Eastern Europe has been a rather unstable corner of the world for some time now, but never has that instability been more visible than in the race this weekend in Baku, Azerbaijan. Tension was in the air; the Baku city circuit boasts some of the tightest corners and is built mostly on civilian streets, which range from four lanes wide to just barely narrow enough for two cars side by side. In addition to this, there was a steady, fierce 14 mph gust blowing over the course. These factors combined spelled chaos early on in the race. As the flag dropped with bitter rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel sitting side by side in P1 and P2 separated by less than a third of a second, the question on everyone’s mind was, which of them would Mad Max Verstappen crash with this time?
As it turned out, Verstappen was hardly the only one to cause carnage in the streets of Baku this weekend. Early collisions in lap 1 put Esteban Ocon and Sergey Sirotkin out of the race. As the safety car returned to the paddock, Sebastian Vettel was left alone to fend off an unrelenting assault from the combined might of the entire Mercedes and Red Bull teams.
Red Bull Falls Apart Again
Verstappen and Ricciardo spent the majority of the race trading blows, constantly overtaking each other and even making slight contact at the halfway point of the race. Words were likely to be had in the Red Bull paddock, as Verstappen and Ricciardo collided on the straight on lap 40, putting both fiercely competitive drivers out of contention. Ricciardo made an attempt to overtake his teammate by late-braking into the corner at the end of the straight, but couldn’t stop in time to avoid slamming into the rear of Mad Max.
This is the second race in a row and third race this season that Verstappen has been eliminated from the race by colliding with another driver. Ricciardo’s contract is up in the air at the moment, with his team boss Christian Horner practically begging him to stay. But if the issues with his teammate continue, we could see him racing for Ferrari in 2019.
Victory For King Lewis
Lewis Hamilton has at last reverted to type, snatching victory from both Sebastian Vettel and (thanks to a puncture) his teammate Valtteri Bottas with less than 4 laps to go in spectacular fashion.
Hamilton’s astonishing win has put him back in contention to win the world driver’s championship from Vettel, with Hamilton having 70 points and Vettel 66. On nights like this, Daniel Ricciardo’s words about the sport ‘ripping your heart out’ ring truer than ever.
Title image: Derapate.com
Image 2: EssentiallySports.com
Image 3: the Irish times