Valtteri Bottas cruises to win in Baku as Mercedes dominate again

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas celebrates winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on the podium, with teammate Lewis Hamilton second and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel third. (Reuters)
Updated 28 April 2019

Valtteri Bottas cruises to win in Baku as Mercedes dominate again

BAKU: Valtteri Bottas held off Lewis Hamilton before cruising to victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday to continue Mercedes’ dominance of the title race.
That was the fourth straight one-two finish for Mercedes, the best start to a season by a two-car team in Formula One history.
“It obviously means a lot. It’s incredible as a team the kind of level we are performing at now,” Bottas said. “It’s only my fifth win so of course it feels great.”
Bottas was challenged by teammate Lewis Hamilton at the start but held on to the lead after they battled through the opening two corners.
Bottas took over the championship lead by a single point from Hamilton, who took second place behind the Finn.
It was Bottas’ second victory in four races this year after a winless 2018.
It came a year after the Finn was agonizingly close to victory in Azerbaijan before a puncture forced him to retire from the lead and handed the win to Hamilton.
“He made no mistakes and he truly deserved the win,” Hamilton said of his teammate Sunday. “It was lost in qualifying.”
Sebastian Vettel was third as Ferrari failed to challenge Mercedes on a track that had been widely considered to favor the Italian team.
“It was never really working. I was uncomfortable, inconsistent, I couldn’t get a feel for the car,” Vettel said of his early stint on soft tires. He added that later in the race, “we had some pace to at least go with them, sometimes put a bit of pressure,” but Bottas and Hamilton already had a comfortable lead.
Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull, while Charles Leclerc took fifth for Ferrari after a crash in qualifying left him starting eighth before he battled through the field.
Leclerc also claimed the bonus point for fastest lap. The Monaco driver took advantage of a big gap behind him to take an essentially free pit-stop for fresh tires and go on a qualifying-style final run to set the fastest time.
Sergio Perez took sixth for Racing Point, while Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were seventh and eighth in McLaren’s best two-car finish in more than a year. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was ninth, and Kimi Raikkonen claimed 10th for Alfa Romeo after starting from the pit line when he was disqualified from Saturday qualifying.

Exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia: sports chief

Updated 22 November 2019

Exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia: sports chief

  • A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await the event’s thrill-seeking competitors

RIYADH: Organizers of the Dakar Rally Saudi Arabia 2020 have officially confirmed route details of the world’s most challenging rally race, which comes to Asia for the first time from Jan. 5 to 17 next year. 

Welcoming it as “an event of immense global appeal” that shows the Kingdom’s passion and obsession of motorsport, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Sport Authority (GSA),  said: “We have the privilege of launching chapter 3 of the Dakar story, introducing the race to Asia for the first time, where no country better describes the diversity of the desert terrains this continent has to offer than Saudi Arabia.

 “Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will go through various terrain and scenery, and will be an exciting opportunity for the world to see the real Saudi Arabia, to meet its generous people and to experience first-hand how we are driven by ambition, professionalism and the steadfast desire to succeed at the highest levels,” he added.

 Addressing more than 200 media outlets and broadcasters at a special press conference on Wednesday at the Arab World Institute in Paris, Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Federation of Motor and Motorcycle Sports, and the rally’s director, David Castera, confirmed details of the 12 Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 stages.

 “Saudi Arabia and the Dakar Rally come together to write a new chapter of achievements in the world of motorsports, a chapter headlined by the challenge of discovering a new land and written by the warm hospitality the Kingdom and its people have to offer,” Prince Khalid said.

 “Through this inaugural rally, the world will see our breath-taking desert, our vast land, and will also meet its generous people.

 “We want the world to see our fascinating desert waiting for the adventurous stories to be told. We want the world to see, first-hand, the warm and generous hospitality the people of Saudi Arabia have to offer. We are eager to welcome the world to our country, and to witness our vision, capability and professionalism in hosting the biggest sporting events at the highest levels,” he added.

 Extending over 7,500 kilometers of the Kingdom’s vast and unexplored desert, Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 gets under way in Jeddah before drivers and crews navigate their way through the fast and winding dunes and stones for 752 kilometers.

 The intimidating challenge continues north along the coast for nearly 900 kilometers through the Red Sea Project, until it reaches the futuristic megacity of Neom, where the marvelous journey reaches its highest point at an altitude of 1,400 meters amid a series of canyons and mountains.

 A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await Dakar’s thrill-seeking competitors as they cruise next through 676 kilometers of the formidable trip from Neom to Al-Ula in Dakar’s fourth stage before the sandy hills of Ha’il put the navigation skills of competitors to the test while descending south onto Riyadh.

A rest day in the capital will be followed by Dakar Saudi Arabia’s next stage of 741 kilometers as the route takes a turn to the west in the center of the Kingdom’s enormous desert before looping back toward Haradh in the eastern governorate of Al-Ahsa, marking the entrance to the Empty Quarter and building up to the grand finale in Qiddiya, a future entertainment, sports and cultural destination, where the winner will be crowned.

Highlighting the magnitude of competing in the Dakar Rally and finishing the unnerving challenge, Castera said: “Crossing the Dakar finish line is nothing short of living the dream. You can do it on your first go, and sometimes your hopes may be dashed, but ultimately perseverance and clever strategy are most often rewarded. The happiness of these drivers and co-drivers also translates to the satisfaction of the organizers.

“In Africa, then in South America and now in Saudi Arabia for the launch of this new chapter, this extraordinary rally has always strived to accompany its competitors in the ultimate quest,”
he added.

Drivers from more than 62 different countries have registered to experience the unchartered and spectacular terrain of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, where they will drive specially modified vehicles, trucks, quads, SxS, and motorbikes, designed to handle 12 stages of challenging terrain.