BAKU, Azerbaijan, CMC – Reigning World champion Lewis Hamilton won a incident-strewn Azerbaijan Grand Prix here Sunday, to notch his first victory of the new season and leapfrog nemesis Sebastian Vettel at the top of the standings.
The 33-year-old Hamilton appeared set to finish outside the top spots when unexpected drama unfolded late in the rate, letting him back into the contest and seeing him to the chequered flag in a time of one hour, 43:44 minutes.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished almost 2-1/2 seconds back in second while Force India’s Sergio Perez took an unlikely spot on the podium with third.
Hamilton, who has never made the podium here, conceded that luck had been on his side.
“It was very fortunate today. It feels odd to be up here but I’ve got to take it. I didn’t give up, I kept pushing,” the Mercedes driver said.
“To come out with a win, I feel incredibly grateful. You have to take the ups with the downs. I can’t complain that I won.”
Vettel, after starting on pole, led for most of the way and seemed on course for his third win in four outings this season when the complexion of the race changed when the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen collided.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas got the better of the re-start following the deployment of the safety car and Vettel, who had dropped to second, locked up trying to overtake Bottas on Turn One and slipped down to fourth.
The Ferrari driver’s mistake saw Hamilton move up to second behind Bottas, who with two laps to go, then picked up a puncture and dropped out.
“Valtteri was unfortunate. I wouldn’t have got by him at the end. Straight away when I got out the car, I went back to see Valtteri to congratulate him on a great job, which is why I was late to the podium,” said Hamilton.
“I did a good job in qualifying but there were a lot of faults in the race. I struggled with the car, I struggled with the tyres.
“I’ve got to got to go away from here and work harder to ensure there is no repeat performance-wise from myself.”
The start had been marred by the elimination of Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin following collisions.