Lewis Hamilton scored his first victory of the season at a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, full of drama and incidents including the Red Bulls crashing into one another.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was on course to score a comfortable win before the race was changed when Daniel Ricciardo rear-ended team-mate Max Verstappen at Turn 1 in a battle for fourth.
Valtteri Bottas survived a lunge from Vettel into Turn 1 at the subsequent safety car restart and appeared to be heading for victory before a puncture handed Mercedes’ first win of the year to Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen second and Sergio Perez beating Vettel to a shock third.
The race started in crazy fashion after a pair of first-lap incidents triggered a safety car to clear substantial debris.
Esteban Ocon attacked Raikkonen and tried to pass the Ferrari around the outside of Turn 2, which led them to run side-by-side down to Turn 3.
Ocon turned in for the apex with Raikkonen almost completely alongside, and the ensuing contact pitched the Force India into the wall and out of the race and forced Raikkonen to pit for a new front wing. The incident will be investigated afterwards.
At the same moment, further back, Sergey Sirotkin rear-ended Perez’s Force India into Turn 2 and on the exit of the corner was squeezed between Fernando Alonso’s McLaren on the left and Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault on the right.
Hulkenberg clipped Sirotkin into Alonso, which broke the front-left of the Williams and forced Sirotkin to retire immediately as Alonso limped back to the pits with shredded right-side tyres.
Vettel backed the field up hugely at the restart and kept everyone bottled up until the last possible moment before the final safety car line.
He bolted clear and established a comfortable lead over Hamilton, who nudged the gap down below four seconds before locking up both front tyres on lap 21 of 51.
That forced Hamilton to change to soft tyres as Vettel and Bottas, who was running a distant third, extended an ultra-long first stint on supersofts.
Hamilton’s lack of a pace advantage on fresh, but harder, rubber allowed Vettel to stay out until lap 30 before taking on softs, but Bottas ran even longer.
Bottas was still circulating strongly on his original supersofts when a fraught battle between the two Red Bulls finally hit breaking point.
Ricciardo was quicker than Verstappen at various points through the first half of the race but was rebuffed several times, and the two even made light contact at one point exiting Turn 1 as Verstappen ran wide into Ricciardo after defending the inside line.
Verstappen lost the place into Turn 1 just after mid-distance but got back ahead by pitting a lap later than Ricciardo, then swiftly came under attack as Ricciardo picked up a huge tow on the run down to Turn 1.
Ricciardo feigned to the right and then dived back to the inside, but Verstappen covered it and was slammed into as Ricciardo locked up.
Verstappen’s car was lifted briefly into the air and both battered Red Bulls skated down the escape road into retirement. Game over.
The ensuing safety car was a lengthy affair, mainly because Romain Grosjean inexplicably lost the rear of his Haas warming his tyres on the straight from Turns 13 to 14 and slammed into the wall from sixth position.
That left four laps of green-flag racing, and Vettel lunged Bottas at the restart but locked up and ran wide, which dropped him to fourth behind Hamilton and Raikkonen.
Bottas bolted clear over the rest of the lap and was out of DRS range of Hamilton but ran over debris finishing the lap and cruelly picked up a left-rear puncture at the end of the start-finish straight.
That freed Hamilton into the lead with Raikkonen a comfortable second as Perez drafted Vettel, struggling with a flatspotted tyre, to score a shock podium despite Vettel’s efforts to retaliate. The result gives Hamilton a four-point championship lead.
Carlos Sainz Jr scored his best result with Renault in fifth after battling ahead of the Red Bulls early on with an excellent stint on ultrasofts. His team-mate Nico Hulkenberg had also been in this fight before an early crash.
Charles Leclerc scored the first points of his Formula 1 career with a stunning drive to sixth for Sauber, picking his way through the chaos of the opening lap and crucially clearing the Williams of Lance Stroll early on.
Stroll fell to eighth at the finish behind Alonso, who recovered from his torrid opening lap that left him needing a new front wing and gave him floor damage.
Stoffel Vandoorne gave McLaren another double-points finish in ninth, while Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley took the final place in the top 10 to bag his first Formula 1 point.
So a crazy race with overtaking, drama and crashes. Well done Baku on delivering an entertaining race with Lewis Hamilton taking victory. Now leading the championship over his rival Sebastian Vettel by 4 points.
As for the self-destruct moment with the Red Bulls. That was unfortunate but it was heading to the clash after so many close wheel-to-wheel moments between Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. The end result is a double non-finish for the team.
Do feel sorry for Valtteri Bottas as the Mercedes driver was so close in scoring his first win. But a late puncture ruined the chance… So team-mate Hamilton benefitted and won.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 51 1h43m44.291s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 51 2.460s
3 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 51 4.024s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 51 5.329s
5 Carlos Sainz Renault 51 7.515s
6 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 51 9.158s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 51 10.931s
8 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 51 12.546s
9 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 51 14.152s
10 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 51 18.030s
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 51 18.512s
12 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 51 24.720s
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 51 30.663s
14 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 48 Tyre
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 42 Spun off
– Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 39 Collision
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 39 Collision
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault 10 Spun off
– Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 0 Collision
– Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 0 Collision
1 Lewis Hamilton 70
2 Sebastian Vettel 66
3 Kimi Raikkonen 48
4 Valtteri Bottas 40
5 Daniel Ricciardo 37
6 Fernando Alonso 28
7 Nico Hulkenberg 22
8 Max Verstappen 18
9 Sergio Perez 15
10 Carlos Sainz 13
11 Pierre Gasly 12
12 Kevin Magnussen 11
13 Charles Leclerc 8
14 Stoffel Vandoorne 8
15 Lance Stroll 4
16 Marcus Ericsson 2
17 Esteban Ocon 1
18 Brendon Hartley 1
19 Romain Grosjean 0
20 Sergey Sirotkin 0
1 Ferrari 114
2 Mercedes 110
3 Red Bull-Renault 55
4 McLaren-Renault 36
5 Renault 35
6 Force India-Mercedes 16
7 Toro Rosso-Honda 13
8 Haas-Ferrari 11
9 Sauber-Ferrari 10
10 Williams-Mercedes 4