Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo was victorious in a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix featuring Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton controversially clashing behind the Safety Car.
Hamilton and Vettel had a on-track run-in while the race was being neutralised, earning Vettel an 10-second penalty that would have given Hamilton a comfortable cruise to victory had the headrest on the Mercedes not come close.
Those dramas left Ricciardo, who qualified tenth position and looked well and truly out of contention after stopping early to have debris cleared out of a brake duct, in position to take his fifth race victory.
Ricciardo headed home Valtteri Bottas and Williams driver Lance Stroll, who picked up a maiden podium just two weeks after his first Formula 1 points finish in Montreal.
Bottas had been a lap down after a first-lap collision with fellow Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen but was allowed to unlap himself during one of the race’s many interruptions.
Mayhem ahead allowed Valtteri to find his way into third, and he reeled in Stroll before inching ahead of the Williams in a near-photo-finish for second.
The Bottas and Raikkonen clash happened as the Ferrari got ahead of him for second into Turn 2 on lap one after the Mercedes lost momentum with wheelspin out of the first corner.
Bottas kept to the inside line, bounced off the kerb and into Raikkonen, who tagged the wall but continued in fifth while Bottas limped to the pits.
That allowed Vettel into second position behind Hamilton, and he was trailing by three seconds when the race’s first Safety Car appeared on lap 11 of 51 as Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso parked on track.
Max Verstappen was pressuring Sergio Perez for third at this point, but had to retire with yet another engine issue.
The safety lasted for several laps and allowed all the leading runners to swap their super-softs for softs.
Hamilton sped up early on the main straight for the lap 16 restart and immediately established a lead over Vettel, who had to fend off pressure from Perez, while Raikkonen fell behind Felipe Massa and Esteban Ocon to sixth.
The race was immediately suspended again due to debris in several parts of the circuit, and another chaotic restart followed a few laps later.
First, Vettel made contact with the rear of Hamilton’s car as the leader tried to back the pack up for the restart.
Vettel was furious, pulling alongside Hamilton and angrily gesticulating at his rival on the exit of Turn 15 – as his Ferrari whacked against the side of the Mercedes.
Vettel then had to fend off Massa and Perez into Turn 1, although he kept position successfully again.
Instead, there was drama for the Force Indias, as Ocon tried to edge past Perez on exit of Turn 2 but made violent contact, with Raikkonen picking up a damaging puncture from their debris.
Red flags eventually came out this time. Perez and Raikkonen required long periods in the garage for repairs, while Ocon dropped to the back.
At the restart after a 20-minute stoppage, Hamilton and Vettel – now back on super-softs – maintained position with relative ease, as Ricciardo dived into third past both Stroll and Massa, who retired due to a broken rear damper shortly afterwards.
That overtake was crucial for Ricciardo as soon afterwards Hamilton was called to the pits for a loose headrest to be replaced and Vettel’s 10-second stop-go penalty was applied.
Ricciardo was left free to lead to the finish, while Vettel and Hamilton, now in that order, fought back through the field in tandem.
But they could do no better than fourth and fifth, catching the Bottas and Stroll battle on the final lap.
Ocon and Haas driver Magnussen had both run in a podium position after the red flag, but were shuffled back to sixth and seventh in the end.
Carlos Sainz recovered from a first-lap spin – that he blamed on team-mate Kvyat rejoining from the run-off area – to take eighth, with Fernando Alonso scoring McLaren-Honda’s first points of the season in ninth.
The Sauber of Pascal Wehrlein took tenth after a battle with team-mate Marcus Ericsson that included contact before the team asked Ericsson to let Wehrlein through as Stoffel Vandoorne gained on them on fresh tyres.
Vandoorne could not pass either Sauber and finished in P12.
Romain Grosjean was a lap down in P13 due to braking problems.
Raikkonen and Perez’s repaired cars were eventually retired, while Jolyon Palmer went out very early with engine problems.
So a dramatic and exciting Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Full of incidents with the championship contenders colliding into one another. A popular winning thanks to the honey badger and brilliant result for the Stroll, the first Canadian podium result since Jacques Villeneuve in 2001.
As for Alonso and McLaren-Honda. Finally, a points finish with ninth. The chaos certainly helped Fernando with this result but it can be taken as a positive step towards competitiveness.
Congratulations Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull Racing in winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Suffered an issue during the race but came back fighting and taking a shocking victory. That’s Aussie grit!
Azerbaijan Grand Prix, race results after 51 laps:
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 2h03m55.573s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 3.904s
3 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 4.009s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 5.976s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 6.188s
6 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 30.298s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 41.753s
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault 49.400s
9 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 59.551s
10 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber-Ferrari 1m29.093s
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m31.794s
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 1m32.160s
13 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1 Lap
14 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Not running
– Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes Retirement
– Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes Retirement
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault Accident
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault Retirement
– Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault Retirement
– Jolyon Palmer Renault Retirement
1 Sebastian Vettel 153
2 Lewis Hamilton 139
3 Valtteri Bottas 111
4 Daniel Ricciardo 92
5 Kimi Raikkonen 73
6 Max Verstappen 45
7 Sergio Perez 44
8 Esteban Ocon 35
9 Carlos Sainz 29
10 Felipe Massa 20
11 Nico Hulkenberg 18
12 Lance Stroll 17
13 Kevin Magnussen 11
14 Romain Grosjean 10
15 Pascal Wehrlein 5
16 Daniil Kvyat 4
17 Fernando Alonso 2
18 Jolyon Palmer 0
19 Marcus Ericsson 0
20 Stoffel Vandoorne 0
21 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
1 Mercedes 250
2 Ferrari 226
3 Red Bull-Renault 137
4 Force India-Mercedes 79
5 Williams-Mercedes 37
6 Toro Rosso-Renault 33
7 Haas-Ferrari 21
8 Renault 18
9 Sauber-Ferrari 5
10 McLaren/Honda 2