FORMULA 1 SOCAR AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX 2019
Fourth race of the season and fourth one-two finish for Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport. Valtteri Bottas emerged victorious in the FORMULA 1 SOCAR AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX 2019, to record his second win of the year. This must have partly made up for the Finn’s bitter disappointment at this track last year, when he had to retire with a puncture when leading, with just a few kilometres separating him from the chequered flag.
This fifth win from 122 race starts puts Bottas back in the lead of the Drivers’ championship, by just one point over his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who was second today. The in-house battle was pretty much decided at the start and the opening sector of the first lap, when the reigning world champion tried to lunge past. It was a very close thing, but the two drivers fought fairly for a couple of corners and Bottas hung on to the lead, even if he never managed to shake off Hamilton’s attentions. In fact, in the closing stages, the Englishman closed right up, to the extent that he could have used the DRS to try a daring passing move, but the Finn could also use the overtaking device because he was on the tail of a backmarker and so the final duel never happened.
This 48th one-two finish for Mercedes, with only Ferrari heading them in the record books on 83, is the best ever start to a season for a team in the hybrid era and it’s a significant achievement at this early stage of the season.
Joining the Mercedes duo on the podium, just as he did in Shanghai a fortnight ago, was Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’s Sebastian Vettel. The four times world champion took the chequered flag in the same third position from which he took the start. He never really looked as though he could challenge the two leaders, especially during the first stint on the Soft tyres. So the performance did not live up to expectations, given the potential of the Maranello squad, which also paid a high price for Charles Leclerc crashing out of Q2 yesterday evening. Starting from eighth, the talented Monegasque youngster put on a great show in the early part of the race. Having dropped a couple of places at the start, he set off in pursuit of those ahead and, in the space of ten laps, he was almost right up behind his team-mate. The run of pit stops even saw him take the lead on lap 13 and, as the highest place driver on the grid to start on Medium tyres, Leclerc then tried to extend his first stint as much as possible, making his planned tyre change on lap 34, by which time he had however been caught and passed by the Mercedes duo and Vettel, who were using the same compound. Switching to the Softs, Leclerc no longer had the pace and had to settle for yet another fifth place, after those in Melbourne and Shanghai. The Ferrari man still wanted to make a mark on this race and so he came in for fresh tyres and set the race fastest lap and a new track record to boot, in 1.43.009.
Max Verstappen split the two Ferraris, with a strong race to give Honda at least one car in the points. His Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team-mate Pierre Gasly, who started from pit lane with a string of penalties, had to retire with a mechanical failure on lap 39 when lying a solid sixth.
The Baku City Circuit seems to suit the SportPesa Racing Point F1 team drivers. Sergio Perez finished sixth and Lance Stroll was ninth, the two men finishing this race in the top ten for a third time. The Mexican adds today’s result to two podium finishes, while the Canadian youngster can claim to have a 100% points finishing record in Azerbaijan.
It was also a good day for the McLaren F1 team, who got both drivers home in the points for the first time this season, with Carlos Sainz seventh and Lando Norris ninth. Kimi Raikkonen can also be pleased with tenth, as he had to start from pit lane, following a penalty issued this morning when his front wing was found to be flexing more than permitted in the rules. It means the Finn has finished all four races in which he has driven for Alfa Romeo Racing.
For Renault this was a weekend to forget. The French squad failed to score points in Baku, just as it did in Bahrain. More significantly, it seemed to struggle all weekend. Nico Hulkenberg finished 14th a lap down, while Daniel Ricciardo retired on lap 31 and takes a penalty of three grid places into the next race, for having reversed into the Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda of Daniil Kvyat after forcing both of them down an escape road.
After plenty of excitement in yesterday’s Feature Race, today’s FIA Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race was also a thriller, with two North American drivers in the spotlight. Canada’s Nicholas Latifi (DAMS) won from the American rookie Juan Manuel Correa (Sauber Junior Team by Charouz) while the Feature Race winner, Englishman Jack Aitken (Campos Racing) rounded off the top three. Mick Schumacher (Prema Racing) put in a noteworthy drive, fighting his way up to fifth at the flag.
Latifi thus extends his lead in the Drivers’ classification to 19 points, with 62 to Aitken’s 43, while Luca Ghiotto (UNI-Virtuosi) failed to score this weekend and is still third on 39. DAMS heads the teams on 95 points, 40 more than Campos Racing, while UNI-Virtuosi is third a further five points down.
85000 spectators attended the Baku weekend, coming from no fewer than 74 different countries and it ended tonight with a concert featuring a big star of the music world, Cardi B, following on from yesterday’s performance by Jessie J in the Crystal Hall.
The first part of the season now comes to an end, with Formula 1 having visited Asia and Oceania and in two weeks time it’s Europe’s turn with the FORMULA 1 EMIRATES GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2019. On the same card will be the third round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship and the first ever round of the brand new FIA Formula 3 Championship, which provides a new showcase for young talent.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Final Classification
1st Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 51 1:31.52.942
2nd Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
3rd Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow
4th Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
5th Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow
6th Sergio Perez SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team
7th Carlos Sainz McLaren F1 Racing
8th Lando Norris McLaren F1 Racing
9th Lance Stroll SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team
10th Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing
11th Alexander Albon Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
12th Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing
13th Kevin Magnussen Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
14th Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 Team
15th George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing
16th Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing
NC Pierre Gasly Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
DNF NC Romain Grosjean Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
DNF NC Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
DNF NC Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team
Fastest lap: Charles Leclerc (1.43.009 on lap 50)
1 V. Bottas 87
2 L. Hamilton 86
3 S. Vettel 52
4 M. Verstappen
5 C. Leclerc 47
6 S. Perez 13
7 P. Gasly 13
8 K. Raikkonen 13
9 L. Norris 12
10 K. Magnussen 8
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 173
Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow 99
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 64
McLaren F1 Team 18
SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 17
Renault F1 Team 12
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team 8
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 4
ROKiT Williams Racing 0