Go to a window. Look outside. Make sure it’s not raining upside down or gravity hasn’t stopped working, because the podium at Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix is one of the weirdest Formula One has seen in a long time: Daniel Ricciardo won over Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and known crash machine Lance Stroll.
If you’re not familiar with modern-day F1, the weekly podium usually goes something like this: Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, along with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Bottas in an interchangeable order. You could say things are pretty predictable around here, but it wasn’t like that on Sunday.
The podium was weird, but how everyone got there was even weirder. The 51-lap race around the Baku City Circuit had multiple local yellows and safety cars, and the field even pulled down pit lane for a red flag once—after points leaders Vettel and Hamilton got into a shoving match with race cars on track, of course.
From what the broadcast showed, the mid-race drama between Hamilton and Vettel started with Hamilton giving Vettel a brake check right after the safety car came out. Vettel pulled around the outside of Hamilton and rammed him right back, and race officials served Vettel a 10-second penalty for doing so.
Hamilton and Vettel, the clear dominant cars (of course), dropped back in the field and had to work their way back up for the remainder of the race. While all of that was going on, the top spots were like something from another world: on lap 38, Ricciardo led the unlikely top five of Stroll, Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen, Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Bottas. Poor Fernando Alonso’s awful McLaren-Honda was in eighth position at the time.
Vettel and Hamilton only clawed back up to fourth and fifth, respectively, in a finishing order of only 13—a whopping seven cars retired from the race early. But it was shoe sweat-drinking Ricciardo who won, while Bottas shot past Stroll at the end of the race for second. Stroll, who somehow didn’t wreck, wound up third. NBC commentators said he’s the second-youngest podium winner ever.
Welcome to another universe. Shoeys for everyone.