Formula 1: Hamilton wins chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images

Chaos was the name of game on Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with a slew of incidents late in the race dramatically shaking up the finishing order.

In the end, Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton survived the chaos and overcame early-race tire problems to take his first victory of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season. Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished second, a comeback drive for him after contact with Sahara Force India’s Esteban Ocon on Lap 1. The contact knocked Ocon out of the race, and forced Raikkonen to pit for a new front wing.

However, Sergio Perez gave Force India a reason to smile by claiming his first podium since 2016.

Behind them, Valtteri Bottas, who emerged in the lead after clever tire strategy and a timely Safety Car, suffered a terrible turn of misfortune when he ran over a piece of debris on Lap 47, resulting in a cut right-rear tire.

Prior to that, Sebastian Vettel tried a daring overtake on Bottas entering Turn 1 on a Lap 46 restart, but the Ferrari driver badly overshot Turn 1 after locking up his front tires. Bottas, Hamilton, and Raikkonen all got by at the time, with Perez passing him a short time later. Vettel eventually emerged in fourth after Bottas’ problems.

Red Bull Racing looked to be in for a strong result, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen holding fourth and fifth for much of the race, and engaged in a spirited battle for the position at that.

Ricciardo tried to pass Verstappen multiple times, with the young Dutchman holding firm every time, the two even touching wheels slightly at one point, before Ricciardo made his way around Verstappen on the outside entering Turn 1 on Lap 35.

However, everything went wrong on Lap 40. Ricciardo, who dropped back behind Verstappen after pit stops, tried to slipstream by Verstappen on the front straightaway, but his teammate swerved to block, and Ricciardo was left with nowhere to go but straight into the back the sister RB14.

Both crashed in the Turn 1 runoff area, ending their days on the spot and adding more tension to their already tense rivalry.

The Red Bull incident set the stage for the chaotic finish. Vettel had led from the start, while Hamilton ran second until he pitted early after his tires lost grip on Lap 22. Vettel pitted from the lead on Lap 30, but Mercedes left Bottas out in hopes that he could go long enough to put on ultra soft tires to end the race, or even catch a Safety Car and keep the lead.

Indeed, the Red Bull contact created a such a Safety Car, and Bottas pitted for ultra softs and was able to keep the lead, with Ferrari also pitting Vettel as Mercedes did the same with Hamilton.

The Safety Car was extended after a bizarre incident in which Haas F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean crashed under the yellow period while weaving his Haas VF-18 to keep temperatures in the tires.

Racing resumed on Lap 46, which saw Vettel make his aforementioned dive inside of Bottas for the lead, but to no avail.

One Lap later, Bottas suffered his puncture, allowing Hamilton through into the lead for good.

Behind the top four finishers of Hamilton, Raikkonen, Perez, and Vettel, Carlos Sainz Jr. finished fifth for Renault Sport F1 Team, followed by Alfa Romeo Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, who put in a fantastic effort to finish sixth and score the first points of his F1 career.

McLaren F1 Team’s Fernando Alonso came back from Lap 1 contact with Williams Martini Racing’s Sergey Sirotkin to finish seventh, while Lance Stroll finished eighth to give Williams their first points of 2018.

Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne finished ninth, with Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley finishing tenth to score his first F1 point.

The victory puts Hamilton into the lead of the championship on 70 points, with Vettel four points behind in second. Raikkonen sits third on 48, eight points ahead of Bottas.

Results are below. The next Formula 1 race of the 2018 season is the Spanish Grand Prix on May 13.


Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.