Formula 1 news story about [F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX: RACE REVIEW

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has taken a lucky win in another crash-strewn, safety-car affected Azerbaijan Grand Prix, finally ending his 2018 victory drought.

The four-time F1 World Champion took advantage of a final safety car restart melee in which Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel dropped from second to fourth after an over-ambitious move on Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, and the Finn suffering a shock race-ending tyre puncture on the following lap.

Hamilton’s win, his first in Azerbaijan and 63rd overall, was care of the perfect storm in the race’s closing stages - with the Brit putting in a scrappy performance initially, struggling to close the gap before that to Bottas and Vettel up front.

The second safety car period came after a contentious crash between both Red Bull cars putting him in contention for the win at the restart, with the lead coming to him after that.

“[It was] really quite an emotional race,” Hamilton said.

“Valtteri [Bottas] did such an exceptional job today, and really deserved to have the win. Also, Sebastian [Vettel] did a great job. I think it was really fortunate today, so it feels a little bit odd to be up here, but I’ve got to take it. I didn’t give up, I kept pushing. But a very untidy race today.”

The sport now heads to Spain for the start of the European season, which begins in Barcelona on May 13th. And most teams expected to bring major updates to close the gap to their rivals.

1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 51 1:43:44.291 25
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 51 +2.460s 18
3 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 51 +4.024s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 51 +5.329s 12
5 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 51 +7.515s 10
6 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 51 +9.158s 8

Here’s how the FORMULA 1 2018 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:

Build Up:

The anticipation ahead of the start is sky-high, given last year’s chaotic event, winds of 80km/h expected during the race and a 50 per cent chance of a safety car in this the third visit to Baku on the shores of the Caspian Sea. A scheduled one-stop race could be far more exciting should anyone hit the barrier.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel starts from pole for the 53rd time in his career, his third-straight in 2018 and his first in Azerbaijan. Alongside are the two Silver Arrows, with fellow 4-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton on the front row in P2 - and the Brit yet to win a race this year, Valtteri Bottas starting from P3, with 2013 the last time neither Silver Arrow took victory in the first three races.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo starts from P4, and will be hoping for his second-straight win in 2018 and back-to-back victories in Baku. The Milton Keynes squad has a strong race car, with Max Verstappen in P5 on the clean side of the grid - and hoping to put a mistake-strewn season start behind him.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen starts from P6, but he’ll have to get off the grid on the ultrasoft tyres - the Finn having to do a last-blast lap on the softest rubber with no more new supersofts available in Q2. He’ll should have a better start than those around him, but will likely be a on a two-stop.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon starts P7, ahead of Sergio Perez - the Frenchman ahead of his teammate for the second time in four races. Renault’s Carlos Sainz starts ninth, ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg, who got a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. While both Williams are next, Lance Stroll ahead of Sergey Sirotkin - but will they be mobile chicanes at the start? A chance for a messy run down to Turn 1.

We are expecting a one-stop race here, with the quickest route to the chequered flag for those starting on the supersofts - a stop around Lap 20 for the yellow softs. But what will Raikkonen do? How will need to get a good start to move ahead of the Red Bulls, at least, to help Vettel out as rear gunner. And he almost went into the wall on his way to the grid. Cool temps for the start, with ambient at 17 degrees Celsius, and track temp just 27 degrees.

Formation Lap:
The top-five are all on used supersofts, with Raikkonen, both Force Indias, and Sainz on ultrasofts. Both Williams, Alonso (P12) and Leclerc (P13) are on supersofts, as are Magnussen (P15), Vandoorne (P16) and Ericsson (P18). Hartley (P19) and Grosjean (P20) are on the softs.

Lap 1:
Polesitter Vettel gets a good start, closes off Hamilton who goes into P2 - with Bottas retaining P3 ahead of Ricciardo and Verstappen. There was contact into Turn 2, a lot of debris as the field goes into Turn 2. Ocon tapped into the wall by Raikkonen at Turn 3. Sirotkin is also out of the race. The safety car is deployed. Mercedes mechanics are in the pit lane. Alonso has a double puncture as well on the right side of the car, he’s dropping down the order.

Lap 2:
Raikkonen pits. Safety car still out. Vettel leads Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Sainz, Stroll, Perez, Hulkenberg and Gasly closes out the top-10. Alonso pits for softs and new front wing, Magnussen has the same affliction after contact out of Turn 3 with the Spaniard.

Lap 3:
We’re still under the safety car. Replays showing Ocon/Raikkonen clash, with the Finn looking ahead on the inside - but a racing incident. And Sirotkin crashed into the back of Perez in the entry to Turn 3. So the Force Indias in the wars in Azerbaijan. Alonso looks set to retire with damage more extensive than first thought.

Lap 4:
Still under the safety car. Order is: VET, HAM, BOT, RIC, VER, SAI, STR, HUL, GAS, LEC, VAN, RAI, HAR, GRO, PER, MAG, ALO, ERI. OCO and SIR have retired. Pirelli saying soft tyre can last for 45 laps.

Lap 5:
We’re under safety car conditions. Vettel complaining about more debris on the track. Marshals picking up carbon fibre shards. Ricciardo confirms his supersoft tyres are still OK. Safety car will be in at the end of this lap. Vettel will need to time his start perfectly to not catch the safety car at the end of the lap. Vettel weaving on straight down to main straight.

Lap 6:
Vettel very slow to start, bunching pack. He gets away on the run past grid. He retains his lead, Hamilton second. Bottas third. Verstappen tapes Ricciardo into Turn 2. Sainz passes Ricciardo too and challenges Verstappen into Turn 3, but can’t get past. Ricciardo is under fire from Gasly, with Hulkenberg in P8 behind him.

Lap 7:
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:51.316. He’s 2-seconds faster than Hamilton behind him. Verstappen keeps Sainz behind him into Turn 1, the pair challenging for P3. Ricciardo shadowing the fighting pair. Raikkonen is in P11 and 1-second behind Leclerc in the Sauber. Vettel absolutely flying, setting purple sectors.

Lap 8:
Vettel sets another fastest lap, a 1:49.587, and leads Hamilton by 2.8 seconds. Sainz is challenging Verstappen again into Turn 1, but cannot get past - the Spaniard on the ultrasofts. Hulkenberg passes Gasly for P7 along the pit straight.

Lap 9:
It’s another fastest lap for Vettel, but it’s immediately bettered by Hamilton with a 1:48:376. Sainz passes Verstappen into Turn 1, while Hulkenberg does the same on Ricciardo for P6. So the order is Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas, Sainz, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Stroll, Leclerc and Raikkonen. Hulkenberg told Verstappen is low on battery.

Lap 10:
Hulkenberg passes Verstappen for P5 into Turn 1. Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:47.814. He’s on the same pace as Vettel. They’re the only ones on 1:47s. Verstappen in P6 has a train of cars behind him - Ricciardo, Stroll, Leclerc and Raikkonen.

Lap 11:
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:47.192. He’s still 2.3 seconds adrift of leader Vettel. Ricciardo challenges his teammate Ricciardo for P6 but can’t pass into Turn 1. Hulkenberg has a puncture, and has turned off the track at Turn 5. He ht the wall at Turn 4.

Lap 12:
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:47.053. He’s now 2.2 seconds behind Vettel. Bottas is P3. Ricciardo and Verstappen racing hard into Turn 1, Verstappen stays ahead and the pair are really pushing into Turn 4. Hamilton has lost time on Vettel, he’s now 3.8 seconds down on Vettel. Something has happened, perhaps had a moment.

Lap 13:
Vettel has responded with the fastest lap, a 1:46.825. He’s 1.1 seconds faster than Hamilton on that last lap. 3.3 seconds the gap between the pair. Ricciardo asks how he can charge the battery, to try and pass his teammate. Branch has fallen on the track. Race starting to settle down. Top three covered by 9.3 seconds.

Lap 14:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 3.5 seconds, with the Brit having done a personal best lap - two tenths slower than Vettel’s last. Sainz in P4 is 13 seconds behind Bottas. Stroll in P8 is less than a second behind Leclerc, with Raikkonen behind the pair. Ricciardo told his battery is filling up, despite it draining on straights. Could both Red Bulls be experiencing significant issues?

Lap 15:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 3.5 seconds. Raikkonen passes Stroll for P8 into Turn 1. He now has Leclerc ahead. Sainz on the ultrasofts looks to be struggling, may pit soon. Verstappen is right behind him, as they approach the end of the lap.

Lap 16:
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.722. Sainz pits from P4, releasing Verstappen. The Spaniard onto the softs, 3.3 second stop so quite slow there. Order is Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo. Hamilton shown going wide at Turn 16, and he’s now 4.8 seconds behind Vettel - who looks to be very composed.

Lap 17:
Vettel leads Hamilton by 4.4 seconds. Bottas in P3 is 5.4 seconds behind. Verstappen in P4 is 19-seconds behind the Finn. Ricciardo is less than a second behind his teammate. Raikkonen has passed Leclerc into Turn 1 and is up to P6. Vettel looks comfortable out front, and he’s extended his lead to 4.6 seconds.

Lap 18:
DRS zone 1 is not automatic (on back straight), manual override approved. Vettel leads Hamilton by 4.8 seconds. No drivers are within 1-second of each other. Vandoorne pits from P13. Ericsson is reversing at Turn 15 after outbraving himself.

Lap 19:
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.597. He’s closed the gap to the leader to 4.2 seconds - and closing.

Lap 20:
Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.475. He’s responding to Hamilton’s pace, with the Brit immediately bettering the lap, a 1:46.331. Ericsson handed a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision with Magnussen on the opening lap.

Lap 21:
Hamilton responds, another fastest lap - a 1:46.120. He’s now 3.7 seconds behind Vettel. Perez passes Stroll for P8 into Turn 1. Bottas in P3 is in a race of his own, 7.9 seconds off Hamilton, 0.7 slower than his teammate.

Lap 22:
Hamilton misses turn 1, and goes wide. “Something’s happening,” he said. He’s now 7.4 seconds behind Vettel. “These tyres are done,” he says further on in the lap, so will pit now.

Lap 23:
Vettel leads, while Hamilton pits from P2. He’s onto the softs, and a 2.8 second stop - exits ahead of Verstappen in P3. Sainz passes Alonso for P11 along the main straight, big speed differential.

Lap 24:
Vettel leads Bottas by 12.6 seconds. Hamilton is 17.7 seconds adrift of his teammate in P3. Verstappen in P4 is just 0.8 seconds behind Hamilton. Perez given 5-second time penalty for overtaking before the safety car line at restart.

Lap 25:
Vettel leads Bottas by 11.7 seconds - the Finn has just done a personal best lap, 0.6 seconds faster than the leader. Leclerc pits for softs, 2.8 second stop. No cars within 1-second at this point.

Lap 26:
Vettel leads Bottas by 11.6 seconds, the Finn 0.3 seconds faster than the leader on that last lap. Verstappen told to keep it clean in battle with Ricciardo, 1.1 seconds between the pair.

Lap 27:
Vettel in control at the front, 10.4 seconds the gap - despite Bottas cutting into his lead, 0.4 seconds that last lap. Ricciardo passes Verstappen into Turn 1, but the Dutchman goes aggressive into Turn 2 and grabs the place back. Ricciardo set the fastest lap, a 1:45.883 - so he’s got the pace here.

Lap 28:
Vettel leads Bottas by 10.6 seconds, the German three tenths faster on that last lap. Hamilton is 18.5 seconds behind in P3. Verstappen stays ahead of Ricciardo in P4. Hamilton says there’s still a way to go on these tyres, with his engineer responding that they will last until the end of the race. Replay shows Alonso having a huge lock up into Turn 1.

Lap 29:
Vettel leads Bottas by 9.9 seconds, the Finn half a second faster on that last lap - so Vettel needs to think very carefully about his stop. Grosjean in P8 is chasing down Perez, 0.9 seconds the gap.

Lap 30:
Vettel leads Bottas, who has just set the fastest lap - a 1:45.827. The gap between them just 9.6 seconds. Both yet to stop. Ricciardo is now just 0.8 seconds behind Verstappen. Raikkonen says he keeps locking up his tyres, he’s in P6.

Lap 31:
Vettel pits from the lead, goes onto the softs - very quick stop, just 2.3 seconds. Bottas takes over the lead. Vettel gets out ahead of Hamilton in P2, so strategy worked. Will Bottas start backing Vettel back into Hamilton? The Brit is 8.3 seconds behind his rival.

Lap 32:
Bottas leads, but is yet to stop - he’s 11.6 seconds ahead of Vettel. Hamilton is in P3, ahead of Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen. Verstappen has just set the fastest lap, a 1:45.771. Top-10 is BOT, VET, HAM, VER, RIC, RAI, PER, GRO, SAI. Leaders have lapped up to Magnussen in P13, the Dane the last on the lead lap.

Lap 33:
Bottas lead Vettel by 12.1 seconds - the Finn 0.3 seconds faster than his rival on that last lap. The Red Bulls are staying out, can they go longer and have a quick final stint on ultrasofts and go for the win? It’s an exciting proposition.

Lap 34:
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:45.595. He’s 12.7 seconds up on Vettel in P2. Hamilton is now 7.3 seconds adrift of Vettel in P3. Verstappen says he’s losing temp on tyres. Incidentally, Vettel’s out lap was 1.6 seconds faster than Hamilton’s.

Lap 35:
Ricciardo goes for the move on Verstappen and takes P4 with a late braking move into Turn 1. Amazing move around the outside! Ricciardo also sets the fastest lap of the race, with a 1:45.419 (2-seconds faster than Bottas). He knows he can go for the win, with a long first stint. The Australian told to stretch his legs.

Lap 36:
Bottas leads Vettel by 11.4 seconds. Hamilton 6.7 seconds adrift in P3. Ricciardo pulled out a second on Verstappen on last lap to make that move, he’s now 1-second ahead of the Dutchman. Hamilton sets the fastest lap of the race, a 1:45.412, four tenths faster than Vettel.

Lap 37:
Bottas now 11.6 seconds up on Vettel, with 15 laps to go. Then it’s Hamilton in P3, and Ricciardo who is 4.3 seconds behind the Brit. Can he close the gap there? Hamilton complaining about blue flags, with Gasly in the way. Verstappen struggling on tyres, told his stop is close.

Lap 38:
Ricciardo passes Gasly before pitting, he goes onto the ultrasofts. It’s a 2.2 second stop, he comes out in P5 ahead of Raikkonen.

Lap 39:
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:45.149. Verstappen pits for the ultrasofts, and exits ahead of Ricciardo with the Australian having a slow out-lap. Ricciardo told to get after Verstappen ahead for him to make another move.

Lap 40:
Ricciardo tries to pass Verstappen into Turn 1, and they touch on the run down to Turn 1 - the pair’s race destroyed. Safety car will have to be deployed, but yellow flags at this point. Safety car deployed. Bottas pits from the lead, as does Vettel and Hamilton.

Lap 41:
Safety car still out and will lead cars through the pit lane as debris on track. Raikkonen pits. Bottas leads Vettel, Hamilton. Safety car will now use pit straight.

Lap 42:
Still under safety car. Bottas leads Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Perez, Grosjean, Sainz, Leclerc, Stroll and Alonso in the top-10. Replays show Ricciardo so committed to the pass, and unable to go anywhere - and makes contact with Verstappen. Lapped cars told to pass now, to get past the safety car.

Lap 43:
We’re still under the safety car, with 15 runners and five retirements including Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Ocon and Sirotkin out. Horner says he’ll make no comments until he’s spoken to the drivers, which underlines how upset he is about the contact. Alonso says circuit is clean so wants to have the restart. Grosjean has hit the wall under the safety car at Turn 13, in trying to get temperature. A nightmare for Haas, with the Frenchman running sixth.

Lap 44:
We’re still under the safety car, with the Haas of Grosjean still yet to be recovered. Medical car on track but Grosjean thankfully OK. The car is now being recovered by a flatbed truck.

Lap 45:
We’re still under the safety car. Order: Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Perez, Sainz, Leclerc, Stroll, Alonso, Magnussen, Gasly, Hartley, Vandoorne and Ericsson. Grosjean’s car still yet to be recovered, but the Frenchman is back at the garage though he walks straight through to the back.

Lap 46:
We’re still under the safety car, but the Haas is now being lifted onto the back of a truck. How many racing laps are we going to see? Hopefully we will get underway in another lap or two. Truck is still on the track, but starting to move away from the scene - but very slowly. Another lap at least for the F1 cars.

Lap 47:
Haas still being moved away as field goes another lap behind the safety car. Vandoorne pits from the back, and goes onto another set of the ultrasofts. Safety car coming at the end of this lap. Bottas backing the pack through Turn 16, like Vettel did last time.

Lap 48:
Bottas leads, but Hamilton goes after Vettel. Vettel goes down the inside to try and take Bottas and locks up costing places - he’s back in fourth now. It’s now a Mercedes one-two. Will we see Hamilton and Bottas swapping places for the championship? Alonso is past Stroll and up into P8.

Lap 49:
Bottas has a puncture at Turn 1, going over debris along the main straight, and slows. Hamilton goes into the lead. This is incredible. Bottas sliding down the order. “Oh my god, it just blew up on me!” exclaims Bottas. He’s stopped the car and retired. Hamilton is now on the attack up front, and looking very strong. Perez passed Vettel for P3, and is up into a podium place - he’s pitted and taken 5-second time penalty so will keep it.

Lap 50:
Hamilton leads Raikkonen, and Perez. Vettel in P4 is staying in touch with Perez. DRS is enabled. The Red Bull Racing clash will be investigated after the race.

Lap 51 – FINAL LAP:
Hamilton wins the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, his first race win in 2018 - and first since last year’s United States Grand Prix. He’s broken his longest winless streak. And takes the championship lead!

1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 51 1:43:44.291 25
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 51 +2.460s 18
3 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 51 +4.024s 15
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 51 +5.329s 12
5 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 51 +7.515s 10
6 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 51 +9.158s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 51 +10.931s 6
8 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 51 +12.546s 4
9 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 51 +14.152s 2
10 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 51 +18.030s 1
11 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 51 +18.512s 0
12 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 51 +24.720s 0
13 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 51 +40.663s 0
14 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 48 DNF 0
NC 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 42 DNF 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 39 DNF 0
NC 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 10 DNF 0
NC 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 0 DNF 0