BAKU (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas headed into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix looking for payback and he settled his score with the Baku circuit in style on Sunday with a lights-to-flag victory around the capital’s streets.
The 29-year-old Finn was on course for victory in Azerbaijan last year when a blown tire three laps from the end snatched it from him and handed it to Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton instead.
One year on and it was Bottas who looked unflappable and assured as he started on pole position and firmly but fairly fended Hamilton off at the start, before soaking up late pressure from the Briton.
Bottas lost the lead only during the pitstops.
“It’s certainly redemption for him,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose team have made a record start to the season with four successive one-two finishes.
“I think it’s very nice for him because that (last year’s race) was his race to win.
“He would have been in the hunt for the championship if he would have made those 25 points last year and it’s a very deserved win for him,” added the Austrian.
Hamilton’s win in Baku last year was the Briton’s first of the season and he chalked up 10 more on his way to a fifth world title, while Bottas ended the year winless and demoralized.
Success on Sunday, which made Bottas the first pole-sitter to win a race this season and only the second driver to win from the front in Baku, lifted him back to the top of the overall standings, one point clear of Hamilton.
“It means a lot to win,” said Bottas, who like Hamilton has two wins and two second places so far this season but scored an extra point for setting the fastest lap in last month’s Australian season-opener.
“It’s incredible the level we’re performing as a team, that’s why I was just saying to the guys I’m so proud to be part of that.
“For me as well it’s only my fifth win and it feels good and pays back from last year.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin/Ken Ferris