Daniel Ricciardo won a hugely dramatic, incident-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix as title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both finished off the podium. Mercedes Valtteri Bottas passed Williams’ Lance Stroll across the line at rthe flag to take second place. The Williams driver became the youngest ever podium finisher in a rookie season at 18 years and 239 days and the first Canadian to stand on the podium since Jacques Villeneuve in 2001.
Vettel, meanwhile, finished fourth after he was handed a 10-second stop and go penalty following a bizarre incident in which he swerved into Hamilton’s car during a safety car period after Briton had slowed so dramatically in the lead that second-placed Vettel ran into the back of the Mercedes.
Hamilton finished fifth after he was forced to pit from the lead due to a loose head restraint. That dropped him back to P8 and though he recovered to put pressure on Vettel, who emerged from his penalty stop just ahead of the Briton, it wasn’t enough to rise higher than fifth.
A dramatic start saw Bottas go into Turn 2 on the inside of Kimi Raikkonen. The Mercedes driver appeared to take too much kerb in the corner and he was launched into the side of his fellow Finn’s Ferrari. Raikkonen shipped damage and dropped to fifth, but Bottas suffered front wing damage and a front right puncture. He was forced to pit for repairs and dropped to the rear of the field.
At the front, Hamilton, who had taken the lead at the start began to swiftly build a gap to second-place title rival Sebastian Vettel. By lap eight the margin was 3.6s but Vettel responded with a fastest lap on the following tour to stay within touching distance.
Further back, Ricciardo made an early stop, shedding his starting supersofts for softs. The Australian, who also had debris removed from brake ducts during the stop, then began to haul his way back up the order from the ninth position he had taken at the start.
Debris was a worry too for team-mate Verstappen. Soon after the start the Dutchman reported that he was unhappy with the behaviour of his car and he was told he may have had debris in the radiator ducts and that the situation would be monitored.
On lap 13, though, Verstappen suddenly slowed and began to fall down the order. At the same time Kvyat’s Toro Rosso expired and he pulled over at the side of the track. The need to recover the car brought out the first safety car of the race and that caused a flurry of pit stops with all of the frontrunners taking on fresh tyres. Verstappen too headed for the pit lane, but unfortunately for the Red Bull man, his visit wasn’t temporary and he retired from the race.
Under the safety car the order saw Hamilton leading Vettel, with Perez in third place ahead of William’s Felipe Massa and the second Force India of Esteban Ocon. At the back Bottas was allowed to unlap himself and the Finn began a comeback.
On the re-start Hamilton kept his lead but Vettel came under heavy pressure from Perez who drew alongside the Ferrari. Vettel protected the line well, however, and kept second place.
Within seconds, though, the Safety Car was again deployed, this time to clear debris at several locations on the track, and cars were directed through the pit lane as the wreckage was removed.
Just before the Safety Car left the track again at the end of lap 19, the key incident of the race unfolded.
Hamilton slowed dramatically to back up the field and Vettel ran into the back of the Briton’s Mercedes. Vettel responded by running alongside Hamilton and banging wheels with the Mercedes man’s car.
Then, as the racing resumed, Vettel was attacked again, not just by Perez, but also by Massa and Ocon.
The Brazilian got past Perez and tried to pass Vettel down the inside. Vettel again resisted and held P2 but Massa’s move dropped Perez into the clutches of Ocon who tried to pass his team-mate. The team-mates collided and Perez was forced to the pits where it looked like he would retire.
Caught up in the mess was Raikkonen. The Finn ran over the debris from the Force India collision and suffered a right-rear puncture. By the time he made it back to the pits his car had sustained too much damaged and it looked like he too would be forced out of the race.
The Safety Car was deployed yet again, but this time, with debris strewn across the track in a number of places, the red flag was eventually displayed.
Cars were directed back to the pit lane and the dissection of the events that had just taken place began, with the incident between Vettel and Hamilton being placed under investigation by the stewards and the two drivers engaging engineers and team principals in animated discussion.
Action resumed just after 1815 local time, with both Perez and Raikkonen rejoicing the field having been repaired. However, as the SC got set to leave the circuit, third-placed Felipe Massa reported that he had a car problem.
When racing resumed the Brazilian was immediately in trouble. Team-mate Lance Stroll passed on the right but Ricciardo was smarter and went down the inside, outbraking both to rise from fifth to third with a standout move. Behind them Renault’s Hulkenberg made a mistake and clipped a barrier, breaking his right front suspension, and exiting the race.
On lap 27 Hamilton now led from Vettel, Ricciardo and Stroll with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in fifth place. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was in an unlikely sixth place after starting 19th, while Sainz was seventh ahead of Bottas and Grosjean. Perez was in P14 ahead of Raikkonen but both were under investigation as it appeared their crews had worked on the car outside the fast lane in the frenzy to get them going again.
Hamilton, though, had a problem with his head restraint and was told he had to pit to fix the issue. That dropped him to eighth place. The damage was minimised when moments later Vettel was handed a 10-second stop and go penalty for the SC incident with Hamilton. The German served the penalty at the end of lap 33 and dropped to P7 ahead of Hamilton.
Ahead, and somewhat improbably, Ricciardo now led the race in front of Stroll and Magnussen. The Haas driver didn’t hold the podium position for long, however, and on lap 38 the Dane was passed by both Ocon and a resurgent Bottas.
The Finn then passed the Force India driver and began setting fastest laps as he chased down Stroll. As the laps counted down it didn’t look like the Mercedes driver had done enough but on the final lap he closed hard and after Ricciardo had taken the flag to claim his fourth career victory, Bottas managed to pass Stroll across the line in a hugely exciting finale. Stroll took third, becoming the first Canadian to stand on the podium since Jacques Villeneuve at the German Grand Prix in 2001.
Behind them Vettel held Hamilton at bay to finish fourth, while behind the Mercedes driver Ocon took sixth ahead of Magnussen, Sainz, Alonso and Wehrlein.
2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Race
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 2h03m55.573s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 3.904s
3 Lance Stroll Williams 4.009s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 5.976s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 6.188s
6 Esteban Ocon Force India 30.298s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas 41.753s
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 49.400s
9 Fernando Alonso McLaren 59.551s
10 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1m29.093s
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1m31.794s
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1m32.160s
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 Lap
14 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Not running
– Sergio Perez Force India Retirement
– Felipe Massa Williams Retirement
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault Accident
– Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Retirement
– Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Retirement
– Jolyon Palmer Renault Retirement
eom/FIA press release