Formula 1 news story about [F1 2019 NEWS FEATURE] AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX: RACE REVIEW

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has shown his steel under maximum pressure, winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with his teammate, 5-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton breathing down his neck to the flag. The Finn reclaiming the lead of the drivers’ standings as the sport heads into the European season.

Polesitter Bottas had to defend hard into the first corner, staving off an initial attack from Hamilton - and then kept control all the way to the finish, despite Hamilton not giving an inch and within DRS range in the closing laps. A backmarker, Williams’ George Russell, providing just enough breathing space.

Bottas and Hamilton have now completed four-straight one-two results to start the season, the first team to do that since Ferrari in 1952. The Scuderia’s Sebastian Vettel completed the podium.

“It was actually a tough race, even though maybe not that much happening at the front,” said Bottas, who felt it was redemption after he lost last year’s race on the streets of Baku in the closing laps with a puncture. “Lewis [Hamilton] was putting pressure all the time, so I could not do any mistakes but honestly everything was under control. I’m happy to see the chequered flag and get this first place.”

The sport now has a two-week break until the start of the European season, the Spanish Grand Prix on May 12.

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 51 1:31:52.942 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 51 +1.524s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 51 +11.739s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 51 +17.493s 12
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 51 +69.107s 11
6 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 51 +76.416s 8

Here’s how the FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:

Build Up:
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is the last of four-straight flyaway races to start the season, before F1 heads back to Europe - and there’s lots of excitement for what’s ahead, despite three-straight Mercedes one-two results. And the 50th front row lockout for the Silver Arrows in the modern era.

On pole position for the eighth time in his career, and for the second time in 2019, it’s Valtteri Bottas - who’s enjoying his best-ever start to a season. The Flying Finn is just six points in the drivers’ standings behind his 5-time F1 World Champion teammate Lewis Hamilton, who sits next to him on the Baku grid, and Bottas needs to get the upper hand - to build some momentum into the European season.

Behind the two Silver Arrows, it’s Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel - with the 4-time F1 World Champion sitting fourth in the standings 31 points behind Hamilton. He’s been given a bit of breathing space from his hard charging teammate Charles Leclerc, with the Monegasque hitting the Turn 8 barrier in Q2, forcing him to start eighth. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen starts fourth, his highest slot since Australia - and will be looking to jump the Ferrari at least into Turn 1. Will we see another crash with Vettel like Singapore 2017?

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez has the most podiums of any driver in Baku, with two, and he’s got a good chance for another today, with the Mexican starting fifth. He has the Torpedo, Daniil Kvyat, behind him in sixth - the Russian’s best slot since Baku 2016 (the European Grand Prix), when he was also racing for Toro Rosso. McLaren’s Lando Norris had another standout qualifying session, for seventh on the grid - his best-ever grid position in his first four events.

There are three drivers starting from the the pit lane with Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly missing the FIA’s instruction to visit the weigh bridge in qualifying - after which he was excluded from qualifying after a fuel flow infringement. Williams’ Robert Kubica also starts from the pit lane, after changes made to his car after his qualifying crash, while Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Raikkonen is also there after failing a front wing deflection test - forcing the Finn to be excluded from qualifying.

As far as strategy is concerned, it’s likely a straight one stop in theory - with the red soft and yellow medium able to take cars from the stop window to the flag. Those on the softs have their predicted pit window between laps 14-24, with those on the mediums a little later - between laps 26-36. But in Baku it’s all about the potential for the safety car, with the saving in time around eight seconds if you pit under a safety car (which has featured in two of the three Baku races held so far. 12 seconds versus 20 if you pit under green flag conditions. It’s always a perilous opening lap in Azerbaijan, so you have to survive Lap 1 first.

Formation Lap:
As far as starting tyres are concerned, the majority of the grid are on the softs. Those on the mediums are Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in P8, Haas’ Romain Grosjean in P14, Williams’ George Russell in P16, with his teammate Robert Kubica starting from the pit lane. Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly, who starts from the pit lane at the back of the three cars, is also on the mediums.

Lap 1:
Polesitter Bottas gets a bad start, Hamilton better - and he passes him into turn 1 - but the pair go wheel to wheel. Bottas gets the lead back into Turn 2, and retains it into Turn 3. Vettel retains P3 behind, and is in close quarters behind the Silver Arrows. Perez got ahead of Verstappen for P4, so up a place. Norris is up to P6, past Kvyat. Leclerc is down to P10.

Lap 2:
Bottas leads Hamilton by 2-seconds, the Brit losing momentum there. Sainz is battling Kvyat hard for P7. Bottas has built on that lead, looking strong. Raikkonen is up to P17. Replays show Perez passing Verstappen around the outside into Turn 1.

Lap 3:
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:47.592. He’s 2.1 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Then it’s Vettel in P3, 3-seconds behind Hamilton. Perez is just 1.6 seconds behind the Ferrari, but has Verstappen less than a second behind. DRS enabled. Leclerc is up to ninth place.

Lap 4:
Bottas has stretched his legs on Hamilton, 2.3 seconds the gap. The Finn is almost two tenths faster. Leclerc passes Stroll and Kvyat in two corners, and is up to P8. Replays show Stroll passing Ricciardo down the pit straight.

Lap 5:
Bottas is now 2.7 seconds up on Hamilton. Vettel is dropping back from the leading pair, 4.4 seconds the gap now in P3. Albon passes Kvyat at Turn 2 for P11. Leclerc passes Sainz for P7 along the pit straight.

Lap 6:
It’s another fastest lap for Bottas, a 1:47.550 - he’s 2.9 up on Hamilton. Verstappen passes Perez for P4 into Turn 1, and he’s ahead. Perez tried to defend, but the Dutchman was too fast. Leclerc whizzed past Norris for P6 down the pit straight. Leclerc is 1.4 seconds faster than his teammate Vettel.

Lap 7:
Gasly under investigation for his pit lane start, he’s up to P12. Leclerc passes Perez down the pit straight for P5. Verstappen is 2.5 seconds up the road in P4. Raikkonen pits, unhappy with balance of the car with his new front wing. Albon in P11 is chasing down Ricciardo ahead.

Lap 8:
Bottas leads Hamilton by 3.9 seconds. Vettel in P3 has done a personal best lap, dropping into the leading 1:48s pace. Albon in P11 is really battling hard with Ricciardo for that final point.

Lap 9:
Leclerc in P5 is chasing down Verstappen. He’s the fastest man on track in the high 1:47s. Sainz passes Norris for P7 down the pit straight. Hulkenberg pits for the mediums, as Verstappen complains of engine braking issues.

Lap 10:
Leclerc passes Verstappen for P3 down the pit straight. Up front Hamilton has upped his pace, three tenths faster on that last lap - he’s 3.1 seconds behind leader Bottas. And it’s dropping. Norris pits. Gasly is all over the back of Stroll, in P8. And he gets past.

Lap 11:
Bottas has a 3-second lead over Hamilton, who was half a second up on that last lap. Perez, Stroll and Ricciardo pit. Stroll held back with other cars going past. Leclerc is now behind his teammate - less than a second the gap. What is Ferrari going to do?

Lap 12:
Vettel pits from P4, releasing Leclerc. Vettel goes onto the mediums, 2.4 second stop - so nice and quick. He exits ahead of Sainz in P5. Both Silver Arrows are in the 1:49s. Bottas told Vettel is in the pits, and the Finn says he’s quite happy to stop when needed.

Lap 13:
Bottas pits from the lead, as Leclerc sets the fastest lap, a 1:47.326. Bottas is onto the mediums, 2.8 second stop. He exits in P4, ahead of Vettel. Sainz pits as well. So it’s Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen, Bottas and Vettel making up the top-five. Mercedes waiting for next stop, set to be Hamilton on the next lap.

Lap 14:
Hamilton pits from the lead, releasing Leclerc into the lead. He’s onto the mediums, 2.3 second stop - so the fastest of all the frontrunners. Leclerc now has the race to control, perfectly placed if a safety car comes now. Vettel sets the fastest lap, a 1:46.931. Kubica gets a drive-thru penalty for driving to the pit exit too early.

Lap 15:
Verstappen pits from P2, he’s onto the mediums - 3.1 second stop, so quite slow. He exits in P6, behind teammate Gasly who is yet to stop. Vettel in P4 sets the fastest lap again, a 1:46.852. Kubica takes his drive-thru penalty. Vettel is closing down Hamilton, who asks if the team made the change to the front wing.

Lap 16:
Hamilton sets the fastest lap now, a 1:46.588. So it’s Leclerc, Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel and Gasly. Leclerc set to go very long, perhaps another 20 laps on his mediums. And Leclerc leads Bottas by 12.7 seconds - and that’s the time a safety car stop would take, to give the Monegasque a free stop.

Lap 17:
Hamilton in P3 sets another fastest lap, a 1:46.246, a few tenths up on his teammate ahead - 3.8 seconds the gap. But Bottas is responding. Verstappen passes Gasly for P5 around the back of the track. Sainz passes Grosjean for P9 down the pit straight.

Lap 18:
Bottas, who leads, responds with his own fastest lap, a 1:46.087 - he’s closed the gap to Leclerc down to 10.9 seconds, so even if we get a safety car Leclerc won’t get a free stop now. Kvyat passes Grosjean into Turn 1 for 10th. Ricciardo in P14 is less than a second behind Raikkonen.

Lap 19:
Leclerc, who is yet to stop, leads Bottas by 10.3 seconds. As Hamilton in P3 sets the fastest lap - a 1:45.867. And the Brit is setting a searing pace as the only man in the 1:45s. Bottas told to keep reeling Leclerc in.

Lap 20:
It’s another fastest lap for Hamilton, a 1:45.683 - he’s now 2.4 seconds behind Bottas. Will we see a Silver Arrows showdown soon?

Lap 21:
Bottas has closed up on Leclerc, 8.6 seconds the gap now. As Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:45.570. Bettered by Verstappen, a 1:45.569. Bottas, who’s under pressure from Hamilton is making further inroads to Leclerc - 7.8 seconds the gap to the lead. Vettel in P4 is 4.2 seconds behind Hamilton, and half a second slower on that last lap.

Lap 22:
Another fastest lap for Verstappen, a 1:45.529. Leclerc leads this race, 7-seconds ahead of Bottas - 2.4 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Vettel is into the 1:45s - closing the gap to Hamilton.

Lap 23:
Bottas has closed down the gap to Leclerc to 5.3 seconds, Leclerc will be praying for a safety car to limit damage. Hamilton in P3 is 3.2 seconds adrift, Vettel another 2.9 seconds down in P4. Then it’s Verstappen in P5.

Lap 24:
Bottas in P2 looks very calm and in control. Hamilton told the team is confident the opportunities will come at the end of the race. Verstappen in P5 sets the fastest lap, a 1:45.387. Vettel in P4 has closed the gap to Hamilton to just 2.1 seconds.

Lap 25:
Leclerc, who is still yet to stop, leads Bottas by 3.6 seconds. Grosjean locks up and takes the escape road at Turn 15, the Frenchman yet to pit He’s in P15. Hulkenberg drops him down to P16 into Turn 1.

Lap 26:
Leclerc who leads does a personal best lap, he’s 3.1 seconds up on Bottas. Verstappen, in P5, asks how far Leclerc is ahead, and told he’s within the team’s pit window. Top four are within 8.9 seconds of each other.

Lap 27:
We’re within Leclerc’s pit window now, when will the leader finally take his stop? And will he get that safety car for a discount stop? Raikkonen passes Magnussen for P13, along the pit straight.

Lap 28:
Albon passes Hulkenberg for P16. Leclerc sets a personal best, but he’s just 2.6 seconds up on Bottas now. “Let’s start to make a move on Leclerc,” says the Finn’s team. There have been no retirements yet, no crashes.

Lap 29:
Leclerc leads Bottas now by just 1.6 seconds. Are we going to see a pass very soon? Hamilton is breathing down the neck of his teammate as well, with Vettel in P4 in touch.

Lap 30:
Leclerc under fire now, 1.2 seconds the gap to Bottas. Hamilton in P3 does a personal best lap. Bottas informed of the gaps at the moment, preparing him for the move.

Lap 31:
The Silver Arrows are edging closer to Leclerc’s Ferrari, who is yet to pit - and getting to the end of his stint. Bottas now has DRS, as does Hamilton.

Lap 32:
Leclerc stays out, and Bottas pulls out and goes around him for the lead. As we see Ricciardo and Kvyat out at Turn 3, so yellow flags there. Kvyat away, and Ricciardo reversing. Ricciardo locked up in trying to pass Kvyat on inside - and then reversed into him in getting out of the escape road. Bottas leads this race, 1.4 seconds ahead of Leclerc - and the Finn.

Lap 33:
Bottas leads Leclerc, then it’s Hamilton - who needs to clear the Ferrari. He gets past into turn 1 with a gutsy move there. Ricciardo retires. Another yellow flag, as Vettel is breathing down Leclerc’s neck. Why has Ferrari left Leclerc out?

Lap 34:
Vettel passes Leclerc for P3. Ferrari tells Leclerc they’re not sure how long the soft tyre might last, so stay out. Verstappen in P5 sets the fastest lap, a 1:45.046. Gasly, behind him is doing high 1:45s. Kvyat and Ricciardo are under investigation.

Lap 35:
Leclerc pits from P4, he’s onto the softs - 2.8 second stop. So quite quick there. Order is Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen - with Leclerc dropping behind Gasly. That’s not what he wants and will need to clear the Red Bull quickly.

Lap 36:
Kvyat has retired as well, after contact with Ricciardo. It’s Bottas leading Hamilton by 1.9 seconds. Leclerc going wheel to wheel with Gasly, stays behind at Turn 1. And he gets ahead outdragging to Turn 2.

Lap 37:
Bottas leads Hamilton by 1.5 seconds. The Brit three tenths up on that last lap. Vettel in P3 is 2-seconds behind the Silver Arrows. Top four are covered by 7.8 seconds.

Lap 38:
Ricciardo/Kvyat incident will be investigated after the race. Bottas set a personal best lap, four tenths up on Hamilton - the gap 1.9 seconds now. Norris in P8 is chasing down Perez, 0.5 seconds the gap. Balloons on the track, just three of them.

Lap 39:
Bottas has kept the lead at 1.9 seconds, despite a personal best lap from Hamilton. Bottas is responding, having set the fastest first sector. Gasly is slowing, and he’s looking for an escape road to retire. He does, and stops.

Lap 40:
Virtual Safety Car deployed. Bottas leads Hamilton by 1.7 seconds, Verstappen set the fastest lap last tour, a 1:44.794. So action has been neutralised. Grosjean retires from the race, issue with his front right.

Lap 41:
We’re still under VSC conditions. Top 10 is BOT, HAM, VET, VER, LEC, PER, SAI, NOR, STR, RAI. Then it’s ALB, GIO, MAG, HUL, RUS, KUB. VSC ends, and away we go. Bottas now has a 3.3 second lead over Hamilton.

Lap 42:
Bottas leads Hamilton by 3.3 seconds. Vettel in P3 is 2.7 seconds. Hamilton complains he lost time with VSC. Only the top 11 are on the lead lap.

Lap 43:
Bottas leads Hamilton by 2.7 seconds, Hamilton and Vettel on personal best laps - Hamilton 0.7 seconds faster than his teammate on that last lap. Top-10 are on the lead lap. Verstappen told to stay off the exit kerb at Turn 16, with potential for gearbox damage like Gasly.

Lap 44:
Hamilton 0.8 sec faster than Bottas on that last lap, 2.1 seconds the gap now.

Lap 45:
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:44.488 - he leads Hamilton by 2.1 seconds still. The pair within a tenth of each other in terms of pace.

Lap 46:
Bottas leads Hamilton by 1.7 seconds, the Brit a few tenths of a second faster on that last lap - and he’s closing like a freight train, charging forward.

Lap 47:
Bottas still leading - 1.3 seconds up on Hamilton. Can the Brit get himself into DRS range? Hamilton just dropped back there, losing a few tenths. 1.6 seconds the gap now.

Lap 48:
This is heart in the mouth kind of stuff - Bottas staying 1.4 seconds ahead of Hamilton, both pushing to the maximum. Leclerc stops for a fastest lap attempt, 29 second gap to Perez behind so a free stop.

Lap 49:
Hamilton now has DRS range, setting the fastest lap of the race - a 1:44.166. 0.820 seconds the gap. Bottas has pulled out a small gap.

Lap 50:
Bottas keeping the lead, 0.9 seconds the gap. Bottas told Hamilton has DRS and overtake is available. So the race is on for sure.

Lap 51 - FINAL LAP:
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:44.024 - and passes Russell to pull out a gap just enough to stay ahead, 1.4 seconds the gap to Hamilton now. He stays ahead and wins the Azerbaijan Grand Prix! Leclerc sets the fastest lap, a 1:43.009 - and it’s a new lap record.

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 51 1:31:52.942 25
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 51 +1.524s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 51 +11.739s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 51 +17.493s 12
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 51 +69.107s 11
6 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 51 +76.416s 8
7 55 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 51 +83.826s 6
8 4 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 51 +100.268s 4
9 18 Lance Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes 51 +103.816s 2
10 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 50 +1 lap 1
11 23 Alexander Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 50 +1 lap 0
12 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 50 +1 lap 0
13 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 50 +1 lap 0
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 50 +1 lap 0
15 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 49 +2 laps 0
16 88 Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 49 +2 laps 0
NC 10 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing Honda 38 DNF 0
NC 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 38 DNF 0
NC 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 33 DNF 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 31 DNF 0