Daniel Ricciardo recovered from a qualifying crash, a tenth-place start, an unscheduled early pit stop to avoid damage and a drop to 17th place after six laps to take a stunning victory in a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix that features three quickfire safety periods, a red flag and incidents galore. However, the joy was tempered by Max Verstappen being forced to retire after just 12 laps.
At the start it was Max who profited most. Going into Turn 2, second-on-the grid Valtteri Bottas found himself on the inside of third place starter Kimi Raikkonen. With nowhere to go on the tight corner entry Bottas clattered over the kerb on the inside of the turn and was launched into the left side of Raikkonen’s car.
While Raikkonen emerged largely unscathed and finished the lap in P5, Bottas suffered front wing damage and a punctured front right. He limped back to the pits for repairs and resumed a lap down on the field.
The incident allowed Max to jump through to fourth place behind the Force India of Sergio Perez who had made a super start to tuck in behind leader Lewis Hamilton and second-placed Sebastian Vettel. Daniel, meanwhile, started in tenth place after crashing out in Q3 on Saturday but after Bottas’ descent he climbed to P9.
Both Red Bulls then began to a tough spell. Within a couple of laps Max was on the radio voicing concerns about his engine, with the response coming that the team was concerned that he might have debris in the radiator ducts and that the situation was being monitored. After five laps Daniel was brought into the pits for an early stop and to clear debris from his brake ducts, which was causing overheating. He resumed the race with fresh soft tyres but down in 17th place.
Max continued to press forward, closing on Perez. However soon after lap 11 he experience a loss off power and began to drop back. Almost simultaneously the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat expired and the Russian was forced to pull over that the side of the track. With his car in an awkward spot, the Safety Car was deployed. It caused a flurry of pit stops, with the bulk of the frontrunners stopping for fresh rubber. Unfortunately for Max his own visit to the pit lane as the SC took the track was more than temporary. The Dutchman was forced to retire after 12 laps.
When racing resumed, Vettel in P2 was immediately put under pressure by Perez. The German resisted and held the spot. The racing was brief, however, as within moments the Safety Car was back in circulation, this time for debris shed from Raikkonen’s car and elsewhere on track.
During this period as stops occurred and the pack shuffled, Daniel who had clambered back to P9 rose to P6. Better was to come. When the SC departed this time, Vettel was swamped by attackers, with Perez being joined by Williams’ Felipe Massa and the second Force India of Esteban Ocon. Perez failed to get past the German but as the Mexican was baulked Massa snuck into third down the inside of Turn 1. That left Perez to duel for position with his team-mate. It didn’t end well. The pair collided and both were forced back to the pit for repairs.
The clash left more debris on the track and with incidents coming thick and fast the SC was deployed for a third time and this time the spell behind the pace car would have a key impact on the race. Daniel was now in P5 behind Hamilton, Vettel, Mass and Stroll but up ahead Hamilton lifted on the exit of a corner, apparently catching Vettel unawares. The German ran into the back of the Mercedes. Incensed and feeling that he had been brake tested, Vettel drew alongside his rival and banged wheels with the Mercedes. The incident was soon put under investigation by the stewards but not before the red flag was shown, the race being halted after 22 laps to allow for marshals to clear the accumulating debris. When the race started again, Daniel made a decisive and stunning move. On the SC’s last lap, third-placed Massa reported a problem with his care (eventually Identified as a broken damper). When the action resumed he was attacked by Stroll. Massa moved to defend and Daniel sensing the opportunity powered down the inside. Braking far later than Stroll he managed to steal two places and slot into third behind leader Hamilton and Vettel.
The race then swung towards Red Bull Racing. First Hamilton was told to box as a loos head restraint could not be corrected by the driver and moments later Vettel was handed a 10-second stop and go penalty by the stewards.
OUR RACE IN NUMBERS:
- 5 – career victories for Daniel.
- 53 – victories now for the team.
- 92 – points now for Daniel as he holds P4 in the Drivers’ standings 19 points behind Bottas.
Hamilton pitted and emerged in P8 and when Vettel took his penalty and emerged in P7, Daniel inherited the race lead. It was a gift the Aussie would not refuse.Over the closing laps a resurgent Bottas closed in after the SCs had allowed him to unlap himself, but the gap, up to 20s, was always too much and though the Finn managed to pass Stroll across the line in a dramatic finish, Daniel effortlessly marched to his fifth career victory and his first since last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
With Bottas second and Stroll third, Vettel was forced to settle for fourth ahead of Hamilton. Ocon was sixth, with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen seventh. Carlos Sainz finished in eighth place for Toro Rosso, Fernando Alonso was ninth for McLaren and the final point was taken by Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein.
2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Result
1. Daniel Ricciardo
2. Valtteri Bottas
3. Lance Stroll
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Lewis Hamilton
6. Esteban Ocon
7. Kevin Magnussen
8. Carlos Sainz
9. Fernando Alonso
10. Pascal Wehrlein
DNF Max Verstappen