Ricciardo takes first win of season at F1 Azerbaijan GP

  At the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix’s Baku Circuit, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo claimed the win from Valtteri Bottas and Williams’ rookie Lance Stroll. Drivers standings’ leader Sebastien Vettel pipped rival Lewis Hamilton to fourth place, even after a penalty. Ricciardo captured his first victory of the 2017 season from way back in 10th on the grid.

Ricciardo opened the season with a DNF at his home race in Melbourne, however three successive third places leading into the weekend had boosted his confidence.

He hit the wall in the final qualifying session on Saturday to leave him 10th on the grid, but he soon moved through the field with impressive overtaking moves.

Despite slipping back to 17th at one point early on, penalties to Hamilton and Vettel left him sitting pretty at the head of the field, a lead he never looked like relinquishing. The Australian commented, “We dropped back to P17 at one point. Did I think I’d win then? I’d have put all my money on that not happening. I have never really had a boring win and today was certainly not that. After all the chaos and the red flag I felt that a podium was in reach but then once Lewis had to pit and Seb had the penalty I knew the win was possible.”

“The odds of a podium or win got pushed even further back when we had to make an unscheduled pit stop early in the race and I think I was back in 17th place. Then things fell in to place quite nicely and on every re-start I was able to make up positions and make it happen. The last re-start was the most important and I think it was Stroll, Hulkenberg, Massa and me, all nearly four wide but I managed to get third and I think that was, in a way, the winning move. Once I saw the gap I was going to do everything I could to brake as late as possible and get that position.”

Bottas endured a first-lap puncture and came back from dead last to finish second, 3.9 seconds from Ricciardo. “It was a crazy race. I had a puncture on the first lap after the contact with Kimi Raikkonen on Lap 1. I was a lap down, then had to overtake the field under the Safety Car. The second Safety Car after that really helped me out and, step by step, I moved forward from there. My main goal was to fight for the win but that went out of the window after the first lap. I was actually last at one point, but I got my head down, gave it absolutely everything and tried to get the absolute maximum out of every single corner. We didn’t quite manage to win but P2 from where we were is a great feeling. Importantly for the team, we scored more points in the fight with Ferrari and I got some good points for myself as well.”

Stroll became the youngest rookie to secure an F1 podium, and the first Canadian to do so since 2001. “It was such a hectic race and so much happened, but the team kept me cool on the radio, the pace was good, we took it to the end and stayed out of trouble. I can’t quite believe what’s just happened. We just lost out to Valtteri at the end there in one of the closest finishes of all time going side-by-side across the finish line.”

Vettel took a fourth place which saw him extend his drivers’ standings lead to 14 points over his nearest rival. Raikkonen had to retire because of damage following a collision shortly after the start. “The pace was strong in the race. I think you could see that we were losing a bit here and there, but overall it was a good race. It was a very busy start, and Vallteri was very aggressive. As for what happened at the restart from the safety car, I don’t know why I got the penalty and Lewis didn’t. It’s disappointing, because it could have been a better result. I don’t have a problem with Lewis but I just think that what he did on the track was not OK.”

Hamilton was hit by Vettel during a safety car period and fumed over it for the entire race. “I definitely didn’t brake-test Sebastian. I controlled the pace under the Safety Car and, just like with the other restarts, I slowed down in the same place on the entry to T15. At that point, it is up to me to control the pace and then I felt a bump from behind. But that wasn’t the issue for me – everybody saw clearly what happened after.”

Force India once again got a position in the top ten, thanks to Esteban Ocon, who finished sixth. Kevin Magnussen was seventh for Haas, ahead of Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso. Alonso steered his way past chaos, collisions, debris, penalties, multiple Safety Car periods and even a mid-race stoppage to finish ninth and score McLaren-Honda’s first points of the season. The Spaniard ran as high as fifth as the leaders encountered problems, then looked set for eighth until being overtaken by Sainz in the closing laps. Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein completed the top ten list.

The next Grand Prix shifts to the Red Bull Ring in Austria, from 7 – 9 July.

2017 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix results

1 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING 2:03:55.573
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES +3.904s
3 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS +4.009s
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI +5.976s
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES +6.188s
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA +30.298s
7 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS +41.753s
8 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO +49.400s
9 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN +59.551s
10 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER +89.093s
11 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER +91.794s
12 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN +92.160s
13 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS +1 lap

Drivers standings
1 Sebastian VettelI 153
2 Lewis Hamilton 139
3 Valtteri Bottas 111
4 Daniel Ricciardo 92
5 Kimi Räikkönen 73
6 Max Verstappen 45
7 Sergio Perez 44
8 Esteban Ocon 35
9 Carlos Sainz 29
10 Felipe Massa 20
11 Nico Hulkenberg 18
12 Lance Stroll 17
13 Kevin Magnussen 11
14 Romain Grosjean 10
15 Pascal Wehrlein 5
16 Daniil Kvyat 4
17 Fernando Alonso 2

Constructors rankings
1 MERCEDES 250
2 FERRARI 226
3 RED BULL RACING 137
4 FORCE INDIA 79
5 WILLIAMS 37
6 TORO ROSSO 33
7 HAAS 21
8 RENAULT 18
9 SAUBER 5
10 MCLAREN 2