Baku: Lewis Hamilton was subdued in his celebrations while his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was left devastated after the defending world champion claimed an unlikely victory in Sunday’s incident-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Their conflicting emotions summed up the range of moods following an extraordinary contest that saw two Safety Car interventions, championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari outwitted and beaten and the Red Bull drivers crash into each other.
Bottas had looked likely to win until he was hit by a puncture after running over debris in the final laps and gifted victory to his team-mate.
It was Hamilton’s first win this year and 63rd of his career and lifted him beyond Vettel back to the top of the title standings.
Hamilton had struggled to keep pace with Vettel and Bottas for much of the race and said it felt “a bit odd” to end up victorious after both men hit trouble in the closing laps.
Chasing Bottas after the final re-start, Vettel made a lunge to pass him at the first corner, but succeeded only in out-braking himself and locking up as he speared off circuit before rejoining to finish fourth.
Bottas then retired with the end in sight when he suffered a dramatic puncture after running over debris left on the main straight.
“It was really quite an emotional race to be honest,” said Hamilton. “Valtteri did such an exceptional job and really deserved to have the win and Sebastian also did a great job.
“It feels a little bit odd to be up here, but I’ve got to take it. I didn’t give up, I kept pushing, but it was an untidy race for me.”
Hamilton’s first win in seven races stretching back to last October took him to 70 points in the championship ahead of Vettel on 66 and Kimi Raikkonen on 48. Bottas has 40.
Bottas, in dark glasses, said: “It was just unfortunate. Unlucky. Ten pints of beer and maybe I will be fine… I will get through it. You always have to get through it – it is a part of racing, but at the moment it is painful.
“Street circuits are difficult. There are always going to be crashes. I didn’t know I had run over anything, or seen anything. Just unlucky.”
Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda blamed the poor work in clearing the track after the multiple accidents for Bottas’s misfortune.
“It was good and bad today,” he said. “Why didn’t they clean up the circuit properly? There was so much time to do it… It was a disaster for Bottas and for Lewis it was really good.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was philosophical.
“The win was really his, for Valtteri, but he pulled away at the re-start and ran over a huge chunk of debris. I just feel for him. There was even a tiny chance to win this race on normal strategy, but it cannot change the reality for us that we are a bit behind Ferrari at the moment.
“I guess, in the end, Lewis has got his Melbourne win back.”
In the season-opening race in Melbourne, Hamilton led until Ferrari took advantage of a Safety Car deployment to help Vettel take victory.
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Updated Date: Apr 30, 2018 00:11:29 IST