Bottas victorious at Baku

Valtteri Bottas scored his second victory of the Formula 1 season and resisted the late charge from Lewis Hamilton to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

What a difference 12 months make for Bottas, as he was about to win last year’s race but suffered a late puncture. This time, no issues and held his nerve under pressure to lead Hamilton home and regain the lead of the world championship.

As Mercedes clinched its fourth one-two in four races at the start of the 2019 season, Sebastian Vettel could only finish third again for Ferrari.

Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc recovered to fifth position, behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, after the qualifying crash that left him ninth on the starting grid.

Hamilton got the better start from the front row but Bottas held on around the outside of the first two corners and then built a strong margin through the rest of the opening lap.

Bottas kept Hamilton at bay until pitting on lap 12, one lap after Vettel and one lap before Hamilton.

That meant Bottas resumed in the race lead, but stopping two laps earlier than Hamilton drew Vettel closer to the other Mercedes.

The pace of the medium compound tyre was stronger than the soft, as demonstrated by Leclerc – who fell to tenth on the first lap but had charged to fourth by lap 10.

Leclerc, on new mediums following his crash in qualifying, assumed the lead when the top three pitted to get rid of their soft Pirelli.

He led the middle portion of the race, managing his pace effectively to stay ahead until Bottas finally got into DRS range and cleared the Ferrari into the first corner on lap 32 of 51.

Hamilton took another lap to get ahead of Leclerc, which gave Bottas more breathing space after Hamilton had reduced the advantage down to almost nothing.

Bottas had a two-second lead to protect once the Mercedes one-two was restored, and Hamilton’s attempts to cut into that were hit when Pierre Gasly ground to a halt and caused a virtual safety car.

Gasly had charged from the pitlane up to a comfortable sixth but his Red Bull, fitted with an upgraded Honda engine for this Baku weekend, had to be parked up on lap 39.

The two-lap VSC also helped Bottas by giving him an extra one second over his pursuers, presumably as it ended in a favourable position for the leader.

Hamilton chipped away at that margin and with three laps to go got within DRS range of his teammate.

Just as Hamilton 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 1.4 seconds clear as he started the final lap, and he finished it 1.5 seconds ahead to clinch his second win of the season.

Vettel ended up a lonely third, never quite close enough to attack a Mercedes but equally not under threat from Verstappen at the end.

Verstappen had a quietly effective race and looked like he could mount an attack on Vettel but fell away once the VSC period ended.

Leclerc finished almost a minute adrift of Verstappen after a second pitstop for another set of fresh soft tyres, which let him steal the fastest lap bonus point from Bottas.

Sergio Perez earned best-of-the-rest honours for Racing Point, finishing sixth to continue his fine record in Baku.

Though a third Azerbaijan podium was never on the cards, Perez was the class of the midfield after clearing early sixth-place runner Daniil Kvyat and never looked like being challenge.

Carlos Sainz finally scored some points for McLaren with seventh position, but only after twice overhauling teammate Lando Norris.

McLaren celebrated its first double points finish of the season as Norris came home eighth, while Racing Point also got two drivers in the top ten as Lance Stroll clinched ninth.

Kimi Raikkonen scored an unlikely point to keep his record of finishing in the top ten every race this season, despite starting from the pitlane after his Alfa Romeo failed a front wing deflection test.

Among the four retirements were Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, who have been summoned to the stewards over a bizarre incident in which Ricciardo reversed into Kvyat trying to get back on track after a failed overtaking attempt at Turn 3.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in winning the race and retaking the championship lead. Super impressed by Mercedes taking another 1-2 finish. That’s four out of four. May that success continue.

Race results, Baku:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 51 1h31m52.942s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 51 1.524s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 51 11.739s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 51 17.493s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 51 1m09.107s
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 51 1m16.416s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 51 1m23.826s
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 51 1m40.268s
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 51 1m43.816s
10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 50 1 Lap
11 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 50 1 Lap
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 50 1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 50 1 Lap
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 50 1 Lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 49 2 Laps
16 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 49 2 Laps
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 38 Brakes
– Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 38 Gearbox
– Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 33 Accident damage
– Daniel Ricciardo Renault 31 Accident damage

Drivers’ standings:
1 Valtteri Bottas 87
2 Lewis Hamilton 86
3 Sebastian Vettel 52
4 Max Verstappen 51
5 Charles Leclerc 47
6 Sergio Perez 13
7 Pierre Gasly 13
8 Kimi Raikkonen 13
9 Lando Norris 12
10 Kevin Magnussen 8
11 Nico Hulkenberg 6
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. 6
13 Daniel Ricciardo 6
14 Lance Stroll 4
15 Alexander Albon 3
16 Daniil Kvyat 1
17 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
18 Romain Grosjean 0
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 173
2 Ferrari 99
3 Red Bull-Honda 64
4 McLaren-Renault 18
5 Racing Point-Mercedes 17
6 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 13
7 Renault 12
8 Haas-Ferrari 8
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 4
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

Bottas scores pole in Baku as Leclerc crashes

Valtteri Bottas scored his eighth career pole position in Formula 1 for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after pre-qualifying favourite Charles Leclerc crashed out in Q2.

The Mercedes driver lapped 0.059 seconds faster than teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was in the tow behind him, on the final runs in Q3 to grab P1, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel three tenths down in third position.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen only did one single run in Q3 and ended up in fourth, almost three tenths behind Vettel and well clear of fifth fastest Sergio Perez.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat ended up sixth ahead of McLaren driver Lando Norris.

Antonio Giovinazzi headed Alfa Romeo teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the battle for eighth position, although the Italian must serve a ten place grid penalty for taking his third power unit control electronics of the season earlier in the weekend.

Leclerc was classified P10 in Q3 as his pace on medium-compound Pirellis before he crashed meant he made the top ten – but he was unable to run.

Leclerc was the faster Ferrari driver in free practice and Q1, but hit the wall at the narrow Turn 8 castle section after locking up the front-left on entry during Q2 – calling the error “stupid” over the radio.

Carlos Sainz was P11 fastest after being pushed into the drop zone by teammate Norris at the end of Q2 – missing out on a place in Q3 after lapping just 0.017 seconds than Giovinazzi.

That put him ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, with Alex Albon P13 after clipping the wall with the right-rear of Toro Rosso late on in a Q2 session interrupted by the red flag that followed Leclerc’s crash.

Kevin Magnussen was P14 after locking up and heading up the Turn 3 escape road on his final lap.

Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly, who must start from the pitlane after missing the weighbridge during FP2, was P15 after not running in Q2 – but he did set the fastest time in Q1 with the help of a mighty slipstream from Lance Stroll’s Racing Point.

Stroll was eliminated in Q1 for the fourth time this season after being relegated to P16 by Ricciardo at the end of the session.

Ricciardo positioned himself behind Stroll for his final lap, benefitting from the tow both in the first and last sectors to take the position by a tenth and a half.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean was P17 after not improving by enough on his final lap, although it was enough to beat Nico Hulkenberg, who had briefly jumped ahead of him, by 0.02 seconds.

George Russell was P19 after missing almost all of Friday’s running as a result of hitting a manhole cover early in FP1, forcing the Williams team to rebuild his car around the spare monocoque.

Robert Kubica was slowest after crashing at the Turn 8 left-hander on his final push lap as a result of tagging the inside wall behind the apex.

This brought out the red flag, although little time was lost as the chequered flag had already been thrown.

So congratulations to Mercedes in achieving a front row slot and Valtteri Bottas in scoring pole position. Feel so sorry for Charles Leclerc after setting the pace in every sessions before that big mistake in Q2. Hopefully the Ferrari star can fight back in the main race.

Qualifying positions, Baku:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m40.495s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m40.554s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m40.797s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m41.069s
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m41.593s
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m41.681s
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m41.886s
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m43.068s
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari –
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m42.398s
11 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m42.477s
12 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m42.494s
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m42.699s
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m42.630s
15 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m43.407s
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m43.427s
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m45.062s
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m42.424s
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m45.455s
20 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda –

Hamilton victorious in Formula 1’s 1000th race

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton scored a dominant victory in Formula 1’s historic 1000th Grand Prix event.

Hamilton led from lights to flag to score his second win of the 2019 season. Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas had to settle with second with Sebastian Vettel third for Ferrari.

Hamilton made a clean getaway from the start and got into Turn 1 first ahead of pole sitting Bottas, while Charles Leclerc went by his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel to claim third position.

As the midfielders squeezed through the Turn 6 hairpin Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat caught a brief rear-end oversteer moment, bouncing off Carlos Sainz Jr’s McLaren and then interlocking wheels with Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris, who was pitched into the air.

That prompted a brief virtual safety car deployment so that debris – including part of Sainz’s front wing – could be cleared.

Hamilton edged away at around half a second a lap in the initial phase of the race while the majority of the frontrunners settled into tyre-conversation mode – all except for Vettel, who was shaping up to pass his team-mate. Leclerc, for his part, was told to push harder or give way.

Ferrari quickly firmed up that team orders into a directive to let Vettel by, and Leclerc reluctantly complied at the beginning of lap 11 of 56.

But despite the position swap Vettel made few inroads into the advantage of Bottas, let alone Hamilton, even though he was clearly pushing his car’s limits – even snatching a front-left brake and running wide at the Turn 14 hairpin on lap 13. Leclerc wasted no time in telling his engineer that he, now, was being held up.

As the Mercedes disappeared into the distance, fifth-placed Max Verstappen joined the hunt for the podium by pitting for hard Pirelli compound on lap 18. That prompted Ferrari to pit Vettel to cover the potential undercut, and indeed when Vettel emerged on his new set of hards he was barely ahead of the Red Bull.

Verstappen made a DRS-assisted pass on the back straight and was ahead into Turn 14, but ran slightly wide and Vettel edged him onto the grass at the exit to reclaim what was now fourth position.

Ferrari was now committed to a long stint for Leclerc since he would inevitably leave the pits behind this battle – and when he did stop for hards, five laps after his team-mate, he was nearly 11-second adrift of Verstappen.

Bottas pitted for hards on lap 22, followed by Hamilton one lap later, and as the world champion departed the pitlane the gap between the two Mercedes had shrunk to 1.5 seconds.

But Hamilton extended his advantage again and strung out the gap beyond five seconds, and within ten laps of pitting his only concern was whether Bottas had set the fastest lap of the race and thereby secured an extra point.

Red Bull moved first to trigger the next rash of stops on lap 36, bringing Verstappen in for fresh mediums. Ferrari responded by pitting Vettel a lap later for similar rubber, and next time round Mercedes brought both Hamilton and Bottas in for mediums as well.

That meant Bottas emerged in third position behind the out-of-sequence Leclerc and had a fight on his hands. For almost two laps Leclerc denied him until Bottas launched a textbook DRS-assisted move into Turn 14.

Once clear, Bottas pulled away as Leclerc fell into the clutches of his own team-mate. Ferrari brought Leclerc in for mediums on lap 42 and he was slow out of the box, leaving the pits in fifth place and over 15-second behind Verstappen.

Though Leclerc tried to chip away at the margin, he reported gearbox issues later in the race – though Ferrari reassured him there was no problem – and Verstappen remained a distant speck.

Sixth-placed Pierre Gasly had a lonely race in the Red Bull, running immediately behind his team-mate in the opening laps, but it was probably too much to expect him to run 19 laps on the softs. By the time he pitted he was well adrift of the battle with the Ferraris.

With two laps to the flag, Gasly was in enough space for Red Bull to swap him onto soft tyres for a tilt at the fastest lap. He set personal bests in the first two sectors and went purple in the last to take the bonus point.

Renault split its strategy by bringing Nico Hulkenberg in early to swap from soft to hard tyres on lap 12 while leaving Daniel Ricciardo out for a long first stint on the softs. The outcome for Hulkenberg was rendered moot when he was forced to retire five laps later.

Ricciardo then had a relatively uneventful run to seventh as the final three points-paying places became the most hotly contested positions in the race.

Sergio Perez combined a strong start – he gained four places on the opening lap – with a 20-lap first stint on mediums to secure eighth place from P12 on the grid. Behind him Kimi Raikkonen also ran a long first stint on mediums, fell behind the early-stopping Haas entries when he did stop, then made the best of fresher rubber to go by both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to claim ninth.

Magnussen and Grosjean started ninth and tenth but stopped to get rid of their soft Pirellis early, before the race was ten laps old, and lost track position as a result. After dropping behind Raikkonen, Grosjean ran P10 ahead of Magnussen in the second stint until both cars made early second stops.

This gave the Haas drivers further work to do to overhaul the likes of Lance Stroll and Alexander Albon. Grosjean came close to getting the job done but had to obey blue flags for Leclerc on the final lap, enabling Albon to hold on and secure the final point for Toro Rosso despite starting from the pitlane having changed chassis after his huge practice crash.

So not the best race to celebrate the 1000th Formula 1 event but in terms of the championship, this is looking good for Mercedes. Three races in and three victories. Congratulations to the Brackley-based outfit with this Grand Prix achievement.

Chinese Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 56 1:32:06.350
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 56 6.552s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 56 13.744s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 56 27.627s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 56 31.276s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 56 1m29.307s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 55 1 Lap
8 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
10 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 55 1 Lap
11 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
14 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 55 1 Lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
16 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 54 2 Laps
17 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 54 2 Laps
18 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 50 Not running
– Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 41 Retirement
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault 16 Retirement

Drivers’ standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton 68
2 Valtteri Bottas 62
3 Max Verstappen 39
4 Sebastian Vettel 37
5 Charles Leclerc 36
6 Pierre Gasly 13
7 Kimi Raikkonen 12
8 Lando Norris 8
9 Kevin Magnussen 8
10 Nico Hulkenberg 6
11 Daniel Ricciardo 6
12 Sergio Perez 5
13 Alexander Albon 3
14 Lance Stroll 2
15 Daniil Kvyat 1
16 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
17 Romain Grosjean 0
18 Carlos Sainz Jr. 0
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 130
2 Ferrari 73
3 Red Bull-Honda 52
4 Renault 12
5 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 12
6 Haas-Ferrari 8
7 McLaren-Renault 8
8 Racing Point-Mercedes 7
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 4
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

Bottas achieves first pole position in Formula 1’s 1000th race

Championship leader Valtteri Bottas scored his first Formula 1 pole position of the season in qualifying at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The Mercedes driver beat his team-mate Lewis Hamilton to P1 by just 23 thousandths of a second, with Sebastian Vettel three tenths down in the Ferrari.

Bottas held the advantage through much of the Chinese Grand Prix qualifying, although Hamilton did set the pace in Q2 thanks to having a second run on medium Pirellis.

Vettel beat his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to fourth by 0.017 seconds, the Prancing Horse duo jumping ahead of Max Verstappen on their final runs.

This was thanks to Verstappen failing to cross the line to start his lap before the chequered flag after becoming stuck in a queue of cars, with Vettel passing him at the hairpin late in the lap to ensure that he was able to.

That left Verstappen fifth, 0.542 seconds off the pace and over eight tenths faster than Red Bull Racing team-mate Pierre Gasly, who was also unable to complete a second lap.

Daniel Ricciardo had only one fresh set of soft Pirelli for Q3, but used it to beat Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg to eighth by just 0.004 seconds.

Neither Haas driver set a time in Q3, with both also failing to start their laps at the end of the session due to traffic.

Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat failed to improve on his first-run time in Q2 having been seventh early on, meaning he was shuffled down to P11 and fastest of those eliminated in the first segment of qualifying.

Sergio Perez was just 0.063 seconds further behind in the Racing Point, just over a tenth faster than the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.

The Iceman reported he lost some engine power over the radio after not improving by enough to make the top ten. This was his first non-appearance in Q3 since the 2016 season…

McLaren duo Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were P15 and P16, separated by 0.444 seconds, with Sainz admitting he was disappointed not to be four positions higher after what appeared to be decent lap.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was the only driver with a fighting chance of escaping Q1 not to do so, ending up P16 after lapping 0.144 seconds slower than Norris – the third time this season he’s fallen in the first stage of qualifying.

Williams pairing George Russell and Robert Kubica were P17 and P18, a second down on Stroll and separated by 0.028 seconds.

Kubica complained of massive oversteer in the session, while Russell described his lap as “rubbish”.

Antonio Giovinazzi was unable to set a time after hitting problems on his first run suspected to be related to the engine.

Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon did not participate in qualifying thanks to monocoque damage sustained in his crash at the end of the final practice session.

Congratulations Valtteri Bottas in claiming pole position in the sport’s 1000th Grand Prix event. The new and confident Mercedes driver is looking strong heading into the race. It’s going to be a fascinating fight for championship honours.

Chinese Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m31.547s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m31.570s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m31.848s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m31.865s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m32.089s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m32.930s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m32.958s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m32.962s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari –
10 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari –
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m33.236s
12 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m33.299s
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m33.419s
14 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m33.523s
15 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m33.967s
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m34.292s
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m35.253s
18 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m35.281s
19 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari –
20 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda –