Lewis Hamilton wins Azerbaijan GP after Valtteri Bottas puncture and Red Bulls collide
Luckless Bottas suffers puncture; Ricciardo and Verstappen collide
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 11/12/18 2:38pm
Lewis Hamilton has taken the lead of the world championship after winning a dramatic and chaotic Azerbaijan GP.
A fortunate Hamilton inherited victory after Valtteri Bottas suffered a late puncture when leading the race, while Sebastian Vettel fell from second to fourth after locking up when trying to overtake Bottas for the lead.
"Valtteri really deserved to win and drove an exceptional race," said Hamilton. "It was a real struggle today so to come out with the win I'm extremely grateful."
The race resumed with five laps remaining after the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo collided following a race-long battle in which the team-mates had already twice made contact.
Both drivers have apologised for the clash and were handed reprimands after stewards investigated the incident.
With a third of the field unable to reach the chequered flag, Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari finished second ahead of Sergio Perez - claiming Force India's first podium in two years - and Vettel.
Sauber youngster Charles Leclerc was crowned 'driver of the day' after taking sixth place.
But while the race belonged to Hamilton, the story was at Red Bull.
How the race unfolded
Lap 1: Vettel leads off the line from Hamilton and Bottas as the front-runners stay clear of first-lap drama including a collision between Ocon and Raikkonen and Alonso and Sirotkin.
Lap 4: The race resumes after a Safety Car period with Vettel leading Hamilton and Bottas.
Lap 11: Renault's Hulkenberg crashes out shortly after overtaking Ricciardo and Verstappen.
Lap 12: Red Bull pair Verstappen and Ricciardo bang wheels into Turn One as Verstappen holds on for track position.
Lap 21: Hamilton loses four seconds after locking up into Turn One.
Lap 22: Hamilton pits for fresh soft tyres and returns to the track in third
Lap 30: Vettel pits for new tyres, shadowing Hamilton's strategy as he puts on softs.
Lap 35: Ricciardo finally passes Verstappen and makes the move stick.
Lap 39: A lap after Ricciardo, Verstappen pits - both Red Bulls put on ultrasofts - and then emerges ahead of Ricciardo
Lap 40: Ricciardo and Verstappen collide. The Safety Car is deployed, triggering pit stops for Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton for ultrasofts with Bottas in the lead.
Lap 44: Romain Grosjean crashes out behind the Safety Car after weaving to warm up his tyres.
Lap 47: The race resumes with Bottas in the lead. Vettel locks up at Turn One trying to overtake Bottas and loses three places in the process.
Lap 48: Hamilton takes the lead after Bottas suffers a puncture running over the debris from the Red Bull crash.
Lap 51: Hamilton crosses the line for victory ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Force India's Sergio Perez.
Lucky Lewis takes title-race lead
Hamilton has endured a difficult start to the season and a mid-race mistake, in which he locked up into Turn One when trying to catch Vettel, had appeared set to condemn the Mercedes driver to another frustrating afternoon.
It was Bottas who then carried Mercedes' fight to Vettel, running for over 40 laps before pitting under the Safety Car and emerging for the restart ahead of the Ferrari. Only a puncture, caused by running over debris near the entry to the pit lane, denied the Finn a deserved victory which would have propelled him into the heart of the title fight.
Instead it is Hamilton who now leads the title race by four points from Vettel, although the Mercedes driver's post-race demeanour spoke volumes about the nature of his win.
"I was really, really fortunate," admitted Hamilton. "Valtteri did an exceptional job today and really deserved to have the win. It feels a bit odd to be up here but I've got to take it."
Raikkonen had similar sentiments to express after hitting Esteban Ocon on the opening lap, setting the tone for an action-packed and incident-filled afternoon that also saw Hulkenberg hit the wall when running in fifth and Grosjean throwing away the same position when he crashed out weaving behind the Safety Car.
Vettel, though, had no regrets about his ill-fated move to overtake Bottas.
"I don't think it was overly optimistic to jump down the inside," Vettel said. "I'm happy that I tried, I'm not happy it didn't work. But I have to try."
What now for Red Bull after Ricciardo and Verstappen collide?
The fall-out from Ricciardo and Verstappen's collision is likely to be long and detailed within Red Bull.
The pair had twice brushed wheels during a closely-fought battle prior to their ruinous crash on Lap 40.
Ricciardo, who had looked the faster driver throughout, had finally found a way past his team-mate before their pit-stops but then lost track position after Verstappen stayed on track for two laps longer.
Battle resumed, Ricciardo then rammed into the back of Verstappen's car along the back straight as the Dutchman robustly defended.
Team boss Christian Horner later said he blamed both of his drivers for the collision and confirmed they would be summoned to their Milton Keynes headquarters ahead of the Spanish GP to apologise in person to staff.
"It doesn't matter who is to blame, it just shouldn't have happened," said Verstappen. "So many people are working hard to improve our cars and they deserve an apology."
Azerbaijan GP race result
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:43.44.291|
|2) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||+ 2.460|
|3) Sergio Perez||Force India||+ 4.024|
|4) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+ 5.329|
|5) Carlos Sainz||Renault||+ 7.515|
|6) Charles Leclerc||Sauber||+ 9.158|
|7) Fernando Alonso||McLaren||+ 10.931|
|8) Lance Stroll||Williams||+ 12.546|
|9) Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||+ 14.152|
|10) Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||+ 18.030|
|11) Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+ 18.512|
|12) Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+ 24.720|
|13) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+ 30.663|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||Retired|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Retired|
|Esteban Ocon||Force India||Retired|