Bottas leads Mercedes one-two and other talking points from Azerbaijan GP

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Valtteri Bottas held off Lewis Hamilton to win in Azerbaijan and take the lead of the Formula One world championship.

Bottas started from pole position and kept Hamilton at bay as the Mercedes duo went wheel-to-wheel through the opening three bends.

Hamilton attempted a late charge for victory, but Bottas had enough in his pocket to take the chequered flag and move one point clear of the Brit in the title standings.

Sebastian Vettel finished third, with Max Verstappen crossed the line in fourth. Charles Leclerc started eighth after he crashed out of qualifying and the Ferrari junior, on a different strategy to the front runners, finished fifth.

Here’s our main talking points from the race.

BRILLIANT BOTTAS

The Flying Finn produced a solid display to record his second victory of the season and retake the championship lead.

It was a deserved win for Bottas and redemption for last season after he was forced to retire in Baku when leading towards the end of the race.

Starting from pole, the 29-year-old was consistent, made no mistakes and pushed hard when Hamilton was within DRS range late in the race.

If Bottas can continue the fight in Barcelona in two weeks time, it’ll be game on in the title battle.

It may be a tall order to compete consistently across the season but his latest result shows he might finally be considered a championship contender.

There is a harder edge to him this year and he looks equipped to respond to Hamilton’s challenge at every opportunity.

PLENTY OF TIME FOR HAMILTON TO SHINE

Hamilton pushed his Mercedes team-mate hard throughout the race, with only 1.5 seconds separating them in the end – and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari a further 11 seconds behind in third.

The Briton was expected to romp to a third victory of the season but a combination of Bottas’s searing pace and a virtual safety car with ten laps remaining saw him settle for second.

As much as second may disappoint the five-time world champion, it’s still a stunning start to the campaign for him, with two wins and two second-place finishes.

And with 17 races remaining in the season, the pendulum is no doubt going to swing in different ways, with the 34-year-old always proving he can come out on top when the pressure is on.

POOR STRATEGY CALL FOR LECLERC?

The deserved Driver of the Day.

Fastest all weekend, Leclerc was forced to start from eighth after crashing in Q2. He had tricky start on Sunday and dropped two places before weaving his way back up.

He even held the lead for a brief stint while Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel pitted, and looked high on confidence and pace.

But if there is one criticism, it’s that his team should have pitted him at lap 30 instead of 35. It was simply too long to leave a driver out without fresh tyres. He lost eight seconds in those five laps. When he was called in to the pits, he was third, and subsequently returned back out in sixth.

Races are won on strategy and not on engine power. When he came out of the pits in sixth, he failed to make an impact and finished behind Max Verstappen in fifth.

Another poor strategy call for the Prancing Horse?

MCLAREN REVIVAL 

A stunning result for McLaren.

Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris capitalised on the McLaren’s pace around the Baku street circuit to finish seventh and eighth respectively – the best team result for the Woking-based outfit since Baku last year.

Sainz and Norris looked consistent throughout the race and the car showed strong pace and balance to remain ahead of Force India and Haas.

The duo showed once again that they have the potential to threaten the other midfield teams, especially in the European races.

Their 10 points scooped from two top-10 finishes in Azerbaijan means McLaren are now fourth in the constructors’ championship – one point ahead of Racing Point.

MORE MISERY FOR RICCIARDO

The Australian was the first driver to retire from the race, reversing into Daniil Kvyat in the run-off area on lap 34.

He attempted to overtake Kvyat on the turn and they both went off the track, with Ricciardo committing an error which forced his retirement for the third time in four races.

It’s a poor start to the season for the 29-year-old, a driver who was expected to secure strong finishes on a consistent basis for his new team. None of which we have seen yet.

Ricciardo may have been a class act in the pacey Red Bull, but now it’s beginning to look like his decision to join Renault was a bad career move for such a talented driver.

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