Race Report: Hamilton steals Azerbaijan Grand Prix win

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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was going to be a tale of the tires as Friday’s practice sessions showed us. There was little doubt that the Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft compounds were going to be a strategy challenge and getting heat in the compounds in the cool weather on Sunday added to the challenge.

Could Sebastian Vettel convert his pole position into a race win? Was Mercedes really that far off the pace? Could the long-run pace of the Red Bull cars provide a late-race surprise?

Those questions were answered with a few surprises such as a victory by a surprised Lewis Hamilton, a dual DNF by two surprised Red Bull drivers who took each other out of the race and a surprise podium for Force India’s Sergio Perez standing just behind Kimi Raikkonen in third.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A surprise lunge from Sebastian Vettel who blew his chance for victory falling back to fourth and a tragic surprise for race-leading Valtteri Bottas who suffered a puncture on the penultimate lap and lost what was presumably the race win. You never know but had Sebastian not made his ill-fated attempt, he may have inherited the lead of the race and the win given Valtteri’s tire trouble. As it is, he just lost the lead in the driver’s championship.

Lewis Hamilton had been uncomfortable with his car all weekend long and the radio activity showed his uneasiness but by keeping his head down, he capitalized on Safety Car periods, flat tires and miscalculations to steal a win and the lead in the driver’s championship. All is fair in love and racing and attrition is part of the game as is Safety Cars and flat tires.

Win

A win for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton who read the race strategy perfectly and although they are still on the back foot and taking too long to get their tires into the operating window, they managed to capitalize on Safety Car periods, get their drivers in position to win and redeem themselves from the Australian Safety Car strategy that handed the win to Ferrari. They needed help from others but they got that help in the form of a driver error from Sebastian Vettel and a Safety Car and that’s part of racing. Sometimes luck comes in handy.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A win for Sergio Perez who has had a podium slump of late and managed to overcome a 5s penalty for passing before the Safety Car line on the first restart to take third by passing a flat-spotted Vettel.

A win for Carlos Sainz who managed to finish 5th and open his account for a decent points-scoring season by driving a tidy race littered with Safety Car’s and debris.

A big win for Alfa Romeo Sauber’s Charles Leclerc who finished an astounding 6th place well in to the points and making his teammate look like a non-entity. Leclerc delivered a performance that many suspected he is capable of delivering. Leclerc is the first Monegasque to score points in a F1 race since 1950.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

With attrition up front, it was a win for both McLaren’s, the Williams of Lance Stroll and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley who all finished in the points.

Fail

A fail for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel who managed to lose the race despite having things completely in hand. The strategy was neutralized by the Safety Car and as Australia showed us, that can work for you or against you. In this case, It was against Vettel but his late lunge for the lead at the second Safety Car restart was an error that cost him dearly as Bottas ended up with a puncture and this could have handed the win to Sebastian. If Sebastian wants to win the title, he’ll need to tidy up his long game thinking just a s Kimi Raikkonen did in the race to secure second place and Lewis did to take the win. Seb seemed to be thinking race win and not title win on Sunday.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A big fail for the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen who took each other out on lap 40 with the former trying to make a pass down the front straight only to be blocked twice by the latter.

The double move is something that is not allowed and when Ricciardo deked (yes, a hockey term to make Paul Charsley happy) right and then back left, it appeared that Verstappen moved to block the right and then back to block the left. Both cars collided, and team boss Christian Horner was furious. There will be a long discussion about Max’s defense as Ricciardo clearly had a quicker car all day.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A big fail for Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who looked to be the cat amongst the pigeons and his teammate’s 5th place finish would suggest that had the German no binned it in the wall on lap 11, he may have had a podium finish or at least top 5 performance.

WTH

A WTH moment for Romain Grosjean who clouted the wall all by himself during the Safety Car period which extended the session several laps. The Frenchman was trying to get heat in his tires by swerving right and left but lost the back end and hit the wall. He was furious with himself and the team, quietly all stayed seated when he returned to the garage as a sign of their discontent.

Esteban Ocon has taking to the press blaming Kimi Raikkonen for their first lap collision that ended the Frenchman’s race but it seemed relatively clear that Kimi was well up the inside of Ocon and wasn’t simply going to disappear and turning in on the Finn wasn’t going to make that happen either.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A WTH moment for race stewards who didn’t see the chunk of metal on the track that ended a potential race win for Valtteri Bottas who drove and exceptional race executing strategy to out fox Ferrari and take the victory. The Finn suffered a puncture on lap 48 and handed the win to his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who sheepishly stole the win and the lead in the points race.

Results:

PosDriverCarLapsGap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes511h43m44.291s
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari512.460s
3Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes514.024s
4Sebastian VettelFerrari515.329s
5Carlos SainzRenault517.515s
6Charles LeclercSauber/Ferrari519.158s
7Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Renault5110.931s
8Lance StrollWilliams/Mercedes5112.546s
9Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren/Renault5114.152s
10Brendon HartleyToro Rosso/Honda5118.030s
11Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari5118.512s
12Pierre GaslyToro Rosso/Honda5124.720s
13Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari5130.663s
14Valtteri BottasMercedes48Tyre
Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari42Spun off
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault39Collision
Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault39Collision
Nico HulkenbergRenault10Spun off
Sergey SirotkinWilliams/Mercedes0Collision
Esteban OconForce India/Mercedes0Collision

Driver’s Championship

PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton70
2Sebastian Vettel66
3Kimi Raikkonen48
4Valtteri Bottas40
5Daniel Ricciardo37
6Fernando Alonso28
7Nico Hulkenberg22
8Max Verstappen18
9Sergio Perez15
10Carlos Sainz13
11Pierre Gasly12
12Kevin Magnussen11
13Charles Leclerc8
14Stoffel Vandoorne8
15Lance Stroll4
16Marcus Ericsson2
17Esteban Ocon1
18Brendon Hartley1
19Romain Grosjean0
20Sergey Sirotkin0

Constructor’s Championship

PosConstructorPoints
1Ferrari114
2Mercedes110
3Red Bull/Renault55
4McLaren/Renault36
5Renault35
6Force India/Mercedes16
7Toro Rosso/Honda13
8Haas/Ferrari11
9Sauber/Ferrari10
10Williams/Mercedes4
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Matt

Looking forward to the podcast dissection of this one… especially Paul’s take on the Red Bull debacle!

jakobusvdl

Its going to be a long podcast……

Rapierman

Donkey of the race to both Verstappen and Ricciardo. Reminds me of Vettel vs. Webber. :P

JohnTheRaceFan

RoGro blowing a points finish under SC is donkey-worthy as well.

subcritical71

Would agree with both but Seb could also get this award. You can’t win the race at the first turn, but you sure as hell can loose it. It’s a lesson that the racing gods have been trying to teach him for a while now.

Daniel

Let’s face it we had a donkey of the race then someone else went “here hold my beer” several times.

jakobusvdl

I was a bit mystified when Vettel was saying “I had to go for the win”.
Yeah Seb, but not at that corner!
It was such a low percentage oportunity at that corner on that lap.
I’m a fan of Vettel, but think he wasted a certain 2nd, possible win, for a potential ‘Glory shot’.

jakobusvdl

I think RoGro has sealed this one, self sabotage trumps all other driver errors.

subcritical71

I would agree… I wonder how everyone sees which one is Webber and which is Vettel?

For me its, Webber -> RIC, Vettel -> VER (not Jean Eric)

PuhadadaJensen

Baku taketh and giveth

B52RockLobster

Max has repeatedly moved under braking in previous races with no penalty given, so the result here was as predictable as it could be and I see no reason for him to stop this behavior.

As soon as they started bumping wheels the team should have told them to back off and drive smarter.

The Captain

“Eventually, when remotely close to each other, they were going to come together.”

Doesn’t this describe pretty much anyone who’s racing hard near Max at this point?

sunny stivala

I watched it over and over again, and what I see is number 33 second move was under braking. number 3 divebomb was no good and of no use this time, he should have waited for him to be sideways and divebombed him right in the center of the car so as to teach him a lesson he will not forget.

jakobusvdl

I think Ricciardo has more class than that, but I do think that comprehensively beating Verstappen in the drivers championship (again) will teach him a more painful lesson.

arrow044

Completely agree. I’m thinking either the team has decided to back Max over Ric, or they know Ric is on his way out to another team. So they are NOT going to do him any favors. Which is odd because I think Ric could of given Ham a hard time had he been shuffled past Max early on.

The Captain

Horner was probably afraid that ridiculously large Verstappen gang that hangs out in the garage would riot if he did.

Fabio

There’s defensive driving and then there’s just pig-headedness. Daniel had to bail on 3 overtaking maneuvers to avoid a collision but when it was Max’s turn to bail, boom!
He’s not a team player in the slightest.

arrow044

What a race! We’ll take it!!!! I can’t remember the last time Hamilton was leading the championship campaign so early in the season. Merc has it’s work cut out as the Ferrari is just too dominant. Hopefully consistent podiums continue until we regain our pace.

arrow044

Agreed. I think same was true last year. If it wasn’t for Ferrari implosion and demoralizing their #2 driver and Kimi underpeforming on his own, Mercedes wouldn’t of taken both crowns.

jakobusvdl

I don’t think that Ferrari have anything like the car margin that Mercedes enjoyed for four seasons, so their margins on their strategy calls is a lot tighter.
Though, I don’t think this race was won and lost on strategy calls.

thechainrule

You could say the same for Mercedes ala Bahrain and China. They can certainly put themselves in the position to win with the car that is currently not the outright fastest, but capitalization has been harder. These next few races (Spain, Monaco and Canada) should be quite telling of the Ferrari car and their brain trust.

StephenB.

What happened to Magnussen? He was in 10th before the restart and ended up last of the running cars well behind everyone else. Could the debris have come from him on the restart?

MIE

He lost tyre temperature behind the safety car and pitted for a new set of ultra softs the lap before the restart.

Edit – many apologies, that was Vandoorne.
Magnussen suffered car damage early in the race and didn’t help his cause banging wheels with Gasly on the re-start.

sunny stivala

No problem DAVE we all do that from time to time.

Nigel

I completely agree that Max was wrong to make a second move to the left, however, they are both at fault because Ricardo was coming in there HOT. Even if Max had exited stage right, there was absolutely no way Ricardo was making that corner.

Dr T

Hang about there – RIC comes in hot alot of the time and makes corners. He doesn’t have a history of overshooting…

It’s a bit hard when the car in front of you makes two moves and robs of you downforce at the last second

Michael H

“, It was against Vettel but his late lunge for the lead at the second Safety Car restart was an error that cost him dearly as Bottas ended up with a puncture and this could have handed the win to Sebastian.” Himdsight, in this case is not 20/20.Had Sebastian not made that move, no telling where Bottas would have been. He could have missed the debris. Seb, Hamilton, or kimi could have hit it. Optimistic move, not too far of from making it. Who knows what all would have transpired had he not pushed. People like Maxs aggression, beat up… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Wow, I enjoyed that race! It was nearly a chaotic as last year, with just as much controversy. I’d give it at least 4 stars for entertainment value. It was great to see the Renault’s racing the Red Bull’s in those early laps, and apparently having more speed on those long straights. The Red Bull collision was looking inevitable from the vigour of Ver-crash-en’s initial defences. When the collision finally came, it was obvious that a cooler head could have defended the move by staying right, letting Ricciardo slide by and taking the tighter line. We saw that done by… Read more »

sunny stivala

Re-Hartley, I know it might be just rumors but was mightily disappointed coming-on Dutch TV saying STR are having talks with Pascal Wehrlien about Hartley’s seat.

jakobusvdl

Its a ruthless business. I hope Hartley keeps the seat, he hasn’t shown well so far, but this weekend was a decent result.
I wonder who RBR are talking to about Ver-crash-en’s seat? Kyvat?

Dr T

They’ll keep VER, ditch RIC and get MAL back… RBR likes people who win races in underdog cars… You read it hear first…

sunny stivala

The good doctor and the spiceman are convinced they have their new Vettel so their second seat takes second seat in their priorities. we have seen that operating mode from them in the past. RBR need not worry or talk about drivers, their Immediate present priority is talking and securing an engine supply, in fact they already reported to have opened talks up with Honda. This because the sooner Renault sees their back sides the better Renault will be.

GaryKPDX

Whenever I yell at the TV, I say it was a good race (whatever the outcome).

subcritical71

Yes!!

jakobusvdl

There was so much drama in the race that the things that happened early on didn’t get a comment. Did anyone understand why Sirotkin got the penalty for the incident where he was sandwiched between Hulkenberg and Alonso, and (in my view) got chopped by Hulk, leading to contact with Alonso. In my view Sirotkin did nothing wrong, so why the penalty? And what about Raikonnen and Ocon? Was Raikonnen far enough up on the inside of Ocon to hold position, or should he have backed out? (He said himself that Ocon probably didn’t know he was there). Or should… Read more »

Will

The Sirotkin penalty was for trying to run straight through Perez into turn 2 not the Hulkenberg caused crash.

jakobusvdl

Thanks Will, there was so much going on that I don’t recall that Turn 2 incident.
Saw it today on an F1 highlights clip. The tap didn’t look penalty-worthy, more of a first lap incident. So in my view, a harsh call on Sirotkin. Not that it mattered as he was out shortly after.