Valtteri Bottas has retaken the lead of the championship after leading a fourth consecutive one-two for Mercedes at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Finn controlled the race from the very start to narrowly beat his Mercedes teammate.
Bottas and Hamilton have made a brilliant start to the season, taking two wins and two podiums each in the first four races of the season. Bottas who lost a dominant win in Baku last year, held his nerve withstanding the pressure from Hamilton to retake the lead of the championship by a point.
Ferrari’s hope of halting the Mercedes charge in 2019 failed to materialise, Vettel could not find the pace to get close to the Mercedes and finished the race nearly ten seconds off the pace. The four times champion appeared to be outshone by Charles Leclerc who finished fifth.
It was a great drive by the Monacan, as he started from eighth after crashing in qualifying when he had appeared the favourite for the weekend, and once clear of the midfield runners, he began carving huge chunks out of the gap to the front-runners.
Bottas told BBC News “It’s going to be a hard battle with Lewis. It’s about getting every point you can. He was, for sure, trying everything he could to win the race, but I have to focus on my own driving and I was driving corner to corner and at the end not thinking about laps.”
Hamilton added “It was an under-par performance for myself. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the race here, I just struggle – I got quicker at the end but it was too late then.”
“I didn’t get the job done in qualifying and in the race, I was too friendly at Turn One and basically gave it to him, but he drove a great race and deserved the win.”
By lap eleven, Leclerc had caught Vettel and the team brought the German into the pits, before changing him to the mediums. Mercedes reacted bringing both Bottas and Hamilton in, giving the Monacan the lead of the race.
Questions remain for Ferrari as to where the pre-season pace has gone, the team never appeared to challenge Mercedes after failing to get ground at the start. Vettel finishing the race eleven seconds off the pace, the next race in Barcelona and testing needs to give answers to Ferrari’s woes.
Leclerc being voted driver of the day given his brilliant afternoon, he said “felt a lost a bit of time once Valtteri, Lewis and Seb passed me. We need to look into that.”
“I asked is there any possibility for us to come back, they told me no. After that, there was no more trying to push to catch them, but just to try and save the tyres and do the fastest lap when I had the opportunity.”
The crash in qualifying for Leclerc, proved too costly as he lost out to the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. The Dutchman finished fourth ahead of the Ferrari, but it was a frustrating afternoon for teammate Pierre Gasly who retired from the race.
The Frenchman brought out a brief Virtual Safety Car to clear Gasly’s car from the Turn Six run off after he retired with smoke coming from the rear of his Red Bull on lap forty.
Fellow Frenchman Romain Grosjean also retired from the race on the same lap in the pit lane. The cause of his retirement is unknown.
It was another strong race for the Racing Point of Sergio Perez, the Mexican had run as high as fourth with him settling for sixth. Perez looked to be comfortably ahead of his midfield rivals with the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat looking not to be a challenge.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz beat his teammate Lando Norris, as the British team finished seventh and eighth. Making it the first double points finish of the season, and the first time since last years race in Baku.
Baku did not provide the drama of recent days or years, but Daniel Ricciardo was called to the stewards following an incident with his former teammate Daniil Kvyat which saw him retire.
A simple but costly error, Ricciardo simply missed the apex of Turn Three and blocked the Russian’s route. After they went down the runoff, Ricciardo then reversed into his former teammate, damaging both cars leading to both their retirements.
The two were summoned to the stewards to explain what happened. The stewards decided that Ricciardo clearly was at fault and have awarded the Australian a three-place grid penalty for the Spanish Grand Prix, as well as having two penalty points added to his licence.
Ricciardo apologised to Kvyat after the race for what happened, as he explained that he had reversed without looking in a ‘panic’ to get back on track.
Ricciardo told Sky Sports, “At the time it was looking quite good for us. We were starting to pick up the pace and obviously closing in on Daniil. I saw a gap and thought I would have a go. It is always tight into Turn 3, and initially, I thought I had the commitment and would pull it off. Then I felt it was starting to lock and I missed the corner.”
Kimi Raikkonen scored an unlikely point to keep his record of finishing in the top ten every race this season, despite starting from the pitlane after his Alfa Romeo failed a front wing deflection test.
Both Williams finished the race at the back with George Russell fifteenth and Robert Kubica sixteenth.
- Azerbaijan GP – Qualifying Result
- AZERBAIJAN GP – Valtteri Bottas takes pole in another drama filled qualifying in the land of fire
- Notebook – Azerbaijan Practice
- AZERBAIJAN GP – Charles Leclerc fastest by three tenths in another drama-filled second practice
- AZERBAIJAN GP – First practice abandoned after George Russell runs over a drain cover
- Prixview – Azerbaijan Grand Prix