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Hamilton wins chaotic Baku battle to lead F1 title race

Hamilton wins chaotic Baku battle to lead F1 title race

Winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a "humbling experience" for Lewis Hamilton after Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel's issues handed him glory.

The damage to his front tires was bad enough that Force India's Sergio Perez made short work of him on the next lap, but he recovered fourth place when Bottas retired from the race with a catastrophic puncture on Lap 49.

Hamilton, also a four times champion but yet to win a race this season, lost time in the final sector and said it had been hard to keep the auto straight in the crosswinds.

Hamilton improved on his final hot lap in qualifying to narrow the gap to Vettel to 0.179 seconds, who was fortunate that Kimi Raikkonen could not upstage him after losing the rear of the vehicle at Turn 16.

The Briton's title rival Sebastian Vettel looked the likely victor earlier in the race, but his hopes unravelled following a spectacular crash between the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Carlos Sainz Jr (Renault): +7.515s 6.

Max Verstappen qualified fifth in his Red Bull while Kimi Raikkonen, fastest in Q1 and Q2, had to be content with sixth place on the grid after a skid hit his chances of a quicker time.

Red Bull's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo celebrates with the trophy after the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2017.

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Hamilton added: "It was really quite an emotional race to be honest". Ricciardo went to the right and as Verstappen went there too to cover him off, the Chinese GP victor went to the left. The timing of the stop meant he easily covered Hamilton, who was on a fresh set of soft tyres, and only had to remain within 20 seconds of Bottas ahead to ensure he retook the lead when the second Mercedes pitted.

Bottas looked to be on course to claim Mercedes' first win of 2018 after perfectly managing a late Safety Car restart.

"I think at times during the race the pace was OK, but on the ultra-soft tyre at the end I didn't feel like I could challenge the cars in front". The crash warranted for a safety auto, while Alonso too pitted for two punctures. Hamilton and Raikkonen did the same, setting up a sprint race to the finish between the top four drivers.

The safety auto came out following the contact between Verstappen and Ricciardo. Vettel attempted a lunge from deep for the lead but locked up, running deep at Turn 1 and taking a big chunk out of the tyres.

The ensuing safety auto was a lengthy affair, mainly because Romain Grosjean inexplicably lost the rear of his Haas warming his tyres on the straight from Turns 13 to 14 and slammed into the wall from sixth position.

Bottas, who had lost out on a win in the last race beacuse of a SC, was firmly in control.

Canadian Lance Stroll, third in Baku previous year, will start 10th for Williams - the only team yet to score a point this season.