Lewis Hamilton wins chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Daniel Ricciardo was looming as a threat but it all came undone when he collided with his teammate Max Verstappen.
LEWIS Hamilton has emerged victorious after a chaotic race during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Brit had been struggling to find his groove in 2018 but managed to avoid the carnage in what was one of the craziest race days ever seen.
For Red Bull it was a day to forget as both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen crashed out in the latter stages of the race.
Ricciardo reprimanded after Red Bull crash
Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen have both been formally reprimanded by Formula One stewards after they collided at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday.
The pair fought all race for fourth place until lap 40 when Ricciardo attempted to overtake Verstappen on the pit straight.
Ricciardo crashed into his teammate when Verstappen hit the brakes to turn. Both were forced out of the race to the embarrassment of their Red Bull team. The incident brought out the safety car, which helped Lewis Hamilton to eventually take the win following further incidents.
Race director Charlie Whiting says "you could probably argue that both drivers could have done a little better," in comments before the verdict was announced.
'In the doghouse': Red Bull pair 'screwed-up', says team chief
Red Bull team chief Christian Horner said his drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were "in the doghouse" and have been instructed to apologise to all staff following their crash in Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
"They both recognise that they screwed up today and will be apologising to the team and to all members of the team," said Horner, who was left speechless immediately after the pair crashed in the closing laps of Sunday's chaotic race won by defending world champion Lewis Hamilton.
"We allow them to race and allow them to go wheel-to-wheel. We spoke to them in team meetings about giving each other space.
"This was the culmination of two guys taking things in their own hands, which shouldn't have happened.
"There were probably three incidents between them through the race. They touched wheels and were told to calm it down.
"We don't want to interfere with them going wheel-to-wheel. We are not apportioning blame one way or the other, but they are both to blame for this.
"Our intention is to continue to let them race, but they have to show respect and give space. They have been reminded that they are part of a team, they are highly-paid individuals with the team's interest at heart.
"The message was delivered very clearly. They are both in the doghouse. They will apologise to all of the staff before Barcelona."
Hamilton wins as Red Bull's crash out
Comfortably the craziest race of the early F1 2018 season has been taken out by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
An incredible bizarre ending to the race saw the drivers sit behind the safety car before being released with less than five laps to go.
Sebastian Vettel chanced his luck on the restart but went into the first turn with too much pace and locked up and fell back to fourth.
Valtteri Bottas then looked headed for victory but unfortunately ran over a piece of debris on the track which destroyed his rear tyre along with his chances at the points.
All of the chips fell the way of Hamilton who crossed the line for his 63rd Grand Prix victory
ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Force India's Sergio Perez.
The win vaults Hamilton back to the top of the drivers standings on 70 points, four points clear of Vettel.
Sauber's Charles Leclerc was awarded the driver of the day for his phenomenal drive that saw him cross the line in sixth position.
The race was best summed up by Sky Sports' Martin Croft.
"What a crazy, chaotic race," Croft said.
The race of course didn't go according to plan for Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull as both drivers were wiped out in a nightmare collision.
After two earlier near misses, the teammates came to blows not long after their respective pit stops.
As Max Verstappen headed down the main straight, Daniel Ricciardo closed with great speed and looked to duck down on the inside only for Verstappen to shift from the right back to the left and shut the door on the overtake.
The momentum being carried by Ricciardo carried him into the back of his teammate and forced both drivers out.
It's not going to be a happy camp in the Red Bull debrief.
Many pointed the finger at Ricciardo straight after the incident but after replays the consensus turned to blaming Verstappen for a double move.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was in no mood to talk when confronted by Sky Sports reporters following the accident.
"I've got no comment to make until I've spoken to the drivers," Horner stated.
As Horner made his way up the stairs into the debrief room it was noted that he was "shaking with rage".
Helmut Marko, Red Bull adviser, wasn't happy with the drivers and guaranteed it won't happen again.
"I don't care who is to blame. Both drivers should have enough brain to avoid such an accident. We will take measures to guarantee it won't happen again," Marko proclaimed.
"It was a racing accident between the two. There's not more fault on one or the other side."
This could well be another strike against the Red Bull team in their hopes of luring Ricciardo back when his contract runs out at the end of the 2018 F1 season.
Speaking after the race Verstappen remained diplomatic about the events that had unfolded.
"It's really disappointing for the team, we lost a lot of points today unnecessarily," Verstappen said.
"I don't think we need to speak about who's (at) fault because at the end of the day we are racing for the team.
When asked if the team should have interjected earlier to tell him to allow Ricciardo to pass, Verstappen again stated it wouldn't have mattered.
"The tow was very strong, as soon as he was in front I was catching up. We were pretty similar speed and we were always pretty close to each other," he said.
"Before that it was hard racing, but it was fair. We gave each other space, of course we had a little brush with the wheels. I think in racing that can happen."
Later, Red Bull Racing appeared to calm down enough to post this on Twitter:
What is going on
The safety car stayed out for an extended period of time thanks to the Red Bull coming together and Romain Grosjean spinning into the wall behind the safety car.
Once the race got back underway with less than five laps remaining, the mayhem continued.
As the drivers sped down the main straight and towards the first turn, Sebastian Vettel made the daring move down the inside only to lock up the brakes and run wide.
Allowing Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen to pass him.
Then on the very next lap and with the lead in hand, Bottas his a piece of debris and watched as his rear right tyre was torn to shreds.
Finally Ricciardo makes it stick
After three attempts Daniel Ricciardo finally made his way past his teammate Max Verstappen. The two previous attempts almost ended in disaster as Verstappen refused to let Ricciardo take his place and caused the two drivers to bump into one another.
Valtteri Bottas still leads, although he has yet to pit, from Sebastian Vettel who sits seven seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton.
'What the hell': Red Bulls mess
Daniel Ricciardo is flying around the Baku track and looms as the biggest chance Red Bull have at landing on the podium, but Max Verstappen won't have it.
The Red Bull teammates have now on two separate occasions bumped each other as Ricciardo tries to get around his younger German counterpart.
After setting the races fastest lap time, Ricciardo went around the outside of Verstappen only for him to claw his way back into the narrowest of margins around turn two.
The issues have also continued in 2018 for Fernando Alonso and his McLaren team as the former world champion languishes in 12th position and doesn't look like a threat of entering the points.
Hamilton's monumental mistake
Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton was pumping out lightning quick lap times and was looking to close the gap on race leader Sebastian Vettel when he pushed it too hard.
Heading into the first turn Hamilton ran wide and unfortunately lost all of the hard work he'd put in and was forced into the pits.
Vettel leads as the race goes beyond the halfway mark ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton, Mas Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in fifth.
That doesn't belong there
As the drivers sped around the Baku track, viewers had to question a piece of commentary from former driver David Coulthard.
And believe it or not, he wasn't kidding. There was in fact a giant branch from a tree sitting on one of the straights. The hazard hadn't been picked up by track marshalls.
Ricciardo loses out on restart
As Sebastian Vettel kept the entire field in check, he ignited the restart and flew away from rival Lewis Hamilton.
Daniel Ricciardo withstood his teammate Max Verstappen through the first corner but as they headed towards the second Verstappen dived down the inside and the move forced Ricciardo wide enough to allow Force India's Carlos Sainz through into fifth.
Vettel is building his gap at the front which has now increased to over two seconds from Hamilton who is a further four seconds clear from teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Opening lap carnage
The narrow streets of Baku have claimed several victims on the very first lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
As the lights went out the cars at the front of the grid all got away safely but it was in the middle and latter stages of the grid where it all went pear shaped.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was heavily involved as he looked to take the inside line against Esteban Ocon, unfortunately the two collided and Ocon is now out of the race.
Prior to the crash, Williams' Sergey Sirotkin ran into the back of a Force India and the damage has also forced him out.
Fernando Alonso also picked up a double puncture and was forced into the pits, safe to say he wasn't happy.
"What a stupid guy! He closed the door. We were side-by-side, I don't understand," Alonso said over the team radio.
One lap into the race and the safety car has already been deployed.
'I'll sucker punch you'
Daniel Ricciardo has backed up his thoughts surrounding Valtteri Bottas' finish to the Bahrain Grand Prix where he finished second to Sebastian Vettel.
Bottas did not attempt to overtake Vettel as the two sped towards the chequered flag and fresh off of an overtaking masterclass, Ricciardo has stood by his thoughts.
"He's close enough. Yeah, definitely. Definitely - come on son!" Ricciardo said on sky sports.
"I'm not saying he would have made it stick but have a crack, son."
His thoughts were aired prior to the race getting underway and when trying to chat with him on the grid, the Aussie delivered a classic one-liner.
Deep in conversation with a member of his team, Ricciardo wasn't having any of the distraction of a potential interview.
"One second before I sucker punch you in the stomach," Ricciardo quipped.
Ricciardo hoping for repeat of 2017
One of the most memorable races on the 2017 F1 calendar took place on the streets of Baku last year during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton came to blows when the Ferrari driver proclaimed that Lewis had "brake tested me".
After a slight bump and then an eventual red flag, the race was up for grabs when the Aussie took advantage on the restart.
Taking Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg and Lance Stroll in one swift manoeuvre, Ricciardo began his charge to the win.
When Hamilton was forced to pit after his headrest came lose and with Vettel being handed a 10-second stop-go penalty, the lead was handed to Ricciardo.
He'll be hoping the chips fall his way when the green lights go out on Sunday night (AEST) in Baku.
Raikkonen a real threat
Kimi Raikkonen loomed large on his final qualifying lap and looked as though he was going to topple his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel.
A costly mistake ruined that shot and kept him in sixth place on the starting grid, but he still looms large in Azerbaijan.
After not having a spare set of supersoft tyres left for qualifying, Raikkonen finished his run on ultrasofts which means he'll start the race on them.
Of the top six drivers on the grid the Finnish superstar will be the only one with the different tyres and should give him the speed advantage through the early parts of the race.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the difference could allow Ferrari to take some risks with Raikkonen.
"Absolutely," said Wolff in an interview with motorsport.com.
"I think he is on a different tyre - the question is how long can he stay out.
"But if you imagine there is a really high chance of a safety car in the early laps, so they could go on a harder tyre and drive to the end, which is a bold strategy.
"If you are in a position like him, you can take risks and these risks sometimes pay off."
Watch out for Raikkonen to fly out of the blocks and catch his rivals off guard.
Mercedes reacts to 'hand grenade'
Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton remains fired-up for Formula 1, as the Mercedes chief gave a relaxed response to Bernie Ecclestone's "hand-grenade" claims about the world champion.
Ecclestone, F1's former chief executive, appeared in the paddock for the second time this season in Baku and said in an interview with Sky Sports News that while Hamilton was "still very quick, still super talented, still a super nice guy", the four-time world champion was perhaps "not the racer he was" after a winless start to the season.
But an untroubled Wolff told reporters: "It's Bernie! I just had a game of backgammon against him and I lost.
"He comes in and throws a hand-grenade and it's in the papers - it's great.
"How the news runs these days we are oscillating between exuberance and depression, and back again, and when things are not going in the right direction it's doom days and when you win two races in a row it's the, 'Mercedes dominance destroying the sport.' Maybe it's somewhere in the middle."
The Mercedes chief said the world champions as a whole had not hit their highest standards so far having gone three races without a victory for the first time in over four years.
"We haven't collectively performed on the level we would have wanted to," he added. "There were three races we could have won and we didn't, that's a fact.
"I still see the fire and desire very much burning in him (Hamilton)."
Wolff added: "Lewis is remarkably easy with these kind of things. All of us very much respect Bernie, but we have also learnt to take the comments with a smile. It's the same way he does it."
Hamilton declined to discuss Ecclestone's comments when asked about them in the post-qualifying press conference. Then asked if he remained as good as ever, the world champion replied: "We'll see at the end of the year."
The Englishman returned Mercedes to the front row of the grid for the first time in three races in Saturday's qualifying hour as the world champions impressively recovered from a Friday in Baku which, in the words of Wolff, had seen them "nowhere" in the leading order.
Valtteri Bottas qualified third in the sister car to give the team their best two-car qualifying result of the season so far.