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Azerbaijan GP: Hamilton inherits victory as Red Bulls collide

Written by  Apr 30, 2018

Lewis Hamilton benefitted from a dramatic turn of events late on to take his first victory of the 2018 Formula 1 season at the Azerbaijan GP.

The Briton had looked to have lost his chance of victory when, running second, he locked his brakes into Turn 1 trying to keep pace with long-time leader Sebastian Vettel and was forced to pit earlier than most for new tyres.

However, a collision between the two Red Bulls brought out a Safety Car which not only closed up the field but allowed Valtteri Bottas on a longer strategy to pit and keep the lead from the Ferrari driver with a final four-lap dash to the finish.

Vettel would try to attack the Mercedes in front immediately at the restart but would lock his brakes diving down the inside into Turn 1, dropping the German to fourth.

But disaster would strike for Bottas at the end of the lap after he ran over debris on the main straight causing a tyre failure which took the Finn out of the race.

That left the pathway clear for the current world champion to come home and take his first win since Austin last year, his longest streak without a victory in the hybrid era.

Kimi Raikkonen would be involved in an incident with Esteban Ocon on a hectic first lap, with the two drivers colliding at Turn 3. The 'Iceman' would hobble back to the pits with a puncture, switching to the Soft compound tyre which he would run for the rest of the race to take second.

Sergio Perez was also buffeted on the opening lap, but he too would benefit from the Red Bull controversy and would then pass a weakened Vettel in the closing stages to finish third and take his second podium in Baku.

The Ferrari driver would finish fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz, who was involved in an excellent battle with both Red Bulls early on, passing them on the Ultrasoft tyre. His strategy of pitting early would hamper his race a little but the late drama would enable another strong result for the Spaniard.

The Driver of the Day was Charles Leclerc for Sauber in sixth as the F2 champion produced a brilliant performance to take his first points in F1.

The most remarkable result perhaps belonged to Fernando Alonso in seventh as the McLaren driver suffered two punctures after colliding with Sergey Sirotkin on the opening lap.

He would manage to get back to the pits and fought through floor and other damage to continue his seven-race points streak, dating back to Mexico last year.

Lance Stroll scored Williams' first points of the year in eighth with Stoffel Vandoorne ninth in the second McLaren. Brendon Hartley would also manage his first F1 point in 10th for Toro Rosso.

The big controversy though was the collision between the two Red Bull drivers, something that had looked on the cards throughout the race in Azerbaijan.

Max Verstappen produced a bold move into Turn 2 at the first Safety Car restart to move ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, but from that point, it was the Australian who appeared faster.

The two Renaults would complex the picture early on as their pace on the Ultrasoft tyre was better compared to the Bulls on Supersoft.

Sainz would benefit from Verstappen's initial move to jump Ricciardo and the Spaniard would then use battery issues on the Dutchman's car to drive past using DRS.

Nico Hulkenberg would do the same but soon after would see his race end in the barriers at Turn 4.

The battle resumed when Sainz pitted with Ricciardo able to slipstream past on the main straight but each time Verstappen would refuse to yield at Turn 1, rubbing wheels on one occasion and barging past at Turn 2 on another.

Daniel had finally looked to have done the deal when he passed Max into Turn 1 on Lap 31 but by pitting one lap sooner than allowed the 20-year-old to stay out and emerge ahead when he changed tyres.

Then came the incident as Ricciardo closed in with DRS and looked to dummy his teammate by switching to the inside at the last moment but Verstappen would come back across leaving the Chinese GP winner with nowhere to go but straight into the back of his Red Bull.

The stewards later reprimanded both drivers for the incident.

The other non-finisher was Romain Grosjean as the Frenchman lost control of his Haas trying to warm up his tyres behind the Safety Car and slammed into the wall in an embarrassing moment.

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