World champion Lewis Hamilton came away with a surprise victory today at an eventful Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Hamilton was gifted the win after Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas suffered a puncture while leading the race with only two laps to go.
Bottas’s right-rear tyre damage was caused by some on-track debris and it cost him his race. He eventually had a DNF, which cleared the way for a trailing Hamilton to claim his first victory of the season. The result was also Hamilton’s 63rd career victory.
Hamilton had a winning race time of one hour 43 minutes 44.291 seconds.
Also riding their luck onto podium places were Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Force India’s Sergio Perez.
Raikkonen started from sixth on the grid and had to pit early after a first-lap collision with Perez’s teammate Esteban Ocon. He managed to fight his way back to complete the race 2.460s behind Hamilton. Perez completed the top three 4.024s adrift.
Prior to Bottas’s puncture, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel appeared to be headed for a pole-to-flag win until the Red Bull Racing pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen crashed on lap 41, deploying the safety car and completely altering the course of the race.
Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton pitted and racing resumed later on with Bottas in the lead. Vettel tried to get back into the lead on lap 47, but he locked up as he made his move on Bottas and in the process lost three places.
That set the stage for race’s dramatic finish and Hamilton’s stunning win.
Hamilton commented: “I have very mixed emotions today. Valtteri deserved to win, he did an exceptional job and had a faultless drive. This is such a crazy and exciting race and I never gave up.
“I was constantly pushing but it was a real struggle. I feel incredibly grateful to come out with the win. You have to take the ups with the downs and I can’t complain that I won; I will take it and hopefully learn from today.
“But Valtteri was very, very unfortunate, a one-two would have been a great result for the team. I would not have got by him in the remaining laps if he hadn’t had his tyre blow. We definitely have some work to do, but we are in the mix and it’s going to be very close. We have to keep our heads down and keep working.”
The season resumes in a fortnight with the Formula 1 Gran Premio de Espana Emirates 2018 on May 13.