Mercedes' Hamilton claims Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Briton now leads Vettel by four points in drivers’ championship as Ferrari man finished fourth

Afp April 29, 2018

BAKU: Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed his first win of 2018 on Sunday and took over as leader of the title race when he triumphed in a dramatic, crash and incident-strewn Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The 33-year-old Briton managed to steer his Mercedes through a chaotic race and capitalised on his teammate Valtteri Bottas' misfortune when a late puncture scuppered the Finn's chances.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel had looked set to turn pole position into a victory until a second Safety Car intervention left him lunging to pass Bottas and locking-up.

The German finished fourth behind the triumphant Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India.

Hamilton unfazed by early season decline

The race was heavily punctuated by accidents which included one in which the two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen collided while fighting for fourth place in the closing stages.

Hamilton leads the world championship on 70 points, four clear of Vettel.

Carlos Sainz finished fifth for Renault and Charles Leclerc sixth for Sauber, his first points finish.

Fernando Alonso finished seventh for McLaren ahead of Canadian Lance Stroll of Williams, Stoffel Vandoorne in the second McLaren and New Zealand's Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso.

Wolff defends Hamilton over Ecclestone publicity 'grenade'

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff laughed off Bernie Ecclestone's suggestion that Hamilton is "a bit tired" of Formula One as nothing more than a publicity "hand grenade".

While Hamilton declined to react to the former commercial supremo's comments, Wolff said he took them with a smile.

"All of us very much respect Bernie, but we have also learned to take the comments with a smile," said Wolff. "Lewis is remarkably easy with these kinds of things - I think that he sees it pretty relaxed. Bernie comes in and throws a hand grenade and it's in the papers — it's great. It's Bernie's way — he got all of you here (into F1) and me, and he made the sport big. It's the off-track and on-track narrative and another thing to write about and talk about."

Hamilton is still motivated, said Wolff, who added that there had been an overreaction to Mercedes failure to win any of the three season-opening races.

"How the news is running these days, we are oscillating between exuberance and depression, and back again," he said. "When things are not going in the right direction it's doom, and when you win two races in a row it's the utter Mercedes dominance destroying the sport. Maybe it's somewhere in the middle. We haven't collectively performed on the level we would want to in the last races. There were three races we could have won and we didn't, that's a fact. But I still see the fire and the desire to win very much burning in Lewis."


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