Valtteri Bottas managed to fend off his Mercedes AMG Motorsport team-mate Lewis Hamilton and score his second win of the 2019 Formula 1 season at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Bottas now leads the Drivers’ Championship by one point from Hamilton after the fourth 1-2 finish for the Silver Arrows this season.
Sebastian Vettel finished on the podium for the second race in a row, but the expected challenge from Scuderia Ferrari did not materialise, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen driving another mature race to finish in fourth position.
The race started under clear skies at the Baku City Circuit in the Azeri capital, with an air temperature of 20°C and a track temperature of 41°C, but the ‘City of Winds’ stayed true to its name and provided an extra challenge to the field.
Bottas started from pole position with Hamilton joining him on the front row ahead of Vettel and Verstappen on row two.
The majority of the top 10 drivers started on the soft compound tyres, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was forced to start on the medium tyres for the race having set his best Qualifying 2 time on that compound.
Bottas and Hamilton fought wheel-to-wheel through the first few turns before Bottas emerged with a clear lead. Vettel was behind the two Mercedes drivers, while the Racing Point F1 Team‘s Sergio Pérez got the better of Verstappen.
Lando Norris got a good start for the McLaren F1 Team and was in sixth position ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso‘s Daniil Kvyat. Leclerc struggled initially on the harder tyre and lost places to Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniel Ricciardo.
Leclerc was a man on a mission after his crash in qualifying, and by lap 4 of 51 had regained the places he lost at the start. By lap 7, the Monegasque had used the Ferrari’s straightline speed to dispatch of Sainz Jr, Norris and Pérez and take fifth position.
Verstappen, who had lost a place at the start, had also returned to fourth position after a battle with Pérez.
Among the top 5 drivers, Vettel was the first driver to pit on lap 12 and triggered a reaction from Mercedes, rejoining in fifth. On the next lap, race leader Bottas pitted and rejoined in fourth position behind Verstappen.
Hamilton followed Bottas into the pits on the next lap, with Verstappen also pitting. All the drivers took on the medium compound tyres as Leclerc extended his first stint and assumed the race lead.
Bottas and Hamilton were catching Leclerc at the front rapidly, despite their respective race engineers warning them about tyre preservation. Vettel was also pressing the Mercedes pair, but had to contend with Verstappen catching him and with a string of purple sectors.
On lap 32, Bottas overtook Leclerc to take the race lead and was followed through by Hamilton on the next lap.
Just prior to that, a strange incident between Ricciardo and Kvyat occurred at Turn 3, bringing out the yellow flags.
The Renault F1 Team driver tried an adventurous lunge and locked up his front left brake, inadvertently cutting across Kvyat and heading down the escape road.
Ricciardo then reversed into the stationary Kvyat and caused race-ending damage to both cars.
On lap 35, Leclerc pitted for the soft compound tyres and rejoined in sixth position behind Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly.
By the time he overtook Gasly for fifth position, he was over 20 seconds behind fourth-placed man Verstappen. Ferrari had left too much for Leclerc to do with sixteen laps to go.
Gasly, who had driven a valiant race to hold on to sixth position, had to pull off the track with a gearbox issue with 15 laps to go and forced the two-lap deployment of the Virtual Safety Car.
Bottas managed to gain a full second over Hamilton when the VSC period ended, and held firm against the Brit’s intense late pressure and took the win that so cruelly slipped out of his hands with a puncture in the race here last year.
Leclerc finished fifth and, with the help of a late pit stop, took the extra point for the fastest lap. Sergio Perez finished in a creditable sixth position and was ‘best of the rest’.
Carlos Sainz finished in seventh position ahead of his team-mate Lando Norris for a double points finish for the McLaren F1 Team.
Lance Stroll finished in ninth position for the Racing Point F1 Team, while Kimi Räikkönen salvaged a point for Alfa Romeo Racing with another well-crafted race – finishing in tenth position after starting from the pit lane.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2019 Race Results:
|4||33||Red Bull Racing Honda||51||+17.493s||12|
|6||11||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||51||+76.416s||8|
|9||18||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||51||+103.816s||2|
|10||7||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||50||+1 lap||1|
|11||23||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||50||+1 lap||0|
|12||99||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||50||+1 lap||0|
|13||20||Haas Ferrari||50||+1 lap||0|
|15||63||Williams Mercedes||49||+2 laps||0|
|16||88||Williams Mercedes||49||+2 laps||0|
|NC||10||Red Bull Racing Honda||38||DNF||0|
|NC||26||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||33||DNF||0|