The Arzebaijan Grand Prix has one of the most discussed tracks in the calendar, which has always caused accidents, long red flag sessions and unpredictable podiums.
The latest edition of the Grand Prix saw several route accidents during the first free practice session thanks to a loose manhole which hit George Russell’s Williams, causing the FW42 quite some damages and the end of the session after few minutes.
Accidents, Safety Cars and VSC always characterized the Baku GP, together with unpredictable crashes and collisions between drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s in 2017.
After two Red Flags during qualifying and a superb slipstreams game, Valtteri Bottas’ pole position didn’t came exactly as a surprise. The Finn driver, together with his team mate, stopped at the exit of the Pit Lane to make everyone else go and then use their slipstream to score the fastest lap time and take the Pole.
A great strategy from the Mercedes garage, then, even if the W10 currently has no rivals on track: Ferrari seems lost, as the Italian team as both issues with the car and with their drivers, and Red Bull and Honda are making progresses, but are still far from Mercedes’ levels.
Theoretically, at the start of the season, everything was written: Lewis Hamilton was clear to go towards his sixth World Title, with the support of an incredible team and a “supportive” team mate.
Valtteri Bottas has been named Rubens Barrichello’s heir as the “eternal second”, ready to sacrifice everything for his team. With the start of the 2019 season, the Finn has shown a new attitude, a new strength, a new mindset which made him faster in the car.
After four Grand Prix, F1’s fastest man, the one with most Pole Position during his career, has earned only one Pole at the first GP of the season in Australia; Charles Leclerc earned his first Pole in Bahrain, and the next two were all Bottas.
Obviously, four GPs are not enough to judge or to predict how the season will go; anyhow it is known that, in Formula 1, everyone looks at the last Gp, the last performance.
As of today, the results are clear: Valtteri Bottas has won two GPs and so did his team mate, with a full Mercedes domination so far this season; Bottas also has scored more Pole than his team mate, the one that currently holds the record for most Pole in F1 history.
This new Bottas mindset doesn’t remind you of something?
Yes, Nico Rosberg hasn’t been exactly a number 2 to Lewis Hamilton: both drivers have always been free to race, gifting the fans with some emotional fights during some of the most boring GPs in F1 history. The talent and the extreme confidence that characterize Lewis Hamilton always made the difference and made him won the fight, but in 2016 something changed.
Nico Rosberg finished the 2015 season winning the last three GPs of the season and started his 2016 winning the first 4 GPs. The fight went on all season long until the very last lap, when Nico Rosberg was finally crowded World Champion and decided to retire from F1.
The 2016 season has been pretty intense not just for the drivers, but for Toto Wolff and the entire Mercedes team too: the situation was hard to manage between both drivers since the beginning of their cohabitation in the Mercedes garage, so when Bottas arrived in the team, Wolff could only sleep peacefully, until now.
Hamilton is incredibly talented and it is hard to find someone at his level; Rosberg was a real good driver, but had to work really hard, physically and mentally to beat the one who seemed unbeatable. After two season as Hamilton’s squire, Valtteri may have gone through the same Rosberg process, working on himself to try and take back the respect he once had in the Paddock.
Toto Wolff himself admitted that the situations is similar to the one Lewis and Nico had, but there’s still respect between the 5 time World Champion and Valtteri.
Ferrari is in a desperate need to understand all of their issues, which leads also to two nervous drivers unavoidably out of the championship games, that will be an entire Mercedes affair. Together with the middle field dynamics, only Valtteri and Lewis can save this season, gifting the fans with some twists and turns.
Valtteri Bottas - “Amazing job guys, really really strong. Really good job. So proud, proud to be part of this so thank you. So I guess the championship standings is now looking like it should again.”
Bottas leads is team mate by just 1 point of advantage: how may times these two are going to swap positions in the standings and who is going to finish on top at the end of the fight?