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Bottas heads Mercedes mastery of Azerbaijan

Mat Coch

Sunday 28th April, 2019 - 11:53pm

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Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas has converted pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix into his second victory of the 2019 Formula 1 season.

The Finn led home another Mercedes 1-2 with Lewis Hamilton in second and Sebastian Vettel third for Ferrari at the end of a comparatively uneventful affair.

Daniel Ricciardo was again a retirement, this time after a mistake preceded contact with former team-mate Daniil Kvyat.

Behind Vettel was Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Sergio Perez (Racing Point), the two McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, Lance Stroll (Racing Point), and Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) in 10th.

Bottas moved into a clear lead on the exit of Turn 2 after running wheel to wheel with Hamilton through the opening two corners.

He then quickly established himself at the head of the race as he pulled a more than two second advantage by the time DRS was enabled by Race Control.

Having started down the order courtesy of his qualifying crash, Leclerc swiftly cutting through the traffic and was fourth by the end of Lap 9.

The opening laps saw Kvyat struggle for pace with the Russian dropping behind Toro Rosso team-mate Alexander Albon before taking to the pit lane for an early stop.

A number of others followed with both Alfa Romeos, Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), and Kevin Magnussen (Haas) all opting for early stops.

Ricciardo stopped after 10 laps, pitting behind Stroll but rejoining the race ahead of the Racing Point in 17th.

Ferrari called Vettel in a lap later, just as Leclerc began to shape up for a pass on his team leader.

A slick stop saw Vettel only drop a single place but triggered an immediate reaction from Mercedes, who called Bottas in from the race lead.

On the following lap it was Hamilton’s turn, comfortably slotting into the gap between Bottas and Vettel in fourth on track.

Following their stops, Vettel was able to catch Hamilton on track and challenge the world championship leader for third place.

During the middle stage of the race Leclerc’s advantage was withered away as Bottas closed on the Ferrari.

While Bottas was chasing down the leader, Hamilton was in turn closing on him to move within the DRS window on Lap 31.

It was the first time Hamilton had been within striking distance of his team-mate since the opening lap of the race.

Bottas in turn was in DRS range of Leclerc and made the move into Turn 1 at the start of Lap 32.

Two corners ahead Ricciardo skated into the escape road as he put a move on Kvyat, the pair stopped in the escape road otherwise unscathed.

Immediately engaging reverse, Ricciardo then drove into the Toro Rosso only to drive the Renault back to the pit lane and into retirement.

Kvyat’s race also came to an end as a result of the collision, the Russian an innocent victim in Ricciardo’s mistake.

As that happened, Hamilton was able to pass Leclerc for second before waving Vettel through at the start of Lap 34.

He was in the pits on the following lap, a 2.8 second stop feeding him back on track just behind Pierre Gasly, who had yet to stop, in sixth place and nearly 30 seconds behind Bottas.

Race Control deployed the Virtual Safety Car for Gasly when the Red Bull suddenly slowed on Lap 39, the Frenchman having to park the car on track.

The Virtual Safety Car was costly for Leclerc who was on the long front straight and had to slow significantly, losing him eight seconds in comparison to Bottas.

It all but ended his hopes of a podium, and with nearly 30 seconds to Verstappen in fourth all but confirmed the Monegasque in fifth.

Holding a pit stop in his pocket, Ferrari stopped Leclerc again at the start of Lap 48 in a clear attempt to steal the point for Fastest Lap – a point he claimed on the penultimate lap.

Hamilton harried Bottas in the final laps of the race, moving within DRS range with three laps remaining.

A mistake from Hamilton, and a burst of DRS for Bottas thanks to George Russell, saw the margin of victory 1.5 seconds at the chequered flag.

In doing so, Bottas also reclaimed the lead in the drivers’ world championship by a single point as Mercedes’ perfect start to 2019 continued.

Result: Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Pos Num Driver Team Laps Time/Diff
1 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 51 1:31:52.942
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 51 +1.524s
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 51 +11.739s
4 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 51 +17.493s
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 51 +69.107s
6 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point Bwt Mercedes 51 +76.416s
7 55 Carlos Sainz Mclaren Renault 51 +83.826s
8 4 Lando Norris Mclaren Renault 51 +1:40.268s
9 18 Lance Stroll Racing Point Bwt Mercedes 51 +1:43.816s
10 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 50 +1 lap
11 23 Alexander Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 50 +1 lap
12 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 50 +1 lap
13 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 50 +1 lap
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 50 +1 lap
15 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 49 +2 laps
16 88 Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 49 +2 laps
NC 10 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing Honda 38 DNF
NC 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 38 DNF
NC 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 33 DNF
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 31 DNF

Fastest lap: Charles Leclerc

Drivers’ Championship

Pos Driver Points
1 Valtteri Bottas 87
2 Lewis Hamilton 86
3 Sebastian Vettel 52
4 Max Verstappen 51
5 Charles Leclerc 47
6 Sergio Perez 13
7 Pierre Gasly 13
8 Kimi Räikkönen 13
9 Lando Norris 12
10 Kevin Magnussen 8
11 Nico Hulkenberg 6
12 Carlos Sainz 6
13 Daniel Ricciardo 6
14 Lance Stroll 4
15 Alexander Albon 3
16 Daniil Kvyat 1
17 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
18 Romain Grosjean 0
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors’ Championship

Pos Team Points
1 Mercedes 173
2 Ferrari 99
3 Red Bull Racing Honda 64
4 Mclaren Renault 18
5 Racing Point Mercedes 17
6 Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 13
7 Renault 12
8 Haas Ferrari 8
9 Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 4
10 Williams Mercedes 0

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