Bottas leads Mercedes one-two victory in Baku

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Valtteri Bottas won an unusually tame Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, as all 51 laps passed without a major incident.

The one-two victory was Mercedes' fourth from the opening four races of 2019 -- the most successful start to a season in F1 history -- and hands Bottas the lead of the championship by a single point thanks to the bonus point he earned in Australia for fastest lap. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel finished s behind Bottas in third place and never looked like a contender for victory.

The most exciting moment of the race came on the opening lap as Hamilton challenged Bottas for the lead into the first three corners. Hamilton managed to get his car alongside his teammate in Turn 1, but left enough space for Bottas to get a better exit from the corner on the run down to Turn 2. The same happened in Turn 2 before Bottas finally asserted his authority and claimed the inside for Turn 3, keeping Hamilton at bay.

He then built a lead over his teammate that he held for the rest of the race, although Hamilton did manage to get within a second his teammate in the final two laps to add a modicum of last-minute tension.  

"It was a tough race, even though there wasn't much going on at the front," Bottas said afterwards. "But Lewis was putting pressure on all the time, so I couldn't make any mistakes but, honestly, everything was under control, so I'm happy to see the chequered flag and get this first place.

"It means a lot to win. It's incredible the level we're performing as a team, that's why I was just saying at the guys I'm so proud to be part of that. We're all performing really, really well. For me as well it's only my fifth win and it feels good and pays back from last year [when Bottas retired from the lead with three laps remaining]."

Valtteri Bottas won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Mercedes took its fourth one-two victory of the season.
Valtteri Bottas won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Mercedes took its fourth one-two victory of the season.
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Hamilton added: "Congrats to Valtteri, he drove a fantastic race, he made no mistakes, truly deserved the win. It was all lost in qualifying. But it was a great result for team. Honestly, this is the best start of season that the team has ever had."

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who started eighth on the grid, lead the race from lap 15 to lap 34 thanks to an alternative strategy, but by the time he made his mandatory pit stop he was shuffled back to sixth. He finished fifth at the chequered flag and thanks to a late second pit stop for soft tyres was able to take the bonus point on offer for fastest lap.

Max Verstappen finished ahead of Leclerc in fourth for Red Bull, while teammate Pierre Gasly retired with a technical issue. That meant Sergio Perez took sixth place for Racing Point after running as high as fourth early in the race. 

McLaren secured a solid finish in seventh and eighth after Carlos Sainz beat teammate Lando Norris in a private battle. Lance Stroll, in the second Racing Point, converted a 13th-place starting position into ninth at the finish, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in tenth, who started from the pit lane after being disqualified from qualifying for running an illegal front wing.

Daniel Ricciardo faces a trip to the stewards after the race after a botched overtaking move on Daniil Kvyat for 11th saw both drivers end up in the Turn 3 run off. Ricciardo simply missed his braking point and sailed straight past the apex, blocking Kvyat's route through the corner in the process. To make matters worse, Ricciardo then reversed into Kvyat as he tried to get out of the run-off area, damaging both cars. Ricciardo and Kvyat retired from the race soon after. 

Unlike the last two iterations of the Baku street race, the rest of the race passed without incident. There was a brief Virtual Safety Car to clear Gasly's car from the Turn 6 run off after he retired with smoke coming from the rear of his Red Bull on lap 40, but it had no discernible impact on the result. Romain Grosjean also retired from the race after returning to the garage with a problem on his Haas on the same lap. 

The next race will take place in Spain as F1 returns to the location of pre-season testing, where Ferrari looked so strong. The Italian team will hope a return to more familiar ground will see its performance improve, but at this stage of the season it currently trails Mercedes by 74 points in the constructors' standings.