Ferrari paced the field all weekend in practice, but then qualifying came and Charles Leclerc, who led the Ferrari charge, crashed in the second round of qualifying. Instead, Mercedes locked out the front row and it was Valtteri Bottas’ day on the streets of Baku.
Bottas held off Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap score his fifth career Formula 1 victory. He even passed Charles Leclerc for the lead on the pit straight on Lap 32.
The always humble Finnish driver wouldn’t say it was an easy race, even though “not that much (was) happening up front.”
“I did not do any mistakes, but everything was under control,” Bottas said. “I’m happy to see the checkered flag and get this first place.”
“It’s incredible as a team on which kind of level we’re performing now. I would say to the guys I’m so proud to be part of that, and we’re all performing really, really well.”
While he missed out on the bonus point for the fastest lap, Bottas overtook Hamilton for the championship lead.
Hamilton made a run at Bottas in the closing laps, getting into DRS range, but couldn’t catch him.
After he congratulated Bottas, he said that his chance at victory “was all lost in qualifying.”
Sebastian Vettel rounded out the podium.
Max Verstappen and Leclerc, who earned the bonus point for posting the fastest lap at 1:43.009 (a new track record), rounded out the top five.
Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top 10.
After locking out the front row, Mercedes led the field on the start, with Bottas taking charge for virtually the whole race.
He surrendered the lead on Lap 12 to pit, and Leclerc, who started the race on medium tires, took the lead.
His tires started to wear as he neared his stop, and Bottas ran him down and passed him on the pit straight on Lap 32.
Hamilton pulled within DRS range in the last three laps, but couldn’t make a pass on his teammate. He ran wide in Turn 16 on the penultimate lap and couldn’t take the fight to Bottas for the final lap.
What else happened
Alexander Albon clipped the outside Turn 1 wall on the opening lap, and a second time halfway through the race.
Robert Kubica, who started the race from pit road, was handed a drive through penalty for “car being driven to pit exit too early.”
Romain Grosjean locked up and ran off track in Turn 15 on Lap 25, and later retired from the race for unrelated reasons.
Daniel Ricciardo locked up and slid off into the runoff area in Turn 3. He was to the inside of Daniil Kvyat and collected him. While neither car was damaged by the slide, Ricciardo reversed into Kvyat. Both retired from the race, as a result.
Pierre Gasly brought out a virtual safety car, when his car suffered a power failure and pulled into a runoff area on Lap 40.
Nuts and bolts
The race lasted one hour, 31 minutes and 52 seconds, at an average speed of 124.200 mph.
There were two lead changes among two different drivers and one virtual safety car period for two laps.
Bottas leaves Baku with a one point lead over Hamilton in the drivers championship.
Mercedes leaves with a 74-point lead over Ferrari in the constructors championship.
Formula 1 returns to action in two weeks, when it heads to Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona to start the European stretch of the schedule.