The star of the race was Daniel Ricciardo, who only started 10th in his Red Bull, dropped as low as 17th after stopping to clear debris from a brake scoop, then charged through the field to score his fifth grand prix win. The double pass on the Williams pair at Turn 1 was sublime and offers a timely reminder of what we’ve lost in the shadow he’s become at McLaren.
Vettel’s road rage followed what he believed was a Hamilton brake test under the safety car, after which he drove up alongside the Mercedes and jigged right tyre-to-tyre in an act of comedic red-mist petulance. Lewis only finished fifth, behind Vettel, in a race he surely would have won had his headrest not come loose. It’s up there among the daftest troubles to rob a driver of an F1 victory.
This was also the one where Valtteri Bottas, delayed by a first-lap clash with Kimi Räikkönen, came back to pip Lance Stroll to second place. The Canadian still celebrated his first podium, for a Williams team in dire need of such a result. Both would long for a repeat performance this weekend. It seems… unlikely.
2018: Ricciardo rear-ends Verstappen
The third grand prix in Baku sealed the track’s reputation for crazy racing. This time Ricciardo engaged team-mate Verstappen in a bar-room brawl – until he slammed into the rear of his line-changing team-mate on the brakes into Turn 1. Adrian Newey’s look of disgust as he stepped away from the Red Bull prat perch said it all. But again, it’s a reminder of the feistiness we miss in Ricciardo today – and how he should never have left Red Bull.
Collisions scattering bits of sharp carbon-fibre and fantastic slip-streaming on the long start-finish blast meant you couldn’t take your eyes off this one – even during a safety car interlude when hapless Romain Grosjean dropped his Haas while weaving to get heat into his tyres. And poor old Bottas. He ran long to lead, kept ahead thanks to a fortuitous safety car, survived Vettel’s tyre-smoking lock-up lunge into Turn 1 – only to pick up a puncture on the debris from Ricciardo vs Verstappen. Thus Hamilton picked up a lucky win, his only one to date in Baku, to nab the points lead from fourth-placed Vettel.
Räikkönen survived a crunch with Esteban Ocon’s by-now pink Force India to finish second. And third? That man Perez, his second podium in three attempts in Baku.
2019: Retribution for Bottas
Three years ago, Bottas briefly looked like he might ‘do a Rosberg’ and fight Hamilton for the world title as Mercedes set another new record: this time for four consecutive 1-2s at the start of a season. The silver cars ran wheel to wheel through Turns 1 and 2, Bottas braving it out to lead. And he won too, Hamilton cracking with a small mistake as he hunted his team-mate in the closing stages.