Formula 1 returned to Azerbaijan for the third time last weekend, and the Land of Fire again delivered a thrilling, heated battle.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton earning a lucky win in Baku with the 4-time F1 World Champion snatching the lead from third, after chaos at the second safety car restart forced Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas out of contention in successive laps.
At lights out, polesitter Vettel got a good start to lead comfortably into Turn 1, followed by Hamilton and teammate Bottas.
The safety car came out after carnage at Turn 3, Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen pushing Force India’s Esteban Ocon into the wall.
Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin also retired there, after crashing into the back of Sergio Pérez at Turn 2. The Russian rookie then got sandwiched by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg - destroying his suspension.
On Lap 6, the race restarted with Vettel leading Hamilton and Bottas. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen passing Daniel Ricciardo for fourth into Turn 2. Renault’s Carlos Sainz took advantage of Red Bull’s battery issues and his ultrasoft tyres – passing Ricciardo at Turn 3, and Verstappen on Lap 9 for fourth.
Up-front, Vettel and Hamilton traded fastest laps but the Brit struggled on the supersofts, 7.4 seconds the gap before his stop on Lap 22. Bottas, in P2, went on a charge, though – taking the lead on Lap 30, when Vettel stopped.
On Lap 35, Ricciardo passed Verstappen with a late-braking move into Turn 1, pitting two laps later – but a slow out-lap dropped him behind the Dutchman again. And on Lap 40, Ricciardo slammed into the back of his teammate, desperate to get past, taking them both out - for safety car number two.
At the restart on Lap 48, Vettel in second made a desperate move on leader Bottas – but couldn’t make it stick, dropping back to fourth.
The next lap Bottas suffered a dramatic puncture, after running over some debris on the straight, ending his race – and catapulting Hamilton into the lead, which he retained all the way to the flag.