Lewis Hamilton took advantage of a late safety car incident, plus a puncture by his teammate to win the Grand Prix of Azerbaijan Sunday evening. Kimi Raikkonen finished second, while Sergio Perez took third to appear on the podium for the first time in two years.
For Hamilton, the win might have been gift-wrapped, but the Briton now takes a four-point lead ahead of Sebastian Vettel after four rounds of the championship battle.
“Definitely quite an emotional race, to be honest,” Hamilton said afterward. “Valtteri (Bottas) did an exceptional job today and deserved the win.”
Hamilton took advantage of the race with only a few laps to go. Vettel had led most of the first half of the race until he pitted for fresh tires. Bottas was kept out longer than expected and led going into the 40th lap, when Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo accidentally ran into his teammate Max Verstappen, knocking both out of the race. During this yellow flag period, Romain Grosjean was warming up his tires and crashed into the barriers, keeping the safety car out until four laps to go when it became a sprint race.
Vettel shot out first but overestimated the turn and went off the track. Bottas kept himself in the lead, with Hamilton now second, but on the next lap, Bottas ran over some debris on the straightaway and flattened his right rear tire. Hamilton took the lead and remained in front, taking the victory by just under three seconds from Raikkonen.
Despite going off the track, Vettel recovered enough to finish fourth, while Carlos Sainz Jr. took fifth. Charles LeClerc had the best finish of his career in sixth, with McLaren receiving double points as Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne took seventh and ninth, respectively. Lance Stroll gave Williams its first points of the year in eighth, and Brendon Hartley also took his first points in 10th.
Hamilton normally is quite pleased after a win, but this time it was more luck than skill.
“It seems very odd to be up here,” he said. “But I have to take it. I did not give up and I kept pushing.”
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