Azerbaijan GP: Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton to Baku win
Bottas holds off Hamilton at the start and the end for second win of 2019; Ferrari third and fifth, as title deficit to Mercedes grows; Ricciardo and Kvyat retire in bizarre 'reversing' clash
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 28/04/19 8:00pm
Valtteri Bottas reclaimed the lead of the F1 World Championship after narrowly beating Lewis Hamilton in a straight fight at the Azerbaijan GP as Mercedes maintained their immaculate start to 2019.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was unable to improve on third as Mercedes claimed a record fourth successive one-two finish to inflict another body blow on their fiercest rivals.
Hamilton strongly challenged Bottas for the lead at the start, and then in the closing laps, but the rejuvenated Finn held on to claim his second win of the year.
"Let's face it, Bottas deserves a bit of redemption here in Baku after what happened last year," said Sky F1's David Croft, 12 months on from the agonising late tyre blow-out for the Mercedes driver while leading.
Bottas leads Hamilton by one point at the top of the Drivers' Championship after four races, with his fastest lap from Australia again making the difference.
"Congratulations to Valtteri, he drove a fantastic race and made no mistakes so deserves the win," said Hamilton. "It was all lost in qualifying so there's not more I can say."
The in-form Bottas said: "It means a lot. It's incredible as a team the level we are performing at now. For me, it's only my fifth win so it feels good and it carries on."
Vettel finished 11 seconds adrift of the Silver Arrows and never really appeared likely to challenge for the victory after failing to gain ground at the start, a brief flicker of stronger speed after a Virtual Safety Car aside.
Team-mate Charles Leclerc did lead the race during a long first stint but his qualifying crash ultimately proved too costly and he was beaten to fourth by Red Bull's impressive Max Verstappen.
Sergio Perez capped another fine Baku weekend with Racing Point's best finish of the year, sixth, as Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris gave improved McLaren their first double points finish since last year's corresponding race.
While the race did not live up to the manic 2017-2018 editions, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat were still involved in a bizarre incident which saw both retire mid-way through the race.
Attempting an overtake on the Toro Rosso as they battled at Turn Three, Ricciardo locked up and went down the escape road, with Kvyat forced wide too. However, as he attempted to come back on the track, Ricciardo reversed straight into the Toro Rosso. The Australian will face a three-place grid penalty at the Spanish GP as punishment.
Azerbaijan GP Race Result
|1) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes|
|2) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+1.524|
|3) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+11.739|
|4) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+17.493|
|5) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+69.107|
|6) Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+76.416|
|7) Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+83..826|
|8) Lando Norris||McLaren||+100.268|
|9) Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+104.816|
|10) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|11) Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso||+1 lap|
|12) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|13) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+1 lap|
|14) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+1 lap|
|15) George Russell||Williams||+2 laps|
|16) Robert Kubica||Williams||+2 laps|
|Pierre Gasly||Red Bull||DNF|
|Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||DNF|
Hamilton's weekend regrets
The bedrock for the world champion's victory at the previous race in China had been at the start when he blasted past Bottas, then also on pole, off the line.
Hamilton got a similarly strong launch in Baku, yet Bottas was just able to hold position around the outside of Turn One.
"I didn't get the job done in qualifying, he did, and in the race I was too friendly at Turn One and basically gave it to him," a rueful Hamilton told Sky F1. "
"But he drove a fantastic race, made no mistakes - so deserved the win this weekend."
Mistakes had been Leclerc's undoing when the Ferrari driver appeared set to lead the fight for pole position in qualifying, yet there was little evidence of Mercedes-beating speed from the SF90 on race day.
"I don't think they understand why they are in the window as much as we don't understand that we're not, it's something that we need to work on," admitted Vettel.
Ferrari have a fortnight to find some immediate answers in time for the Spanish GP on May 11-12, the venue that just under two months ago where they had appeared to announce themselves as F1's team to beat in 2019. Mercedes, not for the first time, have shown they have other ideas.
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