Mercedes' Bottas out for Baku revenge
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[April 24, 2019]
By Abhishek Takle
BAKU (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas has a
score to settle as he heads into Sundayís Formula One Azerbaijan
Grand Prix determined to make up for a lost win and regain the
championship lead from Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.
The Finn was leading around the streets of Baku last year when a
puncture three laps from the end handed victory to Hamilton instead.
The Briton went on to win 10 more races on his way to a fifth title
while Bottas ended the season demoralized and with zero wins.
The 29-year-old has come back from the winter stronger and looking
more of a match for his team mate, even if Hamilton has returned to
the top of the standings after chalking up his second win of the
season in China on April 14.
"For sure I would prefer to still be leading but thatís the
situation now and if I keep performing well I can turn it around,"
said Bottas, who trails Hamilton by six points with 18 races
"So thatís going to be the goal for Baku," added the Finn, who was
on pole in China but dropped behind Hamilton at the start.
Mercedes head into Sundayís race, the fourth since Azerbaijan joined
the calendar in 2016, as favorites after three one-two finishes --
the strongest start to a campaign since Williams in 1992.
They have also won two of the three races in Azerbaijan, even if it
has not been a particularly happy hunting ground for Hamilton. Last
year's victory was his first podium appearance there.
Nothing can be taken for granted at a circuit that has served up
some thrillers in the past, mixing ultra-long straights and tight
corners with no margin for error.
Like Bottas, Ferrari will also be hoping to make a statement.
Already 57 points behind Mercedes in the overall standings, the
pre-season favorites have a meager haul of two third-place finishes
from the first three races and cannot afford to lose any more
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Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas REUTERS/Aly Song
New recruit Charles Leclerc, smarting from being ordered to move
over for four times champion Sebastian Vettel in China and denied a
maiden Formula One win by engine trouble in Bahrain, will be
especially fired up.
The circuit holds a special emotional significance for the
Monegasque, who won a 2017 Formula Two race from pole position in
Baku only days after the death of his father.
"Baku is a demanding track, but I canít wait," said the 21-year-old,
who also scored his first Formula One points there last year with
sixth place for Sauber. "I simply love it and Iíve always performed
very well there."
The unpredictability of the race means there's always a chance for
an unexpected podium finisher.
Since the 2016 race, Baku is the only grand prix on the calendar
that has seen a driver outside of the top-three teams finish on the
Mexican Sergio Perez, with two third places for Force India -- now
Racing Point -- is the only driver to have stood on the podium more
than once in Baku.
"It's a big show," said Max Verstappen who will pounce on any
opportunity to snatch a win for Honda-powered Red Bull. "And
hopefully this yearís race will make for a good story."
(Editing by Alan Baldwin/Amlan Chakraborty)
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