The Formula One season came alive in Azerbaijan on Sunday following a frenetic race which saw four safety cars, one red flag, and an improbable winner.
Daniel Ricciardo claimed his first victory of the year after championship leader Sebastian Vettel hit Lewis Hamilton on two occasions.
Here, Press Association Sport looks back at five things we learned from the eighth round of the championship in Baku.
1. GLOVES OFF IN TITLE BATTLE
Lewis Hamilton’s amorous rivalry with Sebastian Vettel evaporated in an instance at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix following what can only be described as a moment of madness from the Ferrari driver. The case for Vettel’s defence was sparse. Data, studied by the race stewards, proved that Hamilton did not ‘brake-test’ his rival – and that Vettel deliberately veered his car in the Briton’s direction.
After the second round of the championship in China, Hamilton claimed he could not foresee that their friendship might derail. His mood here on Sunday night suggested otherwise. “If I had had any ill intent, in terms of my driving towards him, brake testing, or whatever it may be, I still think it’s not deserving of that kind of reaction from a person you do have respect for,” Hamilton said. “I need some time to reflect, but ultimately what happened was disrespectful.”
2. SO, WHAT NEXT FOR VETTEL?
The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, are under pressure to sanction Vettel for bringing the sport into disrepute. Vettel, who escaped punishment at last October’s Mexican Grand Prix, despite telling veteran race director Charlie Whiting to “f*** off”, now has nine points on his licence after three were added to his tally following his antics on Sunday. Vettel will be faced with a one-race ban if he reaches 12 at the Austrian Grand Prix a week on Sunday. The German did not want to apologise. He also scoffed at suggestions his reputation had been tarnished.
3. STROLL BREAKS PODIUM RECORD
Lance Stroll was an 18-year-old under pressure following a difficult start to his life in the sport. But after scoring the first points of his career at his home race in Canada a fortnight ago, Stroll followed it up with his very first podium here in Baku. Stroll kept his head, and was on course to finish second, only for Valtteri Bottas to pip him on the line. It did little to dampen Stroll’s mood. At 18 years and 239 days, he is the youngest rookie to step on the podium, and the first Canadian since Jacques Villeneuve 16 years ago.
4. SOME GOOD (ISH) NEWS FOR MCLAREN
Fernando Alonso recorded both his and McLaren’s first points of the season after he finished ninth. But the 35-year-old Spaniard, who started 19th following a series of grid penalties, believes he could have won. Alonso, out of contract at the end of the year, was as high as fifth during the race. He said: “I think we could have fought for a podium finish today and perhaps even the victory. We missed out on further opportunities because we weren’t quick enough in the race and couldn’t hold on to that position.”
5. FORCE INDIA CARS COLLIDE AGAIN
Force India team-mates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon crashed into each other for the second successive race. Ocon attempted to pass Perez at the re-start, but the pair banged wheels. Given how the race unfolded, it is not inconceivable that Force India could have claimed their very first victory. As it was, Perez retired, while Ocon limped home in sixth. They were running in fourth and fifth at the time of the incident. “It was just over-aggressive,” said Perez. “In all my career I’ve had team-mates who have been hard, but given enough room. What happened is totally unacceptable for the team.”
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Sebastian Vettel’s reputation has been tarnished after he deliberately swerved into Lewis Hamilton during Sunday’s incident-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Mercedes chief Niki Lauda has claimed.
Four-time champion Vettel was punished by the stewards for his moment of madness during a chaotic race here in Baku.
Daniel Ricciardo claimed both his, and Red Bull’s, first victory of the new season, but the spotlight was firmly on Vettel last night after he banged wheels with his title rival.
Vettel adjudged Hamilton to have brake-tested him during the second of three Safety Car periods in a frenetic race on the streets of Azerbaijan’s capital city.
After he rammed Hamilton from behind at Turn 16, the German then pulled alongside his British foe before gesticulating with both hands and slamming into Hamilton’s car.
Vettel, who finished fourth and extended his lead over Hamilton in the championship race after the latter was forced into an unscheduled pit stop following a problem with his headrest, protested his innocence.
But the stewards took Hamilton’s side, hitting Vettel with a stop-and-go penalty and latterly three points on his licence.
Three-time world champion Lauda, the non-executive chairman at Mercedes, was asked whether Vettel’s reputation had been tainted following the dramatic incident on lap 19.
“Sure,” a definitive Lauda replied. “He freaked out in himself. “When you hit somebody up the a*** it is your fault. No question. But then to drive next to him and hit him on purpose, I have never seen anything like this.
“To do that I don’t understand. Vettel is a decent guy normally. This I don’t understand. He is crazy. Lewis will hit him one day. Not with the car but with his fist.”
Indeed Hamilton, now 14 points adrift of his championship rival after he crossed the line only fifth, was furious with Vettel’s actions branding the German a “disgrace”, while also suggesting he take on his rival “out of the car, face-to-face”.
“For him to pretty much get away with driving into another driver is a disgrace,” Hamilton, 32, said. “I think he disgraced himself today.
“If he wants to prove that he is a man we should do it out of the car, face-to-face. It is a misjudgement from him and some people don’t like to own up to their own mistakes.
“The stewards looked at my data and the reason I didn’t get a penalty is because I clearly did not brake test him. It could not be clearer. It is as clear as blue skies.
“Ultimately what happened was disrespectful. There are kids watching us on TV. You think a multi-time world champion would behave better than that. I really hope that kids don’t see that and think that is the right way. That is not how you drive.”
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were involved in an astonishing row at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday.
The drivers collided on lap 19, as Vettel ran into the back of Hamilton’s car, later accusing the Briton of brake-testing him while the Safety Car led the cars around the circuit.
But Vettel’s reaction was the greater controversy, as he inexplicably drove into the side of his rival’s car, leading Hamilton to say the German “disgraced himself”.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at on-track controversies from Formula One’s past.
Ayrton Senna complained that pole position was wrongly situated on the track and demanded to be moved into the racing line. When his request was rejected and he was overtaken by title rival Alain Prost at the start, Senna took out the Frenchman on the first corner to secure the world championship.
Michael Schumacher’s Benetton had suffered irreparable damage by the time it was involved in a collision with Damon Hill’s Williams in the season-ending Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide in 1994. The crash forced the British driver out of the race and ensured Schumacher secured his first F1 drivers’ title. Schumacher maintained it was a racing incident. Three years later Schumacher collided with another rival, Jacques Villeneuve, in a final-race shoot-out at the European Grand Prix in Jerez. However, the Canadian, who had been attempting to overtake Schumacher when the collision occurred, finished third to take the title while the German, whose second place in the championship was later stripped from him, was forced to retire from the race.
Schumacher, acting under team orders, passed Brazilian team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who clearly slowed down in order to allow the German to win the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix and claim maximum points in the drivers’ championship. The German was jeered by the crowd, even when he attempted to allow Barrichello to stand on the top step of the podium at the post-race celebrations.
Nelson Piquet Jr revealed he had been ordered to deliberately crash during the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix to create the perfect environment for his then Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso to win the race. Team managing director Flavio Briatore and chief engineer Pat Symonds both left the team in the wake of the revelations. Briatore was given an indefinite ban from F1 by world governing body the FIA, with Symonds suspended for five years. Both later had their suspensions quashed in a French court, and Symonds recently worked for Williams.
Ferrari were fined £65,000 by race stewards at the 2010 German Grand Prix after being accused of implementing a team order. Following coded messages over the team radio, Felipe Massa eventually ceded a potential victory to team-mate Fernando Alonso, a move that sparked outrage at the time. Ferrari were deemed in breach of article 39.1 of the FIA 2010 sporting regulations that states ‘team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited’. In December 2010 the article was deleted from the FIA’s statutes.
Sebastian Vettel apologised after blatantly disregarding Red Bull team orders to claim a controversial 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix victory. Mark Webber held sway over team-mate Vettel following the fourth and final pit stop and at that point the call went out to the duo to hold station to the chequered flag. Vettel, however, had other ideas and instead went wheel to wheel with Webber for more than a lap, even ignoring a call from frustrated team principal Christian Horner who said: ”This is silly Seb. Come on!” Despite that warning, 25-year-old world champion Vettel bulldozed his way past Webber to triumph for the 27th time in his F1 career.
Hamilton moved within 11 points of title leader Nico Rosberg after their last-lap collision in the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix. The German appeared on course to extend his championship lead but crashed into Hamilton as the Briton attempted to pass his Mercedes team-mate around the outside of turn two. Rosberg limped home in fourth and was subsequently handed a 10-second retrospective penalty for the crash – the third time in five races the pair collided. Team boss Toto Wolff called the coming together ”brainless”.