BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Valtteri Bottas held off Lewis Hamilton before cruising to victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday to continue Mercedes’ dominance of the title race.
That was the fourth straight one-two finish for Mercedes, the best start to a season by a two-car team in Formula One history.
“It obviously means a lot. It’s incredible as a team the kind of level we are performing at now,” Bottas said. “It’s only my fifth win so of course it feels great.”
Bottas was challenged by teammate Lewis Hamilton at the start but held on to the lead after they battled through the opening two corners.
Bottas took over the championship lead by a single point from Hamilton, who took second place behind the Finn.
It was Bottas’ second victory in four races this year after a winless 2018.
It came a year after the Finn was agonizingly close to victory in Azerbaijan before a puncture forced him to retire from the lead and handed the win to Hamilton.
“He made no mistakes and he truly deserved the win,” Hamilton said of his teammate Sunday. “It was lost in qualifying.”
Sebastian Vettel was third as Ferrari failed to challenge Mercedes on a track that had been widely considered to favor the Italian team.
“It was never really working. I was uncomfortable, inconsistent, I couldn’t get a feel for the car,” Vettel said of his early stint on soft tires. He added that later in the race, “we had some pace to at least go with them, sometimes put a bit of pressure,” but Bottas and Hamilton already had a comfortable lead.
Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull, while Charles Leclerc took fifth for Ferrari after a crash in qualifying left him starting eighth before he battled through the field.
Leclerc also claimed the bonus point for fastest lap. The Monaco driver took advantage of a big gap behind him to take an essentially free pit-stop for fresh tires and go on a qualifying-style final run to set the fastest time.
Sergio Perez took sixth for Racing Point, while Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were seventh and eighth in McLaren’s best two-car finish in more than a year. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was ninth, and Kimi Raikkonen claimed 10th for Alfa Romeo after starting from the pit line when he was disqualified from Saturday qualifying.
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