Story of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Red Bull calamity triggers Bottas heartbreak

Former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone

Winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a "humbling experience" for Lewis Hamilton after Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel's issues handed him glory.

"That was quite an emotional race, to be honest", said hamilton, who now leads the championship by four points from Vettel.

Suddenly Hamilton, who for most of this chaotic street fight in Baku appeared certain to lose further ground in the title race, now leads his Ferrari rival by four points.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas qualified third on the banks of the Caspian Sea with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, last year's victor in Baku and victorious in Shanghai two weeks ago, fourth fastest. This brought Verstappen and Ricciardo in close proximity and the two Red Bull drivers were allowed to race. But as the Red Bulls pitted two laps apart Verstappen somehow ended up in front.

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Hamilton won nine races on his way to his fourth world championship last season but having clinched it with ninth place in Mexico this is the first race he has won since then. Max Verstappen seized the initiative, overtaking Daniel Ricciardo with an aggressive move into Turn 2 after the first Safety Car restart. However, so did the drivers behind him to take on fresher ultrasoft tyres with just a handful of laps remaining.

The race started in frenzied fashion after a pair of first-lap incidents triggered a safety auto to clear substantial debris.

Now the F1 season moves on to its first European race of the season with the Spanish Grand Prix on the 11-13 May weekend. The Red Bulls were both on ultra-soft tyres to the flag, but in a private battle with the top three a long way down the road and Raikkonen a comfortable distance behind.

Raikkonen, starting sixth, attempted to pass inside Ocon's Force India, but the Frenchman turned in and as the pair collided he crashed into the wall.

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A Safety Car was deployed to deal with the incident, giving Bottas the opportunity he was waiting for to pit. Hamilton and Bottas followed him into Turn 1.

That kept the safety auto out for another five laps.

A frustrated Hamilton complained about back markers, but began clawing back time, recorded a fastest lap and then saw Bottas go eight-tenths quicker. Bottas led Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Perez, Grosjean, Sainz, Leclerc, Stroll and Alonso behind the SC. Shortly after Bottas pulled to the side Sergio Perez took advantage of Vettel's woes passing the Ferrari to grab the third spot.

Bottas, who had lost out on a win in the last race beacuse of a SC, was firmly in control.

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The ensuing safety vehicle was a lengthy affair, mainly because Romain Grosjean inexplicably lost the rear of his Haas warming his tyres on the straight from Turns 13 to 14 and slammed into the wall from sixth position. Ricciardo's second retirement this season leaves him fifth, 33 points off the lead.

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