Lewis Hamilton claims dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix win | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 29.04.2018
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Lewis Hamilton claims dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix win

Lewis Hamilton has won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite trailing for 49 of its 51 laps. The Briton was the beneficiary of a late puncture to his teammate Valtteri Bottas and a Sebastian Vettel error in a chaotic race.

Hamilton won his first race of the 2018 season in dramatic style as his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas hit a piece of debris with two laps remaining, forcing him out of the race.

The British driver, and reigning drivers' champion, started second on the grid behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who controlled the race for long periods after the leading pack avoided the chaos that marked the first couple of turns.

That first lap saw a number of collisions involving Fernando Alonso, Sergey Sirotkin (both Williams) and Esteban Ocon (Force India). Sirotkin and Ocon were both forced to retire.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikonnen, who eventually finished second ahead of a jubilant Sergio Perez of Force India, was also affected while Vettel had to settle for fourth.

Red Bull drivers collide

But the Baku race saved plenty of its drama for the end as well as the start. It all started when Daniel Ricciardo, who won the Chinese Grand Prix two weeks prior, finished an ongoing battle with Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen for fourth by crashing in to the back of the Dutchman.

That was the end of the race for that pair and forced the safety car on for several laps. When it eventually departed, the drivers were left with a four-lap shootout for victory. Bottas got off well but Vettel’s wheels locked as he attempted an overtake, moving Hamilton up to second and giving Perez his chance.

But there was another twist to come as Bottas hit one of several bits of debris on the track and punctured his tire, allowing Hamilton to cruise through for the unlikeliest of wins.

"It was quite an emotional race. Valtteri deserved the win,” The Briton said afterwards. “It feels odd to be up here but I didn't give up.”

Hamilton now takes the championship lead after scoring points for the 29th consecutive race. Vettel, who had led the drivers' standings for the entire season, now sits four points behind the Mercedes driver.

As it happened

HAMILTON WINS: He was barely in contention for the vast majority of the race but Lewis Hamilton has won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix! Raikonnen takes second and Perez completes to podium. Vettel, who started in pole position has to settle for fourth. It's Hamilton's first win of the 2018 season.

Lap 50 of 51 - Vettel has been overtaken by Perez, of Force India. He's back down in fourth now.

Lap 49 of 51 - Drama! Now Bottas gets a puncture just three laps from winning the race. That's surely it for him and Hamilton leads for the first time in the race. Incredible stuff.

Lap 48 of 51 - Huge error from Vettel, who tries to take Bottas but goes far too wide on the way out of the corner and allows Hamilton and Raikonnen past. Bottas holds on to the lead. 

Lap 47 of 51 - The saferty car is off and we'll have a race to the end after all. Hopefully.

Lap 46 of 51 - The safety car remains, it's not making for the most exciting of finishes to this one.

Lap 44 of 51 - The medical car is now out for Grosjean, who swerved in to the wall for no obvious reason. The driver is fine but there must have been some mechanical fault there.

Lap 43 of 51 - The safety car is still with us, and this could play in to Bottas' hands. He still leads.

Lap 40 of 51 - The Red Bull battle ends in disaster! Ricciardo seemed to just drive right in to the back of Verstappen and they're both out of the equation. The safety car is back out and Bottas is in the pits.

Lap 39 of 51 - Hamilton is getting frustrated as he tries to pass the back markers in one of the course's tightest sections. "These drivers aren't moving out of the way," he says on the radio.

Lap 36 of 51 - Bottas still leads and may be staying out there to try to narrow the gap between Vettel and Bottas' teammate Hamilton.

Lap 34 of 51 - Probably the most interesting battle out there remains the all-Red Bull affair for fourth. Verstappen is about a second ahead of Ricciardo but neither is giving an inch.

Lap 31 of 51 - Vettel emerges from the pits behind Bottas, who has still yet to pull in.

Lap 29 of 51 - No pit stops for Ferrari or Red Bull yet. The timing of those could prove decisive.

Lap 26 of 51 - Bottas, who hasn't yet pitted, has stolen second from his teammate Hamilton. Though that may not last too much longer.

Lap 23 of 51 - BIG probelms for Hamilton who tells his team that his "tyres are done". He has to head to the pits earlier than Vettel and now trails by 12 seconds. The race is vey much Vettel's to lose.

Lap 22 of 51 - A bit of a shocker for Marcus Ericsson, who overshot a corner, discovered some issues with his car and then got a 10 second penalty for causing a collision. He's downin last position now.

Lap 19 of 51 - Hamilton is having a real good go at Vettel, he's just set the fastest lap again, but the gap isn't coming down anywhere near enough for his liking.

Lap 17 of 51 - It seems the Red Bulls are both suffering from some sort of battery issue. Both Ricciardo and Verstappen have been on the radio to their technical team.

Lap 14 of 51 - Vettel eases a little further clear, the gap is about 3.7 seconds now. A little further back, the Red Bulls are having a bit of a ding-dong, with Verstappen and Ricciardo touching wheels as they duke it out.

Lap 12 of 51 - Hamilton has just set a new fastest lap to close slightly on Vettel, but the German still looks fairly comortable out in front. Renault's Hulkenberg is the latest casulaty after clipping a wall.

Lap 10 of 51 - It's starting to settle down a bit, after that crazy start. The Red Bulls are struggling a little, Verstappen has dropped a place and Ricciardo has dropped three, they're in 6th and 7th now.

Lap 7 of 51 - Vettel has re-started very well and opened up a three second gap on Hamilton. Behind them, Sainz has made up plenty of ground and sits in fifth.

Lap 6 of 51 - They're back racing properly now, with the top four as they were when we started.

Lap 5 of 51 - Alonso, who may still get back on the track despite the puncture is not happy with Sirotkin, who he collided with on lap 1.  "Unbelievable. You take corner one, corner two carefully then they crash into you. Stupid," the Spaniard said on the radio. But there is some doubt about whose fault that one was. The safety car is off.

Lap 3 of 51 - Chaotic start then. Ocon and Sorotkin are out and there must be doubt about Alonso's continuing participation in the race as well as that of Kevin Magnuessen of Haas, who also has a puncture. The safety car is still out.

Lap 2 of 51 - Fernando Alonso is also in all sorts of bother. His front right tyre is flapping in the breeze and he's in the pits. 

Lap 1 of 51 - We've already got the safety car out after Esteban Ocon of Force India and Williams' Sergey Sirotkin spin off the track. It looks like Ocon collided with Kimi Raikonnen, who has also taken some damage. No overtaking for now but it's as you were at the front.

14:05 - The final preparations are underway, with the cars in position on the grid and Christina Aguilera wandering around for some reason. Just five minutes to go now.

14:00 - As Verstappen's tweet below suggests, it's blowing a gale in Baku, with gusts reportedly measuring up to 80 km an hour. But that hasn't stopped plenty of people turning out.

13:45 - Hello, and welcome to DW's coverage of the fourth Grand Prix of the 2018 F1 season. Sebastian Vettel leads the driver's championship early on as he bids to win a first title since 2013 and he'll start out in front in Baku. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has won three of the four titles since Vettel's last one and looks certain to challenge his Ferrari rival.

The Baku street circuit is regarded as pretty quick and should make for an entertaining race. Daniel Ricciardo,who won for Red Bull last time out could be a threat from fourth and his teammate Max Verstappen seems ready. The race gets underway at 14:10.

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