Daniel Ricciardo wins a bonkers race in Baku, which featured enough chaos and controversy for an entire F1 season.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 5th. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd.
Remember when the Hamilton v Vettel title battle looked set to be a fierce fight where respect remained on both sides? Forget that now, as the gloves well and truly came off in Baku. Did Hamilton brake-test Vettel at the lap 20 race re-start after the safety car, causing Vettel to run into him? Should Vettel have pulled alongside Hamilton and deliberately banged wheels against the Mercedes driver in retaliation? Two wrongs don’t make a right, but the stewards decided that Vettel’s actions were worthy of a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, taking him out of the equation for the win. That victory would surely have been Hamilton’s had the Briton not been called into the pits for safety reasons as the headrest of his car was coming loose, and after Hamilton could only recover to fifth – behind Vettel – the three-time world champion let Vettel have it, calling the German’s driving “a disgrace” before adding “if he wants to prove he is a man we should do it out of the car, we should do it face to face.”
For Bottas, to finish where he started was little short of a miracle after the first lap, where he clattered into Raikkonen’s Ferrari at Turn 2, limped back to the pits with a puncture and was a lap down and dead-last, and then stole second from Stroll at the finish line on the last of the 51 laps. Ordinarily, the Finn’s recovery drive would have been raved about as one for the ages, but his superb efforts were little more than a footnote on a day of chaos and controversy.
Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 10th, finished 1st. Max Verstappen: qualified 5th, did not finish.
Sometimes, words aren’t necessary or appropriate in sport, which is why Ricciardo’s initial reaction to his fifth career win – to burst into laughter – was as spot-on as his driving. The Australian made a rare mistake and crashed in qualifying to start from 10th on the grid, and all looked lost when he had to pit on lap five with his brake temperatures reaching critical levels after picking up some of the debris that littered the circuit after a manic first lap. But Ricciardo stuck with it, and made one of the moves of the season when he sliced past Williams duo Stroll and Massa into the first corner on the re-start after the lap 22 red flag to put himself into podium contention.
When Vettel was penalised and Hamilton forced to pit, Ricciardo inherited the lead, and if we know one thing about the Honey Badger, he’s not a man to let a chance to win a race go begging. Bizarrely, all five of Ricciardo’s F1 victories have come from outside the top three on the grid. While Red Bull celebrated, it was hard not to be sympathetic to Verstappen’s plight, especially after the Dutchman out-qualified noted Saturday specialist Ricciardo for the fourth race running. Engine problems had him out after just 12 laps as he was fighting with Perez for what was third place, which, given what unfolded behind him later on, could well have been a battle for the top step of the podium. Verstappen has now had four non-finishes – all through no fault of his own – in the past six races.
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 4th, finished 4th. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 3rd, did not finish.
We’ve given Hamilton his say on the incident with Vettel, so what of the Ferrari driver’s view? “It was quite obvious, I didn’t run into the back of him on purpose,” Vettel said. “I damaged my wing, I think he had a little bit of damage as well. Nothing that would have impacted on the race. It’s just not the way to do it. He’s done it a couple of times.” Vettel’s insistence that he had no idea why he’d been penalised for driving into the side of Hamilton was either ignorance or gamesmanship in the extreme, but to come out of Azerbaijan with a greater advantage in the title race over Hamilton (from 12 points to 14) was a victory of sorts after having to serve such a costly penalty in the pits. Raikkonen spent most of the race being hit by rivals (Bottas) or running over debris scattered by other cars hitting one another, and destroyed the floor of his car when he insisted on driving it rather too quickly back to the pits after a puncture on lap 20. Ferrari managed to fix the problem to get the Finn back out on circuit after the lengthy red flag stoppage, but he tooled around towards the back before calling it quits three laps from home.
Sergio Perez: qualified 6th, did not finish. Esteban Ocon: qualified 7th, finished 6th.
Force India said it would allow its drivers to fight after its contentious race in Canada, and that decision came back to bite them after Ocon and Perez clashed at the lap 20 re-start after the safety car, Perez losing his front wing and Ocon suffering a puncture as the pink cars tripped over one another, Ocon clouting the kerb at the second corner and running straight into his teammate. Perez’s run of 37 race finishes in a row came to an inglorious end, while Ocon briefly looked set to finish third before the out-of-position trio of Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton swept by in the final 10 laps. Given what happened to the cars ahead of them later on, could Force India have thrown away a chance of victory?
Felipe Massa: qualified 9th, did not finish. Lance Stroll: qualified 8th, finished 3rd.
Being in the right place at the right time counted for plenty in Baku, but Stroll’s result, while better than expected, was an appropriate reward for a clean weekend of pace and consistency. The Canadian teen barely put a foot wrong in practice, out-qualified veteran teammate Massa for the first time on Saturday, and was entirely convincing on Sunday as he kept his head where plenty didn’t, becoming the first Canadian since Jacques Villeneuve 16 years ago to finish inside the top three. He looked more bothered about tasting the inevitable Ricciardo podium shoey after the race than being pipped at the post by Bottas. Massa was desperately unlucky not to be in the mix for big points and perhaps a podium himself, the Brazilian showing plenty of fight before a rear suspension issue ended his day on lap 25.
Fernando Alonso: qualified 16th, finished 9th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 19th, finished 12th.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said Azerbaijan was the “most painful weekend I’ve ever had” after both McLarens were bleeding upwards of 20km/h on the straight and had 75 places of engine component grid penalties (Alonso 40, Vandoorne 35) between them heading into the race. Given that build-up, it was astonishing that both cars made it to the finish, and Alonso scored the team’s first points of the year in ninth. But the Spaniard couldn’t help but wonder if, with an engine that could at least match their rivals for straight-line grunt, whether McLaren could have won. “Hamilton lost his headrest, Vettel was penalised, both the Force Indias were out, Kimi retired …,” he said afterwards.
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 11th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 12th, finished 8th.
The chances of Sainz scoring points looked remote when he was facing the wrong way and last after turn one, the Spaniard having to take avoiding action to miss his teammate as Kvyat cut back onto the circuit after running wide at the start. With chaos coming by the lap, Sainz stayed cool, and four points was the result. Kvyat’s race didn’t last long, the Russian’s car completely shutting down with an electrical failure on lap 10 and causing the first safety car, which set the stage for the insane race that followed.
Romain Grosjean: qualified 17th, finished 13th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 13th, finished 7th.
Magnussen was outstanding in Baku, the Dane running in the podium places as the various penalties and accidents played out, and he was still third with 13 laps left before the Bottas-Vettel-Hamilton train swept past. Still, six points in one fell swoop – when you’ve only scored five in the previous seven Grands Prix – made his afternoon, in his own words, “great”. Grosjean had very little to say at all after the race after spending most of the weekend moaning to his team over the radio about a lack of confidence with his brakes, and then to the media that said moaning was being reported on and broadcast by the world TV feed.
Jolyon Palmer: qualified 20th, did not finish. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 14th, did not finish.
One remarkable stat from a remarkable race: nine of the 10 teams had a car finish in the points in Baku, with Renault the one to miss out. Palmer was the first retiree with engine problems on lap eight after his car had barbequed itself because of a fuel leak on Saturday, while Hulkenberg hit the wall at Turn 7 on lap 25 in an uncharacteristic error to join his teammate on the sidelines.
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 18th, finished 11th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 15th, finished 10th.
The smallest team in F1 made big news off it in the lead-up to Azerbaijan, when team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was let go after working for the team in various roles for nearly two decades. Paddock speculation ran rampant in Baku, with the common belief that it was Kaltenborn’s opposition to requests to favour Ericsson over Wehrlein from the team’s Ericsson-aligned financial backers that caused the split. Come Sunday, the Sauber teammates – like so many stablemates in this crazy race – managed to run into one another as they fought for the final point on offer, which eventually went to Wehrlein after the German had impressively made the second phase of qualifying 24 hours earlier.