Ricciardo claims first win of 2017 in Azerbaijan

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    Daniel Ricciardo has produced a storming drive, battling back from 17th position to win an incident-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the Mercedes of Valterri Bottas and Williams’ Canadian rookie Lance Stroll.

    Sebastian Vettel finished fourth in his Ferrari, while pole-sitting Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton was fifth after both were handed penalties, which ultimately allowed Ricciardo to take the race lead and win.

    The win is Ricciardo’s fifth Grand Prix victory and first since he took out the Malaysian Grand Prix in October of 2016 but it was also the one he least expected to occur.

    Ricciardo admitted on the podium it was a race he never saw himself winning once he had to pit on lap six after encountering a problem caused by debris from Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari after the Finn had an opening lap incident with countryman Bottas.

    “It was just a crazy race, we knew the podium was a chance after the restart and then we heard about the problems with Lewis and Seb,” Ricciardo said.

    “I made an unplanned pit stop at the beginning, we had some debris in the brakes so we had to stop and clean them and dropped back to 17th place.

    “Did I think I would win today? Absolutely not.”

    While Ricciardo kept things clean in the latter part of the race it fell apart for so many of his rivals.

    First his teammate Max Verstappen retired with engine problems, then Daniil Kvyat parked his Toro Rosso, prompting a safety car which would eventually see Vettel and Hamilton collide behind it.

    “He brake tested me,” yelled Vettel over the team radio. “What the f**k is going on?”

    On the restart the Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez collided, allowing Ricciardo to sneak into fifth for the second restart – from which he duly passed the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Stroll to move into third.

    Hamilton, who led for much of a race that was red-flagged on lap 21 as the street circuit was cleared of debris, suffered his misfortune on the 32nd of 51 laps.

    The Brit was forced to pit by race control to change his headrest which had come loose and was a safety issue.

    Then on lap 34 race control slapped Vettel with a 10-second stop-go penalty for ‘dangerous driving’ in the incident with Hamilton.

    When Vettel pitted, Ricciardo strolled into the lead and kept things clean to streak away with a victory that left the Australian beaming as he featured on the podium for Red Bull for the fourth successive race weekend.

    Indeed it seemed the Australian could hardly believe his luck.

    “I said yesterday we had to stay out of trouble and it certainly paid off today,” a grinning Ricciardo told David Coulthard.

    “On the cool-down lap, I was just giggling like a little schoolboy.”

    He was still giggling later on a bizarre podium, Bottas had come from a lap-down to claim second while Stroll, at 18 years and 239 days became the youngest driver to make the podium in his first Formula One season.

    He is also the second youngest racer ever on the podium after Dutchman Max Verstappen, who was 18 years 228 days old when he won the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

    Stroll could have had second too if not for the speedy Bottas pipping him right on the finish line.

    Stroll’s first podium included a ‘shoey’ with Ricciardo, although the Canadian seemed to far from relish the idea of drinking from the Australian’s sweaty boot.

    “Stroll’s first podium so he certainly deserves one… is he old enough to drink?” Ricciardo asked.

    Stroll obliged though after claiming it would “scar him for life.”

    With the win Ricciardo stays fourth in the drivers championship while Vettel moved 14 points ahead of Hamilton at the top.

    The race also saw Fernando Alonso finish ninth to claim McLaren’s first points of the season.

    © AAP 2017

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