Bottas wins in Azerbaijan and retakes championship lead

2019 Chinese GP

"This is a massively great result for us".

This Mercedes has been, on balance, the fastest vehicle this season, of that there is no doubt.

Of all the ways a driver can retire from a race, having to park up after picking up damage from reversing into another auto is surely one of the most weird. Mercedes' is only 0.246secs.

"And for us as an independent team there are serious financial implications of this".

Both the Mercedes drivers and Vettel were putting in solid times as they sought to narrow the gap to Leclerc before his stop.

"It's the worst place and unfortunately I paid quite a high price. So, yeah, I seem to be more sensitive at the first races than at the test".

Could Palmer & Nicholls win in a Mercedes? Bottas was taking nearly a second a lap from Leclerc by the mid-point of the race and by lap 30 was within two seconds as the front three all closed to within DRS range, Hamilton harrying his teammate.

And had Ferrari put together a ideal weekend in Baku, things could have been very different for them there, too.

A crash in second qualifying took the 21-year-old out.

Several other drivers, including Vettel and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg clipped the barriers or had close escapes at the same turn eight.

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"It was a tough race", said Bottas. He led for a while because of strategy variation.

There was some joy for Leclerc as he stopped for a second time in the closing stages to take on fresh tyres and post the fastest lap, claiming a bonus point.

The Pole has been the last-place finisher at all four races so far, and crashed in Saturday qualifying.

Following a farcical day in practice on Friday, it was another chaotic day of action that saw the opening two segments of qualifying red-flagged.

Meanwhile, the second practice session started after everything was checked. The delay meant the sun was signifcantly lower in the sky and the temperatures plummeted, playing into the hands of Mercedes.

Why, Mercedes felt, give their drivers the complication of having to adapt from soft tyres to medium and then back again in the middle of qualifying when things were already hard enough anyway?

But Russell sat out of the second session with his auto being repaired. "It's up to them to go and check them all, there's plenty of people here, but the same thing has happened before here". It puts us in a fighting position. He was enjoying the better pace of the two Ferraris, as he had displayed earlier in the weekend and with his medium tyres clearly working better than the softs.

In the final stages he had a chance to overtake in the DRS zone but he went wide which ruined any potential move.

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"That will be how it continues for the rest of the year", he said. Today we had a bit of a tyre management issue.

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"I think we have a lot of races left, and hopefully at one point we can look back and say this was the decider and the decisive moment".

Kvyat accepted Ricciardo's apology in good spirit.

"We have some upgrades coming and we need to chase them down".

Britain's five times world champion Hamilton finished second to drop one point behind his Finnish teammate, who started the race on pole position, while Sebastian Vettel was third for Ferrari.

Russell won at the Baku street circuit previous year on his way to the Formula Two title but Kubica has never raced there before and Williams need all the track time they can get. On lap 34, he had to come in, and that was where his challenge ended.

Hamilton was happy for his team-mate. Without a Safety Car, the quickest route to the finish was a one-stop race with very little strategic variation available. "It won't happen again".

Hamilton, who tends to really come on strong in the second half of the season, will not be too anxious about results so far, but he did admit afterwards: "That was an average (weekend)". Obviously Charles was out by a mistake and as a team we feel really good to be where we are now.

"Hopefully at some stage Ferrari will be in the mix with us".

"I think it was a double whammy", Wolff added.

"It takes 100% delivery throughout the weekend".

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"It's always tight into three but initially I thought I was going to pull it off, then I felt I was going to start to lock and then miss the corner".

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