Daniel Ricciardo produced a faultless drive to claim a surprise victory in a bizarre red flagged Azerbaijan Grand Prix which was littered with incidents and controversy.
The Red Bull driver, who started from 10th on the grid managed avoid the drama, to find himself in the lead after incidents struck long-time leader Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and second placed Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari).
Hamilton appeared on course for a victory having held off Vettel despite three Safety Car periods, which saw the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers collide in one of the stoppages.
Vettel hit the rear of Hamilton who slowed suddenly under the Safety Car, which then sparked the German to drive into the side of Mercedes to show his annoyance at an alleged brake test.
Hamilton resumed the lead when racing continued after a 20 minute red flag period to clear the track of debris.
However, the race was turned on its head when Hamilton’s headrest came loose, forcing him to pit from the lead, while Vettel was issued a 10 second stop and go penalty for the clash with the former.
As a result, Ricciardo, who was forced to recover from 17th after an early pit stop due to a brake issue, inherited the lead after a stunning move to claim third once the race resumed.
The Australian held firm until the chequered flag for a shock win and a fifth career triumph.
Teenage rookie Lance Stroll also benefitted from the drama to move into second, which he held until the final 100 metres as Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) snatched the position on the start/finish straight.
Bottas had dropped a lap earlier the race after a crash with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Vettel managed to salvage fourth as Hamilton finished fifth, while only 13 cars reached the chequered flag.
Hamilton made no mistakes from pole as he swept into the lead while team-mate Bottas squabbled with the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen.
The battle for second resulted in contact at Turn 2 when Bottas climbed the kerbs and touched the side of Raikkonen, forcing the latter to brush the wall.
Bottas came out of the incident worse off after suffering a right front puncture that saw him duck into the pits, which dropped him a lap behind the field.
The clash was investigated by the stewards who chose to take no further action.
Further back Carlos Sainz suffered a spin at Turn 1 as he took evasive action from Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat who rejoined the track after running wide.
At the front, Hamilton quickly opened up a 2.4s led from Vettel with Force India’s Sergio Perez in third ahead of Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Felipe Massa (Williams).
Ricciardo climbed to ninth but elected to pit on lap 5 after debris became lodged in his brake duct.
The race was then neutralised on lap 11 when Kvyat’s Toro Rosso stopped on track with an electrical issue.
During the stoppage, Verstappen encountered a loss of power, forcing him into a fourth retirement for the season.
The top 10 elected to pit under the Safety Car with Hamilton retaining his advantage from Vettel and Perez.
Stroll was the big loser as he dropped from fifth to seventh after pitting a lap later than the rest of the field.
Ricciardo also chose to pit again to change back to super-soft tyres along with Bottas.
As a result, Ricciardo managed to leap back into the top 10, while Bottas managed to return to the lead lap.
Racing resumed on lap 17 but the action was short-lived as another Safety Car was called for debris on the circuit after slight contact between Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon (Force India).
The controversy continued as Hamilton and Vettel made contact on two occasions behind the Safety Car.
Hamilton had complained that the Safety Car driver was driving too slowly to keep the temperature up in his tyres.
The Mercedes driver slowed suddenly to allow the Safety Car to peel off, which resulted in Vettel hitting the rear of his car.
Vettel then drew alongside the Brit and displayed his anger at the alleged brake test by driving into him at low speed. The incident was investigated by the stewards.
The race restarted only to be halted again when the Force Indias of Ocon and Perez, fighting for third, collided at Turn 2.
Ocon appeared to squeeze Perez into the wall which saw the former suffer a right rear puncture, while the latter sustained a broken front wing and front wishbone. Both would eventually get back in the race.
The debris caused from the incident saw Raikkonen suffer a right rear puncture that prompted a third Safety Car, before officials elected to red flag the race.
The race continued after a 20 minute break to clear up the debris with Hamilton leading Vettel.
Behind, Ricciardo pulled off a stunning move to pass the Williams of Stroll and Massa at Turn 1 to jump into third.
The move was repeated a lap later by Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen, who grabbed fifth with a pass on Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Massa, who was ailing with a broken rear damper, that put him into retirement.
The race took another twist when the headrest of Hamilton’s car came loose forcing him to pit from the lead.
This handed Vettel the lead only for the German to receive a 10 second stop and go penalty for his clash with Hamilton.
Ricciardo emerged in the lead from Stroll with Magnussen third, while Ocon climbed back to fourth ahead of Bottas.
The final laps continued to provide action as Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton stormed through the field to finish second, fourth and fifth.
After an eventful race, Ocon finished sixth from Magnussen who faded to seventh.
Sainz finished eighth as McLaren’s Fernando Alonso scored the team’s first points in ninth, while Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) rounded out the top 10.
Raikkonen was five laps down in 14th following a drive-through penalty after his crew worked on his car in the garage under red flag conditions.
The list of retirements included Jolyon Palmer (Renault), Hulkenberg (Renault), Perez (Force India), Massa (Williams), Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Verstappen (Red Bull).
Result: Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
|1||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||51 laps|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||30.298s|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||49.400s|
|13||Romain Grosjean||Haas/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|14||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||Not running|
|DNF||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||Retirement|
|DNF||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||Retirement|
|DNF||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||Retirement|