Lucky Hamilton ends F1 drought at Azerbaijan GP

Shine
Lewis Hamilton celebrated one of the luckiest wins of his career yesterday after a crash-strewn and chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Shine
AFP

Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton reacts on the podium after winning the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit in the Azerbaijan capital Baku yesterday. 

Lewis Hamilton celebrated one of the luckiest wins of his career yesterday after a crash-strewn and chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix that catapulted him into the lead of the Formula One world championship.

The surprise victory, after teammate Valtteri Bottas suffered a puncture with three laps left while leading, ended a six-race drought for the four-time champion dating back to last October.

It was the first victory of the season for champion Mercedes.

In a race where the safety car again played a major part, with a series of crashes and smashes, Kimi Raikkonen finished second for Ferrari while Mexican Sergio Perez was third for Force India.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who had led the championship before Baku and looked to be on course for a 50th career win and third out of four this season, started on pole position but finished fourth.

Hamilton now has 70 points to Vettel’s 66.

Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo, last year’s winner in Baku and also in China two weekends ago, smashed into the back of teammate Max Verstappen in a lap-40 collision that ended the race for both of them.

“It was quite an emotional race. Valtteri did an exceptional job and deserved to win, Sebastian also did a great job so it feels a bit odd to be up here,” commented Hamilton on the podium. “Definitely an untidy race for me.”

The 33-year-old Briton had started on the front row for the first time since he took pole in the Australian season-opener but never looked like winning until Lady Luck removed both Vettel and Bottas from the equation.

“It was such a crazy race, such an exciting race ... to come out with a win, I feel incredibly grateful,” said Hamilton, who went to commiserate with Finland’s Bottas after parking up his car at the finish.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz was fifth for Renault with Monegasque rookie Charles Leclerc sixth for Sauber, his first points in Formula One.

New Zealander Brendon Hartley was also celebrating his first point after taking 10th for Toro Rosso.

McLaren, which had its worst qualifying of the season on Saturday, ended up with a double points finish — Fernando Alonso seventh and Stoffel Vandoorne ninth.

Canadian teenager Lance Stroll, third in Baku last year, finished eighth to give struggling former champion Williams its first points of the year.

Only 13 cars finished the race.

After lap 40 Bottas had been left in the lead when first Hamilton, then Vettel, stopped for fresh tires. He would have had to stop soon but for the Red Bull crash, which allowed the Finn to pit and keep the lead.

Romain Grosjean crashed under the safety car on lap 42, sliding into the wall while weaving in an attempt to heat up his tires. That delayed the restart, and when it came Vettel charged down the inside of Bottas but couldn’t slow enough to make the corner and went onto a runoff area.

After a start in cool, windy conditions, the safety car was out almost immediately on lap 1 as several cars collided in the middle of the pack.

Sergei Sirotkin ran into the back of Perez, causing contact between several other cars. That in turn left Sirotkin out of the race and Alonso limping back to the pits with two punctures.

The drama continued at the next turn, where Ferrari’s Raikkonen’s aggressive lunge at Force India’s Esteban Ocon plunged Ocon into the wall and out of the race. Raikkonen needed a new nose and dropped to 14th.

Renault’s Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg briefly stormed past both Red Bulls into fourth and fifth, but Sainz lost his spot when he pitted, while Hulkenberg’s race ended with a slide into the wall on lap 11.


Special Reports
Top