Baku was the backdrop for round eight, with Hamilton once again taking pole from Bottas as the Mercedes duo clearly had the slight edge. But Ferrari was not far off the pace.
Ricciardo crashed out at the most critical part of the session, meaning the top teams were unable to go fighting for the last few tenths as they struggled for heat with just a single out lap. While Verstappen had looked close to the top two when it mattered he was eight tenths off.
That friendly rivalry came to an end as Hamilton and Vettel prepared for the restart after a collision between the Force India’s on the first restart as they crashed into each other at Turn Two caused a red flag. Perez got alongside Ocon and his front wing made contact with the front tyre.
That brought the safety car back out leading to the red flag because of the amount of debris on track. That also lead to conqenues from the team and a war of words to break out on social media, after the Frenchman accused Perez of “trying to kill him.”
That lead to Force India clamping down on racing within the team. But all the drama saw Stroll go from strength to strength as he gained his first podium. But that Q3 crash hadn’t affected Ricciardo as the chaos saw the Australian rise from tenth to take the victory.
The fight had been respectful until now, so what impact would the Baku race have on the championship going forward? Would it give an advantage to either of them.
Bottas put in another good performance to put himself a tenth ahead of Vettel, who was unable to respond to the Finn’s lap. Bottas had looked very strong all weekend, unlike his teammate Hamilton who was forced to abort his final run in Q3. The Englishman already knew going into qualifying he would take a penalty for a gearbox change and did his best Q2 lap on the more durable supersofts.
It was a strong session for Haas both cars in the top ten. In recent years Williams had been in the mix at the Red Bull Ring and even got pole, but it was shaping up to be a dismal weekend. Both cars were out in Q1 as the team struggled to find the balance one cars.
Bottas was on lighting form, with some accusing the Finn of jumping the start to lead at turn one. He built that lead throughout the race, as Vettel was caught in traffic. That was despite the Finn blistering his tyres, however, the short lap meant that Vettel needed to get through the traffic.
It was another good start by Ricciardo who attacked Vettel into the first corner, staying with him on the long run to Three where he made the move stick. That battle allowed Romain Grosjean to get pass the Ferrari aided by Ricciardo, as he closed up.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was working his way up charging his way through to fourth. Before being stuck in the closing stages of the race behind the Red Bull.
Max Verstappen’s race was over before it had really begun. The Dutchman only made it to the first corner, before being hit by Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, as a result of the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat misjudging his braking and hit pushing it into Verstappen.
The Toro Rosso driver was awarded a drive-through penalty for the incident, which led to Verstappen stopping further round the lap and Alonso returning to the pits immediately with terminal damage. That penalty meant the Russian finished the race being the last of the runners in sixteenth.
Hamilton took pole position despite an investigation into impeding the Haas of Grosjean. The Mercedes driver was half a second faster than Raikkonen on the supersofts, while title rival Vettel struggled in the first two sectors. Bottas was also struggling, he lost time after a lock up.
It was another disappointing qualifying for Williams, with Massa only fifteenth and his team-mate Stroll sixteenth, while Palmer just missed out on Q3 after Vandoorne pushed him out.
Hamilton was again in dominant form, leading from the very start of the race and building that gap, leading every lap to take victory for the fifth time at Silverstone. But behinds it was turning once again was the battle of the Finn’s.
However, the race swung towards Bottas in the closing stages as Raikkonen suffered a puncher forcing him to pit with two laps to go. Things were not going better for Vettel either; he was also forced to stop with two laps to go with a tyre failure!
Ferrari’s gamble of running long stints backfired dramatically on track. But Vettel’s chances of winning the race was effectively over early on as he slipped behind the Red Bull early on.
Verstappen finished fourth, despite his own tyre problems in the closing stages. Despite the tyre woes, it was a brilliant race for the Dutchman who hung on to finish ahead of his team-mate Ricciardo. It was a good race for the Aussie who recovered from the back to finish fifth.
It was a great race for Renault’s Hulkenberg in sixth, earning his team there best result since the team returned as a works manufacturer last season. But while Hulkenberg got a good result for the team, team-mate Palmer’s race was over before the start, he suffered a break by wire issue and hydraulic problems on the formation lap. That caused the first start to be aborted.
Ferrari looked in very good form with Vettel beating his teammate Raikkonen by a tenth in qualifying. Vettel looked as if he had the advantage because Mercedes where struggling in the tight first sector of the lap. Bottas beat Hamilton to third place, as he struggled with his tires on his final lap in Q3 costing him four tenths.
Massa was replaced by the former Force India, Driver Paul di Resta after feeling unwell. The Scotsman had his first taste of a 2017 car in the anger of qualifying, it was a respectable afternoon and he will start nineteenth.
The race was Ferrari’s from the off with both Mercedes struggling to get close enough to pass Raikkonen and Vettel, that was despite both teams appearing to be very evenly matched on their race pace. Hamilton was released by Bottas in the closing stages to try and get past the Ferrari.
However he didn’t have enough pace to catch the Ferrari, so in a sign of his respect for his teammate he gave the position back to him. Hamilton later admitted that he thought it could have been the moment, he could have lost the championship.
Meanwhile, both Red Bull’s collided at turn two, Ricciardo went around the outside of Verstappen after he suffered oversteer causing them to crash. That earnt Verstappen a ten second penalty at his first stop. Ricciardio said “I mean there’s not much else to describe or say. That was amateur to say the least.”
It was also a good race for Alonso who finished sixth after leaping Sainz during the pit stops. di Resta’s return to the driving seat ended with him retiring from the race because of an oil leak in the closing stages as he battled with the Sauber
At the halfway point in the season, Vettel lead by fourteen points over Hamilton with Bottas a further nineteen point behind his teammate. While in the constructors Mercedes led Ferrari by thirty-nine points.
So could Ferrari take their first championship in a decade or will Mercedes fight back?