The Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix is over, and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes has retaken his crown. Hamilton qualified in second for the race and finished in first, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Sergio Perez of Force India rounding out the podium places.
It was an absolutely wild ending to the race, and it’s going to take some doing explaining all of it.
Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes had an incredible race, taking his first stint long, and then benefiting from a late safety car to maintain his lead with fresh tires. With three laps to go and a win virtually guaranteed, Bottas hit some debris on the track and suffered a puncture, ending his race, and allowing Hamilton to take first.
Bottas was set to scrap with Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, who himself had issues on the race restart, and before Bottas’ puncture. Vettel locked up hard and ruined his tires, and fell back multiple places. Rather than a Bottas vs. Vettel scrap in the final two laps, we end up with Vettel down in fourth place, and Hamilton getting the win.
Max Verstappen ran into teammate Daniel Ricciardo early in the race, and he also played it very fast and loose with his overtakes and defenses, as usual. Late in the race, Verstappen managed to get past Ricciardo during pit stops, and when Ricciardo eventually tried to get the place back, they crashed.
This called for a late safety car, which allowed Bottas, on 37-plus laps for his supersofts and the leader of the race, to pit and fit the ultrasoft tires. Vettel, behind him but expected to take the lead, was suddenly looking at scrapping with Bottas for the final few laps. Vettel pit and also fit the ultrasofts for that showdown.
Hamilton was always going to try and scrap with Vettel for the lead near the end, but after all of the late safety car antics, it was suddenly about Vettel vs. Bottas. But before the proper scrap could get underway with another six or seven laps to go, Romain Grosjean of the American-owned Haas F1 Team went into the wall while trying to get heat in his tires.
That ended his race, and it prompted the medical car to be deployed in addition to the safety car. Grosjean is fine, according to his team, but whatever sensors are in the car registered enough force to prompt the auto-deployment of that medical car. This limited the amount of racing that was allowed to take place in the final laps of the race.
Earlier in the race, on the first lap, Esteban Ocon of Force India and Sergey Sirotkin of Williams both crashed out and were the first drivers to retire. Nico Hulkenberg of Renault was next quite a bit later, then the Red Bulls and then Grosjean.
Grosjean was potentially looking at his first points of the season. Stroll, who was eighth after the safety car fracas, managed to finish in the points for the first time this season.
Here is the full finishing order for the race, and below that you can see our play-by-play from the live blog:
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Finishing Order
|3||Sergio Pérez||Force India|
|5||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Renault|
|10||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso|
|12||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso|
|16||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
|17||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|19||Esteban Ocon||Force India|
Lap 51/51 FINAL
Alonso also got past Stroll, who is searching for Williams’ first points of the season. And WOW Bottas has a puncture! He has a puncture on Lap 49!
He did nothing wrong! He hit some debris on the track. Instant puncture. Oh this is tragic for Bottas. Hamilton takes the race lead, ahead of Raikkonen. Perez manages to overtake Vettel, whose tires took a beating on that lockup. What a wild, wild thing this has been. Perez took Vettel easily over the straight, just as Bottas was falling back from his puncture.
Stroll gets back past Alonso for seventh … and Alonso gets back past Stroll for seventh himself right after that. Sainz passes Leclerc for fifth. Hamilton crosses the line for the win. Raikkonen behind, then Perez. Alonso finishes ahead of Stroll, but the Williams driver picks up his first points of the season.
Hamilton comes over the team radio and says the race should have been stopped completely, as cars could crash into the back corner of the trailer that was on the track to remove the Haas.
Bottas catches Vettel napping slightly on the restart, and it’s a brilliant move! It gives Hamilton a slipstream. Vettel panics, locks up HUGE on the next turn, and goes wide, allowing Hamilton AND Raikkonen past! Vettel fell to fourth in the exchange! Hamilton is in second, and Raikkonen in third, on Lap 48.
So behind Hamilton is Raikkonen, then Perez, Grosjean, Sainz, Leclerc, Stroll and Alonso for the points spots. Alonso comes over team radio and says he wants the race to get back going. Oh, and scratch that, Grosjean is OUT of the race, he’s into the wall behind the safety car. Grosjean just loses the rear of his car and goes into the wall, and it’s unclear what happened. Wow. The safety car stays out there. Magnussen moves into 10th and the points.
And … once again, the Red Bulls have crashed. Ricciardo rams hard into the back of Verstappen’s car. Ricciardo was trying to make a move on Verstappen, but Verstappen seemed to have made a double move to try and block him off. Ricciardo was committed to the move, and he plowed into the back of Verstappen.
And we get a safety car! Bottas manages to make it into the pits just in time. He’s going to come out in the lead of this race. Vettel also pits, and fits the ultrasofts, hopefully for one last scrap. This has worked out BEAUTIFULLY for Bottas.
Thirty-three laps into this race on the supersoft tires and Bottas … sets the fastest lap of the race. Because of course.
Valtteri still hammering away out there in the lead! A mighty 33 lap stint on these SuperSofts
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) April 29, 2018
Ricciardo then sets the fastest lap himself, and while doing so overtakes Verstappen cleanly for fourth place! Hamilton, on Lap 37, is about four seconds back of Vettel. Ricciardo pits on Lap 38, and he manages to come out ahead of Raikkonen, and has the ultrasoft tires on.
Not sure what happened, but Hamilton is now 7.4 seconds back of Vettel about two laps later. Bottas sets another fastest lap of the race on his old supersofts. Verstappen comes into the pits on Lap 39, and gets the ultrasofts. He rejoins the track … ahead of Ricciardo! Wow! How did that happen?
Perez gets a five-second penalty for overtaking before the safety car line. Vettel’s team radio tells him that they have an “eight second margin to Hamilton,” and are staying out. Bottas, in second, is 10 seconds back of the race leader as of Lap 26.
Verstappen, once again, tries an aggressive overtake on Ricciardo, and he gets it. Ricciardo had to move aside because Verstappen would have crashed into him. They did earlier in the race. Leclerc passes Alonso for ninth.
Vettel pits on Lap 30, from the lead, and fits the softs. He rejoins the track 11 seconds back of Bottas, who needs a pit. Verstappen sets the fastest lap of the race. Raikkonen, in sixth, is 16 seconds back of the Red Bulls. They need to extend their gap past him to cover a future pit stop.
The automatic detection for the first DRS zone is not working, but drivers are able to manually activate it — with the help of team radio. Sainz rejoins the pack in 12th place. Hamilton, on Lap 19, is 4.1 seconds back of Vettel, though he did just set a fastest lap.
Ericsson is given a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision. Hamilton sets … another fastest lap on Lap 21. Perez makes an easy move on Stroll, who locks up. Oh and Hamilton locks up bad on Turn 1 and loses a couple seconds on Vettel.
“Something’s happened. I don’t know what, man,” Hamilton says on the radio. Hamilton is given instruction to pit in. He pits, and rejoins the race in third, five seconds behind his teammate. Vettel stays out, not responding to Hamilton’s pit-in. Sainz makes a pass on Alonso, and gets it done easily. Verstappen is just behind Hamilton.
It looks like Ricciardo is also having battery issues. Grosjean is running in 10th, up several spots from the start of the race. Vettel sets the fastest lap on Lap 13. Raikkonen makes an easy pass on Stroll and is running in eighth, behind Leclerc. The top three — Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas — are a full 20 seconds ahead of Sainz behind them. Sainz pits on Lap 16, and Verstappen is now in fourth. There’s a branch on the track, but the stewards get it removed. Raikkonen now gets past Leclerc
Sainz continues to scrap with Verstappen — he’s trying hard to get the overtake. Sainz is on the ultrasoft tire, so there’s that. Hulkenbgerg makes an easy pass on Gasly and is now behind Ricciardo. Verstappen complains over the team radio that he’s not getting enough from the battery. In the final turn of Lap 8, Sainz gets past Verstappen! Ricciardo nearly goes into the back of Verstappen, and Hulkenberg dives down on Ricciardo. Hulkenberg’s team comes over the radio and tells him that Verstappen has low battery. In other words: go get him.
Hulkenberg suffered a lockup, lost the rear of his car and hit the wall, suffering a puncture and having to stop! His day is done! Wow.
Meanwhile, Hamilton just set the fastest lap on Lap 11, and is now 2.2 seconds back of Vettel, after being down by as much as 3.2 seconds. And Ricciardo is now making moves on Verstappen, his teammate.
Hamilton is riiiiight on Vettel as they prepare to restart on Lap 5. They restart and Vettel gets away. Verstappen tries a pass on Ricciardo, but he doesn’t get it. Around the next turn, Verstappen gets Ricciardo — but he’s pushed him aside, and Sainz actually makes a move and passes Ricciardo right afterward for fifth place. Ricciardo now has Pierre Gasly behind him.
Verstappen has to go down an escape road briefly, and Sainz manages to pass him as well! But Verstappen under-brakes and manages to get the place back from Sainz. Vettel, meanwhile, is three seconds up on Hamilton by Lap 7.
Raikkonen pits to get a new front wing. Alonso also gets a new front wing and had a DOUBLE puncture on his car’s right side. We see a replay of Alonso’s incident, and it looks like Lance Stroll simply hit him unprompted.
“Box. What a stupid guy. He closed the door when I was alongside,” Alonso could be heard over the radio.
Hulkenberg came over too. “I think this is going to take awhile. There’s a lot of s*** on the track.”
Force India is blaming Raikkonen for the incident with Ocon, but it sure seemed like Ocon’s mistake. Alonso was hit by a Williams shortly after that Williams tapped the back of Perez’s car. So Sirotkin and Ocon
Here we go! Vettel and Hamilton both get away well. Around the first turn, there’s no contact and it looks like most get away cleanly! There is some content with a Williams, looks like Sirotkin and then Raikkonen crashes into Ocon! Both cars sustain plenty of damage! It’s a Lap 1 incident and there is already a safety car deployed! Fernando Alonso also took a puncture on the opening lap.
Good morning, or whatever time it happens to be for you! We’ll be getting started with our live blog of the race shortly. The most current update will be at the top of this article!
Before the race
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen proved once again that their Ferrari-powered cars are perhaps a small step above the reigning champion Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. But a final qualifying lap mistake by Raikkonen hurt him, and Hamilton will actually start second on the grid for the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, behind Vettel on pole.
F1 have announced that their over-the-top streaming service, F1 TV Pro, will launch in the U.S. before the Spanish Grand Prix on May 13, so this should be the last race without it, for those of you who have been waiting.
Vettel set the fastest time with a 1:41.498 in qualifying, edging out Hamilton, who posted a time of 1:41.677. Raikkonen’s mistake cost him roughly a full second, and because of it he’ll be starting sixth on the grid, behind Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes and the Red Bull cars of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, in that order.
Ricciardo is coming off a thrilling win in the Chinese Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Bottas and Raikkonen on the podium. Vettel, the championship leader, finished eighth in that race after taking some damage to his car and tires after a collision with Verstappen.
Behind Raikkonen, rounding out the top 10, are the Force India cars of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, the Renault of Carlos Sainz, Jr. and the Williams of Lance Stroll.
Below is all you need to know to watch and stream the race on Sunday, as well as the full lineup and starting grid.
How to watch the 2018 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Date: Sunday, April 29
Location: Baku City Circuit, Baku
Time: 8 a.m. ET
2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Starting Grid
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:41.911|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:41.994|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1:42.523|
|8||Sergio Pérez||Force India||1:42.547|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Renault||1:43.351|
|17||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||1:44.496|
|19||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||1:57.354|
|20||Romain Grosjean||Haas||No time|