Bottas wins Baku in 4th Mercedes 1-2 finish

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Azerbaijan, Baku Street Circuitaz

Valtteri Bottas started from pole position, and calmly finished the race, keeping Hamilton at bay, despite continuing pressure. Together, they made for the 4th 1-2 finish for Mercedes this season. Sebastian Vettel settled for third.

For once, the start of the Baku race was a clean one, with Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel retaining their respective positions. Hamilton did come aside of his team mate throughout the first two corners, but then had to settle behind the Finn when being out-accelerated from Turn 2.

Sergio Perez made a solid start and moved up into 4th after getting Verstappen around the outside of Turn 1. Behind them, both McLarens made Strong starts as well, with Norris gaining one position to 6th and Sainz moving up from 9th to 7th.

Leclerc, starting from 8th, did lose two positions off the line, but re-passed Ricciardo and then Kvyat in the next few laps to be 8th again on lap 4. One lap later, the Ferrari driver passed both McLarens on the main straight to become 6th, followed by Perez after the latter had already lost 4th to Max Verstappen.

By lap 12, things became ever better of Leclerc as the Ferrari driver's soft tyres were a true asset. He easily chased and passed Verstappen for 4th, and then was about to make a pass on Vettel just before the German was pitted. The next lap, Leclerc ate 2s out of his deficit to Hamilton. Stops for Bottas and then Hamilton meant Leclerc inherited the lead on lap 13. When Verstappen had changed his softs as well the next lap, Leclerc lead the race by 13.6s over Bottas.

Meanwhile, the pitstops shows there was a massive undercut opportunity, as Sainz had fallen behind Norris again, only due to pitting two laps later than his team mate. The stops meant everybody was using mediums as of lap 14.

After the stops, Leclerc steadily continued to lap in low 1:47s while the times tumbled for the 5 guys behind him. There was a sequence of fastest laps, some of which were 1.5s faster than Leclerc's pace. In fact, even Gasly, who similarly ran on mediums from the start, ran faster than Leclerc at that time, indicating the Ferrari driver was just maintaining a steady pace to somewhat protect his tyres.

With the Mercedes getting ever closer, Bottas eventually made it past Leclerc for the lead on lap 30 as Hamilton had to wait for another lap to get past as well. Vettel passed his team mate another lap later, triggering Leclerc to request a pitstop.

Meanwhile, Grosjean outbraked himself and went into the run-off, dropping himself from 11th to 14th initially, before getting passed 2 more times on the straight. Ricciardo did a similar more a few laps later, also then dropping down from 11th to 18th, and then to the very back as he opted to pit from where he would retire.

Kvyat, who was unable to turn in as Ricciardo overshot his corner while trying to overtake was stuck with Ricciardo in the run-off. He did get out of it, but then also decided to pit and retire from the race.

On lap 35, Leclerc was pitted, taking on a brand new set of softs for the final 16 laps. He rejoined just behind Gasly, in 6th position, and 28s behind race leader Bottas, and 20s behind Verstappen in 4th.

4 laps later, Gasly is done due to a technical failure, resulting in a Virtual Safety Car period that triggered a number of pitstops, including switches to softs form Norris and Magnussen.

Nearing the end, it was clear that Leclerc was unable to make up the gap to the front. On the contrary in fact, he dropped rapidly, and was only 4s ahead of Perez 1 laps from the end. The Ferrari driver then opted to go for fastest lap, and got it, somewhat salvaging his weekend after so much more seemed possible halfway into the race.

In front, Hamilton fought for the win in the final few laps, but Bottas was simply too strong, and when he too got DRS thanks to a lapped Williams on the penultimate lap, victory was certain for him.

Hamilton finished at 1.5s while Vettel completes the podium 10s down the road.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
177Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG511:31:52.94225
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG51+1.524s18
35Sebastian VettelFerrari51+11.739s15
433Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda51+17.493s12
516Charles LeclercFerrari51+69.107s11
611Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes51+76.416s8
755Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault51+83.826s6
84Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault51+100.268s4
918Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes51+103.816s2
107Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari50+1 lap1
1123Alexander AlbonScuderia Toro Rosso Honda50+1 lap0
1299Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari50+1 lap0
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari50+1 lap0
1427Nico HulkenbergRenault50+1 lap0
1563George RussellWilliams Mercedes49+2 laps0
1688Robert KubicaWilliams Mercedes49+2 laps0
NC10Pierre GaslyRed Bull Racing Honda38DNF0
NC8Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari38DNF0
NC26Daniil KvyatScuderia Toro Rosso Honda33DNF0
NC3Daniel RicciardoRenault31DNF0