Vettel hits Hamilton twice as Ricciardo wins chaotic Azerbaijan GP
Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Vettel hits Hamilton twice as Ricciardo wins chaotic Azerbaijan GP

Daniel Ricciardo claimed a shock win for Red Bull in a wild and controversial Azerbaijan Grand Prix which saw a major flashpoint between title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

In a race that was chaotic from the opening lap, when Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen clashed while scrapping for second, Hamilton led through two Safety Car restarts and a full race restart following a red flag period. It was just before the second Safety Car restart where the flashpoint occurred, with Vettel running into the back of Hamilton as he managed pace behind the Safety Car.

In a moment likely to become the most controversial of the season, an irate Vettel then pulled up alongside Hamilton and drove into the side of his title rival, something which later earned the championship leader a 10-second stop-go penalty. The drama did not end there for Hamilton, as he was forced into an unscheduled pit-stop shortly after the final restart so Mercedes could secure his car's headrest, which had come loose during the long wait in the pit lane.

Through all the drama Ricciardo, who had been forced into an early stop and had been 17th on lap six, rose through the order to lead. His drive back to the front included a ballsy lunge on the equally-impressive Lance Stroll mid-way through the race. Stroll held second until the final metres of the race, when he was caught and passed by Bottas, but still held on to a remarkable first podium of his F1 career. Bottas' podium came having been last and a lap down after his early tangle with Raikkonen.

Vettel finished ahead of Hamilton in fourth, with the Mercedes driver repeatedly questioning why Vettel only recieved a ten-second penalty. Esteban Ocon recovered from a disastrous collision with Force India teammate Sergio Perez to finish sixth as the team appeared to squander big points for the second race in succession. Kevin Magnussen claimed seventh for Haas ahead of Carlos Sainz and McLaren's Fernando Alonso, who lamented during the race that the team could have won the crazy grand prix with a better power unit. Pascal Wehrlein rounded out the top ten ahead of Sauber teammate Marcus Ericsson.

The chaotic race was not limited to the top ten. Kimi Raikkonen spent much of the race in the wars, suffering damage in the early clash with Bottas and then sustaining a puncture from debris at the mid-way point. Felipe Massa had been leading Williams teammate Stroll after the final restart but soon fell down the order with a car issue, eventually retiring. Nico Hulkenberg had appeared to be in a great position to attack for a first podium of his F1 career, but a brush with the wall ended his race prematurely.

Hamilton led away from pole position as Bottas blocked Vettel on the inside of Turn 1. Bottas then came under pressure from Raikkonen around the outside of Turn 2 and clipped the kerb on the inside, making contact with the Finn and putting his fellow countryman into the wall. Bottas' car was left with a puncture and he crawled back to the pits for new tyres and a new nose, but emerged last.

The Toro Rosso drivers also continued their heated recent rivalry as Carlos Sainz was pitched into a spin he blamed on teammate Daniil Kvyat's aggressive return to the track having run wide at Turn 1. Ricciardo soon pitted for Red Bull after collecting debris into his race ducts and emerged 17th. At this point Hamilton led Vettel by just 4s, suggesting Mercedes and Ferrari were closely matched on race pace.

There was soon drama for the other Red Bull as Verstappen, who had been battling for Perez and looking in great shape for a strong result, slowed and returned to the pits to retire. "Here we go again, for f---- sake," was the teenager's reply on the radio. It marked his fourth retirement in six races and the teenager cut a frustrated figure as he climbed from the car in the pitlane. The race was soon neutralised when Kvyat's Toro Rosso suffered reliability issues and retired from 11th.

The Safety Car prompted a flurry of pit stops and came back in on lap 16, with Hamilton appearing to come very close to overtaking the car before the Safety Car line. Though the race started again without incident, the Safety Car was soon re-deployed due to debris at Turn 1. Race leader Hamilton was unhappy at the pace of the Mercedes car ahead of him, saying the Safety Car needed to speed up with tyre temperatures critical.

The major incident of the race -- and quite possibly the 2017 championship season -- came on lap 17 as Lewis Hamilton led behind the Safety Car. As he prepared for the second restart of the race, Hamilton started to bunch the pack up at Turn 15. Vettel, seemingly expecting Hamilton to accelerate out of the corner, clouted the rear of the Mercedes.

Data from Hamilton's car showed he was on the brakes ahead of the corner and just as he exited, while Vettel got on the throttle as he exited the corner. Parts of Vettel's front wing flew into the air and the Ferrari driver immediately opened his radio channel to accuse Hamilton of "brake testing" him.

What happened next will undoubtedly become the major talking point from the race -- Vettel pulled up alongside Hamilton, angrily waving his right hand in the air and turning across and making contact with the right wheels of his championship rival. Hamilton went on to lead the restart away as normal before a red flag followed a lap later to clear debris as the stewards confirmed the collision was being investigated.

After the race restarted for a third time, the drama continued, with Hamilton having to pit on lap 31 so Mercedes could firmly secure his car's headrest, which had come loose during the long red-flag stoppage. That promoted Vettel into the lead of the race just as his 10-second stop-go penalty was confirmed for dangerous driving. Though the German repeatedly questioned Ferrari when he had driven dangerously, he pitted to serve the penalty on lap 34, emerging ahead of Hamilton.

After the red flag, Hamilton led Vettel but a move behind proved to be decisive in the outcome of the race. As Stroll and Massa diced for third position, Ricciardo moved to the inside and out-braked the young Canadian to claim third. He was soon leading the race as Hamilton pitted for a headset re-fit and Vettel served his penalty.

On lap 25, Kevin Magnussen put Haas into third position by passing Kevin Magnussen and Massa, with the latter dropping through the order with a car issue. Hulkenberg appeared to be in a good position to end his wait for a Formula One podium but soon tagged the wall at Turn 5, putting him out of the race and leading to a flurry of expletives on the radio.

Attention then turned to the championship contenders behind, with Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton closing on Esteban Ocon -- running third having passed Magnussen. Bottas got by on lap 40 to move into third, with Vettel passing two laps later to put the pink car between himself and the chasing Hamilton. At this stage Williams asked Stroll for "all green" sectors in the closing laps as Bottas continued to slash away at the gap. The 18-year-old stayed calm under pressure and looked set to have second, only for Bottas to catch and pass just metres before the line.

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