Mercedes became the first team to start a Formula One season with four successive one-twos after Valtteri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton home at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday.
The history-making Silver Arrows locked out the front row in qualifying and Bottas – who was cruelly denied a win in Baku last year after driving over debris late on – converted pole position to move one point clear of Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.
Sebastian Vettel took the final step on the podium as Charles Leclerc, who led the race for a long period, paid the price for waiting too long to pit and finished behind Max Verstappen in fifth – an extra point for setting the fastest lap providing minimal consolation for the Scuderia youngster.
A virtual safety car deployed with 11 laps remaining threatened to set up a tense finale with the front four on the medium tyre and the Monegasque on the soft compound, but Bottas and Hamilton held on to continue the German team’s phenomenal start to the campaign.
Hamilton got away well and almost sent Bottas into the wall out of turn one, the Mercedes pair racing wheel-to-wheel through the first few corners.
Having crashed out of qualifying Leclerc started on the medium compound and, despite slipping down to 10th early on, built a lead of over 12 seconds as the leading cars on the soft tyres pitted.
Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel closed in midway through the race but Ferrari kept Leclerc out and he ended up pitting from fourth, gifting his rivals quicker lap times with the benefit of DRS.
There was no change in the final 10 laps and, although Leclerc set the fastest lap after receiving a second fresh set of tyres, Mercedes comfortably completed a record-breaking one-two.
ONE-TWO, ONE-TWO (TIMES TWO)
Ferrari looked set to provide a real challenge for glory this season in pre-season testing. However, Mercedes continue to look a cut above this year.
After matching Williams’ feat of three straight one-twos at the start of the 1992 season in China a fortnight ago, Bottas and Hamilton went one better on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
If the Silver Arrows are the first cars past the chequered flag in Barcelona in two weeks they will match the longest run of successive one-twos in F1 history.
RICCIARDO IN REVERSE
For the third time in four races at Renault, Daniel Ricciardo failed to see the chequered flag.
The Australian attempted to take 10th from Daniil Kvyat with a move down the inside at turn three, but he failed to make it stick and both sides ended up going off track.
To make matters worse, Ricciardo reversed into the Toro Rosso and both cars were forced to retire. His move from Red Bull has done little to help his desire to claim a world championship.
WILLIAMS’ WOEFUL WEEKEND
Things did not get off to a great start in Baku for Williams, with George Russell pulling out of media duties on Thursday due to illness and a loose manhole cover limiting his running in free practice.
Robert Kubica crashed out in qualifying and had to start from the pits on Sunday with the team opting to make set-up changes in the aftermath. The Polish driver was then issued a drive-through penalty for leaving his garage too early.
Russell and Kubica were the last two cars still running to cross the line, which completed another miserable outing for the team.
IN THE POINTS
1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.524secs
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +11.739s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +17.493s
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +69.107s
6. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +76.416s
7. Carlos Sainz Jr (McLaren) +83.826s
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +100.268s
9. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +103.816s
10. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +1 lap
1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 87
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 86 (-1)
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 52 (-35)
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 51 (-36)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 47 (-40)
1. Mercedes 173
2. Ferrari 99 (-74)
3. Red Bull 64 (-109)
4. McLaren 18 (-155)
5. Racing Point 17 (-156)
The first European race of the season is a fortnight away and will see the drivers battling it out in the Spanish Grand Prix.