By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix had everything this year: crashes, controversy, surprise results and a ton of interesting statistics to process.
Chief among them was the fifth win of Daniel Ricciardo’s career. His win from 10th on the grid is the furthest back a driver has won since Fernando Alonso won from 11th in the 2012 European Grand Prix. The last driver who actually won from 10th was Kimi Raikkonen, way back in the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix. With five wins, Ricciardo is tied with Giuseppe Farina, Keke Rosberg, Clay Regazzoni, John Watson, and Michele Alboreto.
Further cementing Ricciardo’s greatness is that all five of his wins have come from outside the top three grid positions. All of Sebastian Vettel’s 45 wins have come from within the top three. Give Ricciardo a chance at a win and he goes for it. If Red Bull were to give him a car capable of consistently keeping up with Ferrari and Mercedes he would be a genuine championship contender.
In fact, Ricciardo has scored more points in the last four races than anyone. With three consecutive third places and a win he has scored 70 points since Spain, compared to 67 for Vettel and 66 for Lewis Hamilton. Ricciardo’s streak of four podiums in a row has only been equaled or bettered by Vettel who had six in a row from the season opener.
Ricciardo’s team mate, Max Verstappen had another race to forget. After fighting with the Force India’s early on for a top three position, his Renault engine failed. It is the fourth time in the last six races that Max either crashed out or saw his race end early to due a technical problem. The highly rated youngster has less than half the points Ricciardo does.
It was the first race this season that didn’t see either Vettel or Hamilton on the podium. In fact, the podium did not feature a single World Champion driver, the last time this happened was curiously enough when Ricciardo won in Malaysia last year, of course Nico Rosberg who finished third on that occasion went on to win the championship that year.
It was also Vettel and Ferrari’s second race in a row without a podium which has allowed Mercedes to gap them in the Constructor’s standings by 24 points. Partly thanks to Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement from the race and Valtteri Bottas sterling drive from the back of the field to nip Lance Stroll for second place at the line.
Speaking of Lance Stroll, it was a very good day for the young Canadian and almost an unbelievably good day for Williams Martini Racing. Fresh off scoring his first world championship points, Stroll kept his head in a crazy race and scored his maiden podium finish. He is just the third Canadian to claim a podium finish after the father and son duo of Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve. He also became the second youngest podium finisher after Max Verstappen and the youngest podium finisher in his rookie season, as Verstappen took till his second year in F1 to reach the top 3. For his efforts Stroll was voted driver of the day by F1 fans for delivering Williams its first podium since Canada in 2016.
The day could have been so much better for Williams though as Felipe Massa was one place ahead of Stroll when the race restarted, but had to retire with a suspension issue. Had the car not let them down Williams could have celebrated a double podium finish and it is likely that a veteran like Massa could have held off Ricciardo and ended the longest win drought in F1 history that dates back to his last triumph at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.
On the negative side of things Sebastian Vettel has now amassed 9 penalty points on his license, more than any other driver has amassed in a 12 month period. He will have to keep his nose clean the next couple races as 12 points equates to a one race ban. That would require another serious offense however, so it is likely he will be fine after Austria when the points he incurred in last year’s British Grand Prix will drop off his record.
One final bright point from Azerbaijan was a glimmer of hope for McLaren-Honda as both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finished a race for the first time this year. Alonso in ninth, scored the teams first points of the year and though Vandoorne finished 12th and out of the points, it is a welcome sign of reliability to have both cars running at the end of a race.