Valtteri Bottas not only got redemption at Baku on Sunday but he leaves the sea side city with a 1 point lead in the Driver’s Championship. Mercedes AMG F1 once again asserted themselves as the big swinging dicks at the cracker factory.
Bottas’ victory was never in much doubt outside of an ill-timed safety car of an end of the race puncture like what bit him last year. The Finn used a tow in qualifying to put himself on pole and luckily for him teammate Lewis Hamilton wasn’t able to use the tow off of Bottas to better him. After qualifying Hamilton informed Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari that the Mercedes pit wall “dummied” the boys in red. As both Mercs stopped for “practice starts” in the final run of Q3, the Ferrari of Vettel went around them and proceeded to lead the pack of cars going for pole. Thus not getting a tow. Mercedes meanwhile got a tow for both of their cars.
Flash forward to the race and Mercedes scampered off to a pretty commanding lead after going side by side through the first two corners.
Bottas led the first 11 laps until he pitted for medium tires. Hamilton would lead the next lap before pitting for the same thing. Ferrari’s should be #1 Charles Leclerc inherited the lead after some really good driving from 8th on the grid. The Monaco native who started on medium tires led the next 19 laps and then Ferrari’s stupidity struck.
Ferrari started Leclerc on medium tires with the hopes of him running longer than everyone else and potentially getting a safety car. That safety car didn’t come, so instead of pitting him from the lead they elected to let Bottas, Hamilton, and Vettel pass him before finally pitting. It was almost as if they didn’t have a strategy for him.
Leclerc the caught the Virtual Safety Car at the wrong spot and lost a ton of time to 4th place Max Verstappen. Because of that Ferrari decided to pit him again to go for the fastest lap and extra bonus point. Leclerc would get that but finish 5th, a disappointment after such a strong drive.
While Ferrari fretted over their lack of strategy in front of Ferrari Chairman John Elkann the Silver Arrows stormed to victory like the well oiled precision machine that they are. This is the strongest start to an F1 season EVER for a team. Four races into the season and Mercedes has a 1-2 finish in all four. Just when everyone thought this might be the end of Mercedes dominance they come out stronger than ever.
A fortnight from now F1 will be in Barcelona where Ferrari dominated pre-season testing. Will the prancing horse find their stride or will they once again fall on their face and get played by Mercedes, again?
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