF||Danill Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Electrics||0|