(Photo by Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images)

Le Mans: Rolling blog for the 2017 24 Hours

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Updates from the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will follow throughout the day in this post.

HOURS 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (2 hours to go, back to Tony)

7 a.m. ET – After a sleep and a long stint by Kyle, picking this back up… and there’s no good idea where to start.

So Porsche looked set to win Le Mans overall, and they may still do so, but with a different car.

The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Neel Jani had the lead, but lost oil pressure with a lead of more than 13 laps on track in Hour 21.

So that brought the No. 2 Porsche into contention, with the sister car of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber, despite having lost more than an hour earlier in the race with its front axle issue.

With under two hours to go, that car was less than a lap behind the new overall leader – the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 car with Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung.

The LMP2 fight sees the Nos. 38, 35, 13 and 37 Orecas (35 being an Alpine A470) all in the overall top five before sixth-place United Autosports with the first of the Ligier JS P217s.

Five manufacturers run in the top five spots in GTE-Pro with the No. 63 Corvette, No. 97 Aston Martin, No. 91 Porsche, No. 67 Ford and No. 71 Ferrari.

In GTE-Am, the Nos. 84, 55, 62 and 61 Ferraris run in the top four positions in class.

Elsewhere, more cars beyond the remaining LMP1 entries have had further issues.

  • Richie Stanaway crashed out the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8, one of the GTE-Pro contenders.
  • Radiator damage has taken the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE out of the race.
  • Both Vaillante Rebellion Orecas have had issues, a starter motor issue affecting the No. 13 car and a gearbox issue affecting the No. 31 car.
  • A crash for the No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca at the Porsche Curves took that car out of the race.

The race will now be a crazy fight to the finish, with no idea who will win overall.

HOURS 13 AND 14 (via Kyle Lavigne)

11 p.m. ET – Sunrise on Sunday morning closes in at the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The class leaders are as follows:

  • LMP1: 1-Nick Tandy, Porsche 919 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 38-Oliver Jarvis, Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 95-Nicki Thiim, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 84-Will Stevens, Ferrari 488 GTE

The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid continues its lead overall and in LMP1, with three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer at the helm now. The No. 2 Porsche continues its charge forward, with Brendon Hartley now sitting second in class and 13th overall. The No. 8 Toyota TS050 is also still in the fight, with Kazuki Nakajima now running 30th overall, but still third in class.

Oliver Jarvis has moved to the lead in the LMP2 class and sits second in the overall running order in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson. Nelson Piquet Jr. runs second in the No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson, while the No. 31 entry experienced brief problems at the beginning of Hour 13 and spent a couple laps in the garage area. It quickly rejoined the fight, and sits third in class, with Julien Canal now at the wheel, albeit a lap down to class-leader Jarvis.

Aston Martin Racing continues to head GTE Pro, with Nicki Thiim leading the way in the No. 95 Vantage V8 and teammate Darren Turner running second in the No. 97. However, with eight cars on the same lap in GTE Pro, their lead is far from comfortable. The GTE Pro field did see another retirement in the form of the No. 92 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR, with driver Michael Christensen spinning and crashing at the beginning of Hour 14.

In GTE Am, the No. 84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE continues to pace the class, with Will Stevens now its pilot.

 

HOURS 11 AND 12 (via Kyle Lavigne)

9 p.m. ETFollowing a chaotic four-hour stretch, Hours 11 and 12 during the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans were remarkably calm. The leaders are as follows:

  • LMP1: 1-Nick Tandy, Porsche 919 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 13-David Heinemeier Hansson, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 95-Richie Stanaway, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 84-Dries Vanthoor, Ferrari 488 GTE

 

Nick Tandy assumed the lead following the troubles of Toyota Gazoo Racing and continues to lead overall and in the LMP1 class, now ten laps ahead of the second-place David Heinemeier Hansson in the Rebellion Racing No. 13 Oreca 07 Gibson. Teammate Nico Prost had been leading, but was forced to pit after reporting on the radio that something on the car had broken, possibly involving the gearbox. The team rolled it back into the garage immediately to begin repairs. Their problems also moved Ho-pin Tung, in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, to second in the LMP2 class.

The GTE Pro class remains wide open, with the top six cars all on the same lap. As of writing, Richie Stanaway leads in the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8, ahead of teammate Johnny Adam in the No. 97 entry.

In GTE Am, Dries Vanthoor maintains his lead in the No. 84. JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE, with Euan Hankey running second in the No. 90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage V8.

Of note: the No. 2. Porsche 919 has been steadily working its way back forward following front axle problems early on. With Brendon Hartley now its pilot, the No. 2 entry sits 16th overall at the moment (second in the LMP1 class), and is on pace to reach second in the overall running order prior the race’s end.

 

HOURS 9 AND 10 (via Kyle Lavigne)

7 p.m. ET – Huge drama has it the 24 Hours of Le Mans as Hour 10 concludes. The class leaders are below:

  • LMP1: 1-Nick Tandy, Porsche 919 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 31-Nico Prost, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 92-Dirk Werner, Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
  • GTE-AM: 84-Dries Vanthoor, Ferrari 488 GTE

 

Most notably, the No. 7 Toyota TS050, in the hands of Kamui Kobayashi and the dominant overall leader through the first 10 hours, slowed dramatically on course following a safety car period near the end of Hour 10. Kobayashi was reportedly unable to accelerate when racing resumed and was coasting slowly around the track on its way back to the pits. As of writing, it is unknown what the exact problem is, but the team indicated it may be a clutch problem. Kobayashi ground to a halt before the Porsche curves.

 

The troubles for Toyota have moved the No. 1 Porsche to the overall lead, with Nick Tandy at the helm. This comes after a clumsy moment for the No. 1 machine, as driver Neel Jani spun under the safety car while entering the pits for a driver change. However, he quickly recovered and the car suffered no damage.

The aforementioned safety car was for a spin involving the No. 66 Ford GT of Oliver Pla, who subsequently dropped gravel onto parts of the circuit. The long cleanup necessitated a safety car.

Meanwhile, the No. 9 Toyota TS050 encountered problems of its own that forced it to retire. Following contact with another car, the No. 9 machine suffered a left-rear puncture and incurred irreparable damage, highlighted by a small fire at the rear of the machine, while driver Nicolas Lapierre tried to nurse it back to the pits. Shortly after arriving, the car was retired and garage doors shut.

The No. 31 Rebellion moves back into the lead of LMP2, with Nico Prost behind the wheel now, while Dirk Werner has cycled to the front in GTE Pro in the No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR. Dries Vanthoor continues to lead GTE Am in the No. 84 Ferrari 488 GTE.

 

 

HOURS 7 AND 8 (via Kyle Lavigne)

5 p.m. ET Just over a fourth of the way into the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans, the leaders at the end of Hour 8 look like this:

  • LMP1: 7-Mike Conway, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 13-Nelson Piquet Jr., Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 97-Daniel Serra, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 84-Will Stevens, Ferrari 488 GTE

Several frontrunners across all classes have encountered problems, however. While the No. 7 Toyota TS050 continues to lead, the sister No. 8 entry, with Sébastien Buemi at the wheel, suffered mechanical problems, with smoke coming from the right-front brake. Buemi drove the car into the pits, where it was promptly wheeled into the garage for repairs, and it remains there as of writing.

In GTE Am, the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, in the hands of Pedro Lamy, suffered a major right-front tire failure that ripped the right front corner off of the car. Somehow, Lamy managed to keep control of the car and navigated it back into the pits. However, the car lost four laps as the team made repairs and allowed Will Stevens in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE into the class lead.

Also, the No. 64 Corvette, in the hands of Tommy Milner, suffered a huge crash in the Porsche curves when the left-rear wheel and tire fell off, causing him to spin and back into the barrier. Despite also spinning at the pit entry, Milner returned the No. 64 to the pits, where the team made quick repairs and the car has returned to the race, albeit four laps off the class lead.

Up front, the No. 7 Toyota TS050 remains in the lead, with Mike Conway now at the helm, despite incurring a black and white flag for abusing the track limits. In LMP2, the No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson, in the hands of Nelson Piquet Jr., moves to the lead following a drive through penalty on the No. 31 of teammate Bruno Senna for overtaking in a slow zone.

 

 

HOURS 5 AND 6

3 p.m. ET – This year’s Le Mans has reached the one-quarter distance mark, and completed the length of a standard FIA World Endurance Championship race (six hours). Here’s your Hour 6 leaders:

  • LMP1: 7-Stephane Sarrazin, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 31-Bruno Senna, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 97-Darren Turner, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 98-Paul Dalla Lana, Aston Martin Vantage V8

Further updates are below. The No. 2 Porsche has returned to the track but has lost 19 laps, and will now have a fight the rest of the race to make its way up the order. At current lap projections, the LMP2 leaders might be 24 to 25 laps off the overall pace, so there’s an outside shot at an overall podium for this car if there’s no further issues.

The concern over increased speeds in LMP2 bore fruit when Mathieu Vaxviere attempted to pass two GT cars while using the runoff area on the Mulsanne Straight going into the first chicane. Vaxviere thought he’d cleared both of them but instead came up and crashed into Pierre Kaffer’s No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, destroying the team’s brand new chassis on entry into the chicane. Kaffer was OK but the car was not, which ends the car’s race.

That brought out a couple slow zones for barrier repairs and slowed the overall pace of the race.

David Cheng had a spin in his No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07, exiting the Porsche Curves, near the end of the sixth hour.

In the fifth hour, the third Toyota had an issue when the passenger’s side door of Yuji Kunimoto’s No. 9 Toyota TS050 Hybrid came open.

HOURS 3 AND 4

1 p.m. ET – The race is through the four-hour mark, with 20 to go at 7 p.m. local time. Here’s your Hour 4 leaders:

  • LMP1: 7-Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 13-David Heinemeier Hansson, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 71-Miguel Molina, AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE
  • GTE-AM: 84-Dries Vanthoor, JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE

A handful of updates to note. First off, the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid has stopped and gone into the garage, with Earl Bamber driving, courtesy of what Bamber called a front axle issue to Radio Le Mans. That’s cost the car several laps and has taken it out, in all likelihood, of any sort of win contention.

A tattered left rear tire has also slowed, but not completely stalled out, prior GTE-Pro class leader Marco Sorensen in the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8. Sorensen limped the car into the pits and lost a couple minutes, but have recovered.

The sister No. 97 Aston, in the hands of Daniel Serra, fought off a hard-charging Harry Tincknell in this stint. Tincknell was in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT, with Tincknell handing the car off to Pipo Derani at the most recent pit stop.

IndyCar star Tony Kanaan is into the No. 68 Ford, meanwhile, for his first race stint at Le Mans. Ryan Briscoe was currently in the No. 69 Ford and due to hand off to Scott Dixon shortly thereafter. Like Kanaan, fellow Brazilian rookie Rubens Barrichello has made his Le Mans race debut in the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217 Gibson, and told Radio Le Mans his first stint was “wonderful.”

Ben Keating also had a moment at the start of the fourth hour. In his No. 43 Keating Motorsports Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, Keating and a GTE-Pro Porsche 911 RSR collided at the Dunlop Chicane, with Keating then losing control of his car and crashing into a couple signs. Both he and the car were OK and resumed after the incident.

Up front, while the No. 7 Toyota in Kamui Kobayashi’s hands pulled away, Nick Tandy ran a stronger stint to get ahead of Anthony Davidson by a significant margin for second in his No. 1 Porsche vs. Davidson’s No. 8 Toyota.

HOUR 2

11 a.m. ET – Here’s your leaders at the end of the second hour:

  • LMP1: 7-Mike Conway, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 31-Nicolas Prost, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 69-Richard Westbrook, Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT
  • GTE-AM: 62-Bill Sweedler, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE

Of those four leaders though, the No. 69 Ford – a car driven by Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon – has had a long stop for a rear decklid change with a lighting issue. That adds to the car having lost its in-car camera earlier in the race, and it will drop back a bit as a result.

Meanwhile, three retirements have already popped up into the second hour.

Two cars have collided at the Porsche Curves, and both are out following that collision. Roman Rusinov’s No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 contacted Khaled Al Qubaisi’s No. 88 Proton Porsche 911 RSR, with Al Qubaisi’s car suffering significant rear end and front end damage. Al Qubaisi, who was due to share the car with Klaus Bachler and Stephane Lemeret in an under-the-radar GTE-Am class lineup, only ran 18 laps.

Al Qubaisi told Radio Le Mans’ Nick Daman, “I was always contemplating something (bad) like this before the race. There’s only one line. You can’t open it up. He was too far away to make a proper dive.”

The No. 26 car’s race went from bad to worse after Rusinov was called to the stewards’ office for driving conduct, and then its chassis manufacturer, Oreca, confirmed the car’s retirement. This means polesitter Alex Lynn won’t be able to race in his Le Mans debut. The car completed only 20 laps.

ByKolles’ car is also out of the race, Oliver Webb confirming the car’s retirement after just 7 completed laps.

HOUR 1

10 a.m. ET – The race is underway with all 60 cars. First hour leaders are below:

  • LMP1: 8-Sebastien Buemi, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 31-Bruno Senna, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 95-Nicki Thiim, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 62-Townsend Bell, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE

A spirit of unity was on the grid for the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans between the Formula 1 and FIA World Endurance Championship, as evidenced by FIA President Jean Todt below. Chase Carey then waved the tricolore to get the race underway.

The first issue struck on the opening lap with an apparent left rear puncture for Oliver Webb in the No. 4 ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO, as he limped the car back to the pits. He then hit a cone, which required a nose change.

Quite a number of LMP2 cars have had issues in the first hour. To wit:

  • Gustavo Menezes, defending LMP2 class winner and WEC class champion, made a rare mistake running long in the Mulsanne Corner in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson. He got out of the gravel and returned to the pits, but this brought out the first Slow Zone of the race.
  • The No. 22 G-Drive Oreca 07 (run by DragonSpeed) went behind the wall with an alternator belt issue, per FOX Sports’ Andrew Marriott. Ryo Hirakawa was driving.
  • The polesitting No. 26 G-Drive Oreca (run by TDS) required a change of nose after a spin at Ford Chicanes. Roman Rusinov was driving.
  • Graff’s No. 39 Oreca, driven by Eric Trouillet, limped back with a left front puncture.
  • A starter issue occurred to the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca on its first pit stop with Oliver Jarvis driving, per Radio Le Mans.

Those issues came among a run of early pit stops for the LMP2 contingent, all pitting around or shortly after the 30-minute mark.

At 46 minutes into the race, Sebastien Buemi got his No. 8 Toyota ahead of Mike Conway in the No. 7 Toyota, following an arguably way too intense scrap for the first hour!

The GTE-Pro and Am races were pretty close through the opening hour and the field is through its first round of pit stops.

Weather looks good, but warm, the rest of the race!

PRE-RACE

8:30 a.m. ET – The cars are on the grid with the final preparations being made before the rolloff at 9 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. local time in France.

High temperatures are set to throw an added degree of unpredictability into this year’s race. You can view our preview here.

This photo from ACO President Pierre Fillon on the starting grid showcases the anticipation.

Here’s the final starting grid. TV coverage is split between FS1 and FS2 with full streaming via FOX Sports Go; Radio Le Mans also has full radio coverage on its website as well.

Stroll rewarded with shoey after first F1 podium in Baku (VIDEO)

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Lance Stroll was “lost for words” after becoming the second-youngest Formula 1 podium finisher in Sunday’s chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, crossing the line third for Williams.

Stroll qualified eighth in Baku before managing to rise up the order as a race of attrition set in at the front, with title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both dropping back after coming to blows.

Stroll was left running second behind Daniel Ricciardo once Hamilton had pitted for repairs and Vettel had served his penalty, but had Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas bearing down through the closing stages.

In a drag race at the line, Bottas nosed ahead of Stroll by just 0.1 seconds to deny the Williams driver P2, but he was nevertheless able to hang on to third place.

Coming just two weeks after his maiden F1 points finish and following a barrage of criticism in the early part of the year, Stroll was overjoyed with the result.

“I’m just lost for words right now. I don’t even know what to say,” Stroll said.

“I can’t quite realize what just happened. It was a hectic race, people crashing and we stayed out of trouble, I kept my head cool and took it to the end.

“I lost out to Valtteri in the end. I reckon that was probably one of the closest finishes of all time! We were side-by-side across the finish line.

“What a race. I couldn’t believe coming into the weekend that I would be standing on the podium, it’s so amazing.”

Joining race winner and shoey extraordinaire Ricciardo on the podium, Stroll became the latest driver to take part in F1’s strangest tradition – albeit only after Ricciardo checked he was old enough.

Stroll completed the shoey like a champ, and was also informed that he had won the online Driver of the Day vote.

The result also saw Stroll became Canada’s first podium finisher since Jacques Villeneuve in 2001, as well as being the youngest ever rookie to finish in the top three.

Stroll missed out on the overall youngest podium record by 11 days to Max Verstappen, who won last year’s Spanish Grand Prix during his second season of racing in F1.

Ricciardo doubted Baku F1 win was possible, left ‘speechless’ on podium

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A stunned Daniel Ricciardo was left speechless on the podium after claiming his fifth Formula 1 victory in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, navigating a crazy race that he started from 10th on the grid.

Ricciardo survived three safety car periods, two early pit stops and a red flag stoppage to rise through the order and capitalize on trouble for title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, with both dropping back down the order after dominating early on.

Ricciardo moved into the lead when Vettel was forced to serve a penalty for dangerous driving, and went unchallenged en route to victory in Baku from there, finishing 3.9 seconds clear of the pack.

Struggling to form his words initially, Ricciardo said he only thought a podium was within reach after the restart, only for the issues for the leaders to hand him the race win.

“We know there was a chance of the podium after the restart, but then we heard what happened with Lewis and Seb. It was just a crazy race,” Ricciardo said.

“I made an unplanned stop at the beginning. After a few laps we had some debris in the brakes, so we had to stop and clean it. We dropped to 17th place.

“So did I think then that we could win? Absolutely not. I would have put all my money on it that this was very unlikely.

“A crazy race. This is the race we expected last year, with all the safety cars and all the chaos, and we got it this year.”

Ricciardo’s victory came after he crashed out of qualifying on Saturday evening in Baku, resigning him to a P10 start, but was pleased to make up for it in style.

“Yesterday I was disappointed with the mistake. I knew today would be a different outcome,” Ricciardo said.

“I said it yesterday that we had to stay out of trouble and it certainly paid off today. A big thanks to the team, it was nice to get one car home and on the podium.

“I’m honestly speechless. After the race on the cool down lap, I was kind of just giggling like a school boy.”

WATCH LIVE: KOHLER Grand Prix at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Road America this weekend, with the now 55-lap KOHLER Grand Prix this afternoon.

You can watch it LIVE on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app starting at 11 a.m. CT and local time, noon ET.

Coverage has moved up half an hour from a planned 12:30 p.m. ET start time with the Formula 1 race from Azerbaijan running long.

This moves the Indy Lights second race of the weekend, which was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET, with Jake Query and Anders Krohn in the booth and Hargitt in pit lane.

Coverage will run through to 3:30 p.m. ET. INDYCAR: NEXT at the 101st Indianapolis 500 is scheduled from 3:30 to 4 p.m. ET.

Kevin Lee is on the call along with analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy, with Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller in the pits.

Helio Castroneves secured the pole position for the race. The full qualifying report is linked here.

Ricciardo wins crazy Azerbaijan GP as Vettel, Hamilton come to blows

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Daniel Ricciardo survived one of the most chaotic Formula 1 races in recent memory to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as championship rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton both hit trouble and came to blows on-track.

A clash between the pair under the safety car acted as the first sign of a needle in their title fight, relations having remained fairly cordial to this point.

Vettel was deemed to be responsible for dangerous driving, receiving a penalty, while Hamilton was forced into an unplanned second stop when his headrest came loose, ruling both title contenders out of contention for victory.

All of this allowed Daniel Ricciardo to battle his way from 10th place on the grid to take Red Bull’s first win of the season, leading home Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and F1 rookie Lance Stroll, who took Williams’ first podium in over a year in just his eighth grand prix start.

Hamilton managed to make a clean getaway from pole position to retain his lead ahead Mercedes teammate Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, only for contact between the two to leave both cars with damage. In Bottas’ case, a new front wing was required, leaving him to limp back to the pits and fall a lap down.

The incident allowed Vettel to gain two places and run second behind Hamilton, with Sergio Perez moving up to third for Force India ahead of Max Verstappen and Raikkonen down in fifth, the Finn unamused by Bottas’ move at Turn 2.

Hamilton wasted little time in beginning to push at the front, quickly opening up a three-second gap ahead of Vettel, forcing the Ferrari man to respond to stop the gap from growing further.

In the battle behind, Perez was left fighting hard to keep Verstappen back with some bold defensive moves, only to soon be relieved of the pressure when the Red Bull driver suffered an engine problem, causing him to slow and drop all the way to eighth.

The safety car was deployed on Lap 12 to allow Daniil Kvyat’s stricken Toro Rosso to be recovered after an engine issue, sparking the lead drivers to dive into the pits. Hamilton was able to retain his lead ahead of Vettel, but Verstappen was forced to park his car up in the garage, marking his fourth retirement in six races.

The entirety of the field made use of the safety car to pit and switch to the soft tire that would likely take them to the end of the race, with Hamilton heading the field ahead of Vettel and Perez for the restart on Lap 17.

Hamilton bolted early as the safety car peeled in, dropping the surprised Vettel into the clutches of Perez behind. Vettel was able to defend on the inside at Turn 1 and hold the position, but teammate Raikkonen was less fortunate, slipping behind Felipe Massa and Esteban Ocon. The Ferrari driver also lost a chunk of bodywork from his car at Turn 1, prompting the stewards to throw a second safety car to allow the track to be cleared.

After nearly catching the safety car up on the first restart, Hamilton went to the other extreme the second time around, bunching the field right up. The Briton slowed so much that Vettel bumped into the back of him at Turn 15, before going side-by-side and raising his hand to complain. The pair touched again, Vettel appearing to drive towards Hamilton in a deliberate move.

When the race returned to green, Hamilton streamed away at the front while Vettel, running with damage, was left to defend his position from Massa, Perez and Ocon behind.

Massa tried to pass on the inside and moved up to third, while Ocon dived past Force India teammate Perez at Turn 3 and made contact, leaving both cars with damage. Ocon pitted and got a new front wing before going back out, but Perez was less fortunate, returning to his garage.

The safety car was deployed for the third time as debris was cleared, albeit too late for Raikkonen, who sustained damage to his car after running over bodywork at Turn 1, forcing him to head to the garage.

With debris strewn across the track, the FIA race stewards opted to throw a red flag so that the marshals could properly clear it, leaving all of the cars to return to the pit lane and queue up. Both Vettel and Hamilton were left in deep conversation with their teams regarding their clash, with the stewards doing much the same, confirming the incident was under investigation.

As teams waited for the race to resume behind the safety car, Ferrari and Force India were both able to complete rapid repairs on Raikkonen and Perez’s cars to get them back into the race, albeit two laps down on the field.

Around 25 minutes after the red flag was thrown, the race resumed behind the safety car with Hamilton and Vettel leading the way. Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll made the most of the madness to rise up to third and fourth respectively for Williams, while Ricciardo sat fifth for Red Bull.

Ricciardo was the big mover on the restart – which was absent of contact – to move from fifth to third ahead of both Williams drivers. Having reported a problem on his car, Massa began to lose multiple positions, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg clipped the wall and damaged his car, resigning both to retirement.

As the stewards continued to mull over his clash with Vettel, Hamilton began to pull away at the front once more, running over two seconds clear of his rival as the race passed half distance. His race took a twist when his head rest started to come loose, forcing the Briton to try to push it back down while running at 200 mph on the main straight. Unable to clip it back in fully, Hamilton was left to manage as best he could to keep the head protection in place.

Not wishing to risk a safety breach, Mercedes had no choice but to pit Hamilton from the lead and fit a new headrest, dropping the Briton all the way back to eighth place. However, just as he came in, the stewards announced that Vettel had been hit with a 10 second stop/go penalty for dangerous driving, pulling the race away from the Ferrari man just when it had been presented handed to him.

Vettel served his penalty and emerged back out on-track in seventh, one place ahead of Hamilton, with both drivers unhappy with the sanction that had been handed out. All of this left Ricciardo leading from Stroll and Magnussen, with Ocon fourth and Bottas – who was a lap down early on – fifth with 15 laps to go.

Magnussen was powerless to stop the Mercedes-powered cars from passing, with Bottas also overhauling Ocon to take third. Vettel and Hamilton were also able to slip past Magnussen before coming across Ocon, the Force India being made light work of, making Bottas the next target with six laps to go, who himself was catching Stroll at a rapid rate of knots.

At the front, though, Ricciardo had no such dramas to contend with. After 51 crazy laps in Baku, the Red Bull driver crossed the line to record the fifth victory of his grand prix career and the team’s first of the season.

Bottas denied Stroll second place at the line, finishing just 0.1 seconds ahead after a drag race at the finish, but the Canadian was nevertheless able to take third for Williams in just his eighth grand prix start, acting as a remarkable result for the rookie.

Vettel’s fightback from his penalty saw him finish fourth and extend his championship lead to 14 points over Hamilton, who was left to settle for fifth place.

Esteban Ocon took sixth for Force India – a good result given his clash with Perez and damage – while Kevin Magnussen took seventh for Haas ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr.

Fernando Alonso was another driver to benefit from the race of attrition, crossing the line ninth to take McLaren’s first points of the season and end its point-less run. Pascal Wehrlein rounded out the points for Sauber in P10.

Formula 1 returns in two weeks’ time with the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.