Bottas victorious as Mercedes set a new record

Valtteri Bottas re-gained the championship lead in yet another Mercedes one-two.

This is added with the Silver Arrows setting an all-time record of four consecutive one-twos at a season start, as Sebastian Vettel claimed the final podium spot.

Although, questions over Ferrari’s strategy continue to linger.

Despite viewed as their best chance of a win, Leclerc’s crash in qualifying put a dent to such hope as he started from eighth on the grid.

But, the Monegasque drove through the pack quickly before catching Vettel on lap 11, prompting the German to pit.

However, Leclerc was on a different strategy starting on the medium tyre.

Valterri Bottas,2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, - Mercedes AMG

Valterri Bottas,2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, – Mercedes AMG. LAT Images

Pitting much later than his rivals, the Ferrari driver found himself leading the race 13 seconds ahead of Bottas on lap 20.

Ferrari then opted to keep him out longer in which that 13 second deficit continued to be cut and by lap 31, the Mercedes was on his tail with Leclerc yet to pit.

A lap later and Bottas re-gained the lead as Hamilton followed suit causing Leclerc to pit, which then left him 20 seconds behind Max Verstappen in an isolated fifth.

All this despite Leclerc asking to be pitted but Ferrari were worried about the longevity of the soft tyre, therefore denying such request.

Had Leclerc pitted earlier then he could have easily finished in front of Verstappen, but it was not to be.

Perhaps consolation for the Monegasque as he gained the DHL Fastest Lap bonus point.

Mercedes continue to find answers for Ferrari

Re-wind to pre-season and Ferrari were clear favourites, as Hamilton even viewed the car as “potentially half a second quicker” than the Mercedes.

Yet, four races in and the Silver Arrows have claimed a one-two in each race with Mercedes already 74 points ahead in the Constructors championship.

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sunday - Mercedes AMG

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sunday – Mercedes AMG. LAT Images

Oh how the contrast has played out thus far.

Ferrari just could not match the race-pace from Mercedes in Baku and if the Prancing Horse isn’t victorious next up in Barcelona, then it could easily become a landslide title victory for the Silver Arrows in 2019.

However, what better place for Ferrari to start catch-up than the track they showed such dominating form in pre-season.

Consistency from Verstappen

Four races into the 2018 season and there were questions over Verstappen’s matureness.

He was yet to finish in the top four added with two DNF finishes, alongside clashes with Vettel and then team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo.

However, fast forward a year and Verstappen is a much more complete driver.

Not only does he have the pace to compete against his rivals but now also the consistency and matureness that he lacked a year prior.

Max Verstappen - Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen – Red Bull Racing

Such progression surfaced at the end of 2018 in which he finished with five consecutive podiums, but has now continued such form into 2019 – despite his team-mate’s struggles.

A podium in Melbourne and now three consecutive fourth place finishes, he finds himself splitting the Ferrari drivers in the championship.

Despite the car not being at that level.

It was quite a lonely race for the Dutchman in Baku, but he has showcased his huge development of a driver since his topsy-turvy start to 2018.

Unless Red Bull start to find pace on a regular basis, then Verstappen may look at options elsewhere in a hunt for his maiden World Championship.

What now?

Despite not being as dramatic as its races in previous years, Baku still presented many talking points which includes rising concerns about Ferrari’s season.

Next up is Barcelona with it nothing but a must-win for the Scuderia, otherwise Mercedes could easily run away to a sixth consecutive Constructors championship.

But, there aren’t many places better for Ferrari to kickstart their season than the place they showcased superiority in pre-season.

First seen on Formula 1