The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was not without misfortune and luck as punctures, crashes and mistiming all played a part in seeing four time World Champion Lewis Hamilton taking the checkered flag and earning his first win on the year.
Mercedes has been lagging behind Ferrari so far this year and were again in the third race of the season but it was luck that shining the way for Hamilton as it was rival Sebastian Vettel leading most of the way until a crash between the Red Bull drivers brought out the caution flag and safety car.
The restart saw Vettel push hard into the first corner only to over shoot the corner and give up two positions to Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton. It was seconds later that Bottas ran over debris that punctured his tire and that saw Lewis Hamilton move into first and taking the checkered flag.
Commenting on the race, Hamilton, who was slow to make it to the podium opting first to talk to his teammate, said it was one of mixed emotions stating,
“I wouldn’t have got by him in those laps if he hadn’t had that tire blowout.”
Yesterday’s win puts Hamilton atop the point standings after being behind in the first two races. This was his first win since winning the Drivers Champions last year. Hamilton said he does not believe the win is a turning point against Ferrari and his battle with Sebastian Vettel saying,
“I think Ferrari still have the upper hand,” he said. “This year, they’ve really outperformed us most of the time. We’ve been able to just hold onto them in the race, but our qualifying pace isn’t up to theirs.”
Second place went to Kimi Raikkonen, which gave Ferrari a boost in constructor points after the Finnish driver fell back to 14th after a minor collision early in the race. Raikkonen commented that he was not pleased with the cars performance saying that he fought to get the most out of it throughout the race.
After the restart and Vettel’s error, Sergio Perez went on to take third place and earn his first podium finish since 2016, it was also the first time Force India has had a podium win.
“It was a roller coaster of a race. The last two laps, they were the best two laps of my life.”
The race changer came as a result of Red Bull drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen racing without team orders colliding after fighting hard for fourth place. After multiple intense passes, Ricciardo ran into the back of Verstappen after he braked hard going into the first corner. The result saw both cars heavily damaged and both ending their race day, much to Team Red Bull’s disgust and receiving reprimands from race stewards.
The collision saw Valtteri Bottas in the lead after both Vettel and Hamilton pitted for new tires. Bottas would have had to stop shortly thereafter had it not been for the crash that gave him the chance to pit while under caution.
The race added further drama while under caution when Romain Grosjean, while swerving to maintain heat in his tires, lost control and hit the wall. When the safety car left the track, it was Vettel who came on hard into the first corner and failed to leave himself enough time for braking only to over shoot the corner and veer off onto the runoff area.
Hamilton is now ahead of Vettel by four points, Raikkonen is in third in the drives championship race With Daniel Ricciardo retirement yesterday, he drops to fifth and in post-race interviews, stated he may look to join a new team next year capable of putting a car together that can give him the ability to win a Championship title.
The next stop in the Formula 1 schedule is in Barcelona at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Practice sessions will take place on Friday, May 11th, with qualifying on the 12th and race day on the 13th. While there is hope other teams will begin to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari, it is expected the two teams will continue to lead the F1 season for another year.