Bottas holds off late-charging Hamiltonposted in F128 | 04 | 2019

    VALTTERI BOTTAS FENDED off a powerful late charge from Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to win the 2019 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Finn’s win came 12 months after he suffered heartbreak when a late puncture robbed him of victory. (Related: Exclusive interview with F1 boss Ross Brawn)

    “This victory feels really good,” Bottas, who now takes a narrow one-point lead over Hamilton into the first European grand prix in Spain in a fortnight, admitted. “When you’re starting from pole, you hope for a straightforward race – the less drama, the better it is.

    “I didn’t have the greatest start; after the wheelspin in China I was maybe just a little too cautious. Lewis had a better start so we went side-by-side into Turn 1 and 2; it was good, respectful racing between the two of us and I’m glad I could pull up in front of him. (Related: Heartbreak for Leclerc as Hamilton wins)

    “Lewis was very quick today and was able to put on some pressure at the end of the race, so I had to make sure to not make any mistakes. I’ve already said it on the radio after the race: ‘ What a team!’


    “The level at which everyone is performing at the moment is very impressive, both here at the track and back at the factory, and I’m really proud of everyone. We need to make sure we keep delivering at this level.”

    And the Mercedes 1-2 was also welcomed by Hamilton.

    “This is a great result for the team,” he stated. “I think this team is stronger than it’s ever been and it’s all down to teamwork. Both Valtteri and myself are pushing the boundaries of the car and are delivering, as are the team in the pitstops, the engineers, and everyone back at the factory.


    “I don’t think we have ever performed at this level before and I’m really grateful for all the hard work from everyone. Baku is not my strongest race, it’s always been difficult for me. I came close to the win today, but not close enough.

    “Valtteri drove a great race and deserved the win. It was great that the team let us race though. I’ll work hard to bounce back and pick up the performance for Spain.”

    The dominant result delivered Mercedes its fourth successive 1-2 finish in the opening four grands prix of the season. Sebastian Vettel could only finish third again for Ferrari, with his team-mate Charles Leclerc battling through to fifth, behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, after the qualifying crash that left him eighth on the grid.


    In many ways the race was decided at the first corner. Starting from P2, Hamilton got the better start and aggressively challenged polesitter Bottas around the outside of the first two corners. But the Finn held his nerve and rebuffed the five-time world champ.

    Bottas then held off Hamilton until he pitted on lap 12 of 51, one lap after Vettel and one lap before his Mercedes team-mate. After the pitstops has worked their way out, Bottas held a two-second lead over Hamilton.

    Frustratingly, the Englishman’s bid to cut into the lead were tempered when Pierre Gasly ground to a halt and caused a virtual safety car just 12 laps from the end.


    Once the race went ‘live’ again, Hamilton chipped away and with three laps to go got within DRS range of his team-mate. But just as it looked like he might be about to launch a last-lap pass, Bottas picked up DRS himself down the start-finish straight as he lapped the Williams of George Russell.

    That top-speed boost put Bottas 1.4s clear as he started the final tour, and he finished it 1.5s ahead to clinch his second win of the season.

    Behind the Mercedes duo, Vettel crossed the finish line a lonely third,   11.739secs behind Bottas. Though never quite close enough to attack a Mercedes, equally Vettel was never under any threat from Verstappen at the end.


    Behind the Dutchman, Leclerc finished almost a minute later having pitted for a second time for another set of fresh soft tyres, which let him steal the fastest lap bonus point from Bottas. Sixth place, and  best-of-the-rest honours, went to Sergio Perez, with the Racing Point driver continuing his fine record in Baku.


    Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr opened his point-scoring account for McLaren by finishing seventh, but that was only after a race-long contest with team-mate Lando Norris. The decisive moment came when Norris made an extra stop under the VSC. Despite the late stop, the young English racer finished eighth to give McLaren its first double points finish of the season

    Racing Point also got two drivers in the top 10 as Lance Stroll clinched ninth, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. The Finnish veteran scored an unlikely point to keep his record of finishing in the top 10 every race this season, despite starting from the pitlane after his Alfa Romeo failed a front wing deflection test.


    Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix — Result:

    1. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 51 laps

    2. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport + 1.524s

    3. Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari + 11.739s

    4. Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda + 17.493s

    5. Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari + 69.107s

    6. Sergio Perez MEX SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 1m16.416s

    7. Carlos Sainz ESP McLaren F1 Team + 1m23.826s

    8. Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team + 1m40.268s

    9. Lance Stroll CAN SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 1m43.816s

    10. Kimi Raikkonen ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 1 lap

11. Alexander Albon THA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 1 lap

12. Antonio Giovinazzi ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 1 lap

13. Kevin Magnussen DEN Rich Energy Haas F1 Team + 1 lap

14. Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault F1 Team + 1 lap

    15. George Russell GBR ROKiT Williams Racing + 2 laps

    16. Robert Kubica POL ROKiT Williams Racing + 2 laps


    Pierre Gasly FRA Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda 

    Romain Grosjean FRA Rich Energy Haas F1 Team 

    Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda

Daniel Ricciardo AUS Renault F1 Team


    Related: Hamilton cruises to Abu Dhabi win

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    Jim McGill

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