Lewis Hamilton hit by bitter rival Sebastian Vettel in Azerbaijan

Unlikely winner Daniel Ricciardo cant believe his luck following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Picture: Getty.
Unlikely winner Daniel Ricciardo cant believe his luck following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Picture: Getty.
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The new owners of Formula 1 might want to throw a cage around Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton and rebrand the sport as an alternative Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The wackiest race of the season gave us an unlikely winner in Daniel Ricciardo, who hitherto had not led a lap all season, an even more improbable runner-up in Valtteri Bottas, who was a lap down at the back of the field after a first-lap collision, and the second youngest podium finisher in history in Lance Stroll.

Any one of those stories was worth its own headline, but ultimately the podium shake-up was overshadowed by the heavyweight dust-up at the top of the world championship that saw championship leader Sebastian Vettel deliberately drive into the side of Lewis Hamilton after accusing the race leader of brake-testing him under the safety car.

Vettel took the law into his own hands after race-leader Hamilton slowed under braking as he rounded turn 15 causing him to run into the rear of the Mercedes. Vettel threw his hands in the air, pulled his Ferrari alongside 
and barged the wheels of Hamilton’s Mercedes.

The stewards judged Vettel’s road rage to be dangerous enough for a ten-second stop-go penalty and a three-point penalty on his super licence, taking his tally to nine and effectively one more indiscretion from a one-race ban. Though the telemetry showed Hamilton did indeed slow his vehicle while rounding turn 15 you could argue he was warming up the brakes and as the car behind it was incumbent on Vettel to keep his distance.

While the stewards were deliberating Vettel’s punishment Hamilton was scuppered by a faulty headrest, and was ordered back into the pits for a replacement. Since that took longer than ten seconds, Vettel came out of his penalty
stop ahead and maintained his one-place advantage to the end of the race, finishing fourth to Hamilton’s fifth.

Having made it clear on the radio that he felt Vettel’s penalty did not fit the crime, a clearly angry Hamilton could barely muster a positive word after 
losing a race he was cruising to slip 14 points behind.

Asked about the incident in the immediate aftermath Hamilton appeared reluctant to offer a view: “Looking forward to getting home,” he said. “It’s been a good weekend. Still got some points. Onwards and upwards.”

This he offered through teeth bolted together with rage. “I don’t really care about it,” he added when pressed. “Just going to look forward. Nothing I can say. Done and dusted. Move on.”

His inquisitor tried one last prompt, to which he responded: “It’s not proper driver conduct. Dangerous driving, 
only get a ten-second penalty for that. I don’t really need to say any more.”

Vettel had trouble accepting responsibility. He thought he was the wronged party and that his protest was just. “Nothing happened [to him]. He brake-checked me so what did he expect? It was not the right move. I don’t think it was necessary. I had a little damage. We went side by side and I showed him what I felt.”

Ricciardo could hardly believe his luck. After crashing in qualifying to start tenth he found himself and in P17 on lap 6 after having to come in to clear debris from his brake ducts. Thereafter, Ricciardo stayed clear of trouble during three safety car periods, one of which saw the race red flagged, to inherit a fifth career win.

“I’m speechless,” he said. “I was giggling like a silly schoolboy on the in-lap. I said yesterday after crashing in qualifying that anything could still happen. This was the kind of race we were expecting last year and didn’t get. This year we did and I was able to take advantage. Amazing.

“Bottas butchered a tyre and front wing at turn 2 in a collision with Kimi Raikkonen, came out a lap down at back of field.Never give up, you never know what’s going to happen. It was fun and given circs at beginning it was a great result.”

Stroll was pipped for second spot by Bottas, but who cares when at 18 years and 239 days you have just become the second youngest podium finisher in F1 history? “It was a hectic race, people crashing. I just stayed out of trouble, kept my head cool and kept going,” he said.

“I lost out to Valtteri at the end but what a race. I have had a love hate relationship with motorsport, some hard races, but the last two races have been amazing.”

Stroll’s reward? Urged by podium MC David Coulthard, Stroll drank from the shoe of Ricciardo. Bubbly never tasted so good.