Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has taken his first win of 2018, taking the lead in Baku with just three laps to go as teammate Valtteri Bottas suffered a late race puncture.
The race started in a now typically chaotic fashion in Baku, with several crashes on the opening lap and a short Safety Car period while debris was cleared. Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg all came together on the run down to Turn 3, resulting in the immediate retirement of Sirotkin. Alonso suffered two punctures, both his right hand tyres, but managed to make it back to the pits and was able to continue. Hulkenberg seemed relatively unscatched and was able to keep going.
In a separate incident, Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen also collided, with Raikkonen chopped by Ocon at the apex of Turn 3. The contact pitched Ocon into the wall, while Raikkonen was able to continue after pitting for a new nose and fresh tyres.
Up front, Sebastian Vettel held his lead ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas and spent the opening stint of the race slowly edging away from the Mercedes duo.
While Vettel and Hamilton stuck to their conventional strategies of single stopping roughly midway through the race, resulting in Vettel leading Hamilton by eight seconds after their pitstops, Valtteri Bottas stayed out on track on his SuperSofts and kept going later and later into the race.
The Safety Car period that Mercedes were clearly looking for came with 15 laps to go when the two Red Bulls collided while battling over P4. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo collided at Turn 1 when Ricciardo appeared to get his braking point wrong, resulting in both cars skating off into the escape area with terminal damage. Bottas dove into the pits, coming out in the lead ahead of Vettel, Hamilton and a now P4 Raikkonen, all now reset on UltraSoft tyres until the chequered flag. The Safety Car period was extended when Romain Grosjean, running P8, lost his Haas while struggling with the tyre temperatures and crashed into the wall. With four laps to go, the race resumed with Vettel immediately going for the inside of Bottas into Turn 1. Locking up, he slid wide and fell down to P4 behind Raikkonen.
Moments later, Bottas’ right rear tyre exploded at the end of the main straight and he was forced to retire, handing the lead to Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen finished P2 to Lewis, with Force India’s Sergio Perez getting past the struggling Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap. Vettel was forced to settle for P4, with Carlos Sainz finishing P5 for Renault.
Charles Leclerc finished a stellar P6 for Sauber, having looked strong throughout the entire weekend. This was after he managed to get past Fernando Alonso on the second last lap, with the Spaniard having to settle for P7 – still a strong showing considering his first lap travails and the extent of the damage to the McLaren. Lance Stroll finished P8 for Williams’ first points of the year, with Stoffel Vandoorne P9 in the second McLaren. Brendon Hartley took the final point with P10 for Toro Rosso.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly & Haas’ Kevin Magnussen were the last three classified finishers. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was the remaining retirement, crashing out in the early stages while running P4.