Hamilton wins crazy race as Bottas loses certain victory

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Azerbaijan, Baku Street Circuitaz

Lewis Hamilton has won his first race of the year, thanks to a very unfortunate retirement of Valtteri Bottas a few laps from the end. Kimi Raikkonen finished second for Ferrari, ahead of Perez who scores the first points of the season for Force India.

The lights went out, and every managed to get away from the starting grid cleanly. There were no problems in Turn 1 either, but the next few corners saw incidents. Raikkonen collided with Ocon, sending the latter into immediate retirement while Raikkonen returned to the pits to change the nose and switch to soft tyres.

Sirotkin cut his tyre against Alonso, retiring next to Ocon. Alonso still got back to the pitlane, complaining about Sirotkin's behaviour. However, the latter got sandwished between Alonso and Hulkenberg, and there was nothing he could do to avoid a collision. By the time he got to the pits, he only had tyres on the left wheels, with both right hand tyres gone due to punctures. The Spaniard's McLaren got a new nose cone and soft tyres. The car's floor will obviously have been damaged quite a bit.

The safety car was obviously brought out on track to get the, resulting in several other cars opting to pit. Hartley pitted for Ultrafofts, Grosjean changed to supersoft while Perez, Magnussen and Ericsson pitted for soft Pirelli tyres.

Positions behind the SC were therefore: VET HAM BOT RIC VER SAI STR HUL GAS LEC VAN RAI HAR GRO PER MAG ALO and ERI.

At he end of lap 5, the safety car returned to the pits. The restart was a tense affair as Vettel chose to go very slowly before speeding up on the main straight. There were no immediate position changes, but at Turn 2, Verstappen took the inside of his team mate, allowing Sainz to sneek through with him, making Ricciardo lose two positions at once.

The next laps, Sainz was very threatening towards Verstappen, who himself rapidly lost contact with the cars ahead. Hulkenberg progressed into 7th by lap 7 while Raikkonen made up two positions, passing both Grosjean and Vandoorne to take 11th.

On lap 8, both Renaults moved up, with Sainz passing Verstappen ahead of Turn 1 and Hulkenberg getting ahead of Ricciardo on the exit of Turn 1. Another lap later, Hulkenberg got ahead of Verstappen as well as the Red Bull driver struggled with the batteries. Behind them, Stroll, Leclerc and Raikkonen were all still very close, all less than a second seperated one from another.

On lap 10, Hulkenberg's race was over, with the rear of his car sliding away from him through Turn 3.

At the front, Vettel continued to line up the fastest laps. By lap 12, he had 4s on Hamilto and almost 10 on Bottas. Sainz was another 14s further back, followed by Verstappen, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Stroll and Raikkonen. All were close, but none close enough to set up a serious fight.

By lap 14, it car clear that Sainz' ultra soft tyres were dead, as Verstappen rapidly closed that gap. Raikkonen on the other hand progressed past Stroll after he enquired his team about the DRS working properly. Two laps later he would also get past Leclerc.

At the same time, Alonso moved up into 11th, passing him team mate while gaining another position thanks to Sainz stopping for soft tyres.

From lap 18 on, Hamilton started to slowly reduce the gap to Vettel, stringing together a number of fastest laps until having a big lockup in lap 21, losing him 6 seconds and forcing him to pit at the end of that lap. Hamilton switched to softs and rejoined in third place, 2 seconds ahead of Verstappen.

On lap 26, there's another battle between the Red Bulls, with Ricciardo breezing past Verstappen on the straight, only to go that little bit too wide at Turn 1 to really finish it off. Verstappen as a result came back to keep his position through Turn 2.

For Alonso, things went from bad to worse. After getting passed by Sainz, he was unable to keep Charles Leclerc's Sauber behind after the latter pitted. Then on lap 29 he had a similar moment to Hamilton just before his stop, badly locking up the fronts. It cost the Spaniard 6 seconds, allowed Stroll to get ahead of him too.

On lap 30, Vettel pitted to change his super soft tyres to softs.

On lap 33, Ricciardo sets the fastest lap and finally makes it past Verstappen, up again into 4th. Two laps later, with 1.5s in hand over his Dutch team mate, Ricciardo pitted to change to ultra softs for the final 14 laps.

Verstappen pitted one lap later to make the same tyre switch, leaving Ricciardo with a view on Verstappen's rear yet again. At the end of that lap, Ricicardo got into the aspiration of Verstappen and closed in rapidly yet again. Verstappen chose left, but then briefly moved to the right again, making Ricciardo think the left was the place to go. However, Verstappen seemed to change his mind, going left again and sending Ricciardo into the back of Verstappen, forcing both into retirement. That's a certain fourth and fifth position given away to the competition.

The resulting safety car gave Bottas a free pitstop, allowing him to change to ultra soft. He didn't have any new sets left, so the team sent him out on used tyres. All other cars pitted as well, with everybody on new ultra soft tyres, except for Bottas, Sainz, Alonso and Ericsson on used ultras, and Perez on new super softs.

So, with 9 laps left, the top 10 behind the safety car was BOT, VET HAM RAI PER GRO SAI LEC STR ALO. A single lap later, still behind the safety car, Grosjean strangely ended up into the barrier. The medical car was subsequently deployed, even though that seemed unneeded as Grosjean had easily stepped out of the car himself.

What followed was a tediously long safety car period, with the flatbed truck with Grosjean's car seemingly unsure what to do, stopping on track and driving slowly.

Vandoorne pitted on lap 46 again, moving down from 13th to last, but it seemed worth it for him, as he complained "tyres are really difficult".

When the race got started again, Hamilton threatened Vettel but failed to make it pass, only to see Vettel overshoot the first corner. This saw Bottas maintain the lead, ahead of Hamilton, Raikkonen and Vettel. Perez followed in 5th, ahead of Leclerc and Sainz. Alonso made it past Stroll to 8th while Vandoorne rapidly made it from last to 10.

One lap later, Bottas found himself stranded with a right rear puncture on the main straight, forcing him to retire. Replays showed he ran over a piece of debris on the exit of the final corner.

Next up, Perez made his way past Vettel for third. Sainz progressed past Leclerc for 5th and one lap later, Stroll re-passed Alonso for 7th. Still, that didn't last long, as the Spaniard refused to give in and passed the Williams 3 corners later.

In the end, Lewis Hamilton scored his first victory of the season, Perez the first podium of the season for Force India, and McLaren scored an unexpected double points finish.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG511:43:44.29125
27Kimi RäikkönenFerrari51+2.460s18
311Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes51+4.024s15
45Sebastian VettelFerrari51+5.329s12
555Carlos SainzRenault51+7.515s10
616Charles LeclercSauber Ferrari51+9.158s8
714Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Renault51+10.931s6
818Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes51+12.546s4
92Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Renault51+14.152s2
1028Brendon HartleyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda51+18.030s1
119Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari51+18.512s0
1210Pierre GaslyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda51+24.720s0
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari51+40.663s0
1477Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG48DNF0
NC8Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari42DNF0
NC33Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer39DNF0
NC3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer39DNF0
NC27Nico HulkenbergRenault10DNF0
NC31Esteban OconForce India Mercedes0DNF0
NC35Sergey SirotkinWilliams Mercedes0DNF0