It wasn’t quite as chaotic as last season’s classic race. Lewis Hamilton managed to emerge from the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix both unscathed and victorious to take the outright lead in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time this season.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikonnen clinched second place, whilst Force India’s Sergio Perez recorded a brilliant 3rd to take the final spot on the podium and hand his team some precious points.
Billed as perhaps the wackiest of races on the current Formula One calendar, strong cross winds and a very tight circuit ensured a dramatic race. From the get-go, mayhem ensured. Several cars clashed on the opening lap that resulted in a Safety Car being deployed on Lap 2 and staying out for several laps whilst marshals cleared both cars and debris from the track.
When the race finally got going, Sebastian Vettel settled into his groove and crafted a strong lead ahead of both Mercedes drivers. All was going well until the closing stages, when Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen clashed in the most dramatic of ways. Once again, it was the young Dutchman who was at fault. On the long straight, Ricciardo was advancing very quickly on his team mate and launched an overtake. Prancing to veer down Verstappen’s inside, the Australian dummied his team-mate and instead went for the overtake on the outside. To evade capture, Verstappen swerved not once but twice, against the laws of the sport, to block Ricciardo and force him to abandon his attack. It was too late however and instead of warding off his team-mate, he served to force Ricciardo to ram into him, taking both cars out of the race. Watching the double-retirement unfold, Adrian Newey picked up his folder in the pit-lane and walked back into the garage fuming at the loss of vital points.
It was to be the major turning point of the race; a Safety Car was called once again and the pack was backed up. Hamilton and Bottas were best positioned to win the race, having pitted under the SC, unlike their rival Vettel, who had already pitted a handful of laps previous.
Racing against the clock, it was Lewis Hamilton who would go on to clinch victory in fortuitous circumstances. His team-mate Bottas suffered an untimely puncture with two laps remaining, whilst a damaged Vettel limped home in P4.
You take any victory you get in F1 and this was no different for Hamilton. His win now puts him in control of his title destiny. He hasn’t had the best of starts to the season, but his Mercedes will only get better. Ferrari have proved however that they are a mighty challenger for the title this season, and so both driver and team will be pushed all the way.