Following a fourth consecutive 1-2 for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton has urged rivals Ferrari to buck up. This time, it was Valtteri Bottas who reached the chequered flag first from Lewis Hamilton. It was his second win of the season and he took back the lead of this year’s championship by a single point.
Until Sunday in Azerbaijan, no team in Formula One history had enjoyed a perfect start to the season after four rounds of racing.
Sebastian Vettel finished third, never troubling the Mercedes cars, while his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc crossed the line in fifth – his afternoon compromised following a crash in qualifying.
Vettel has already been cast 35 points adrift in the drivers’ standings with his Ferrari team 74 points behind Mercedes in the race for the constructors’ title.
A combination of errors by both of Ferrari’s drivers, as well as a car which has failed to build on its pre-season promise, leaves the Italians in trouble and Hamilton in the box seat to win a sixth world championship.
And the 34-year-old British driver believes Mercedes’ dominance will extend into the European season – which kicks off in Spain a week on Sunday – unless Ferrari begin to improve.
“Until they start performing at the level we are at, then this is how it’s going to be,” said Hamilton.
“We definitely didn’t expect to have the performance we have but I’m glad we do. I just think the team is out-performing itself.
“They’re going to have to pick it up if they want to fight us.”
A dejected Vettel was in agreement with Hamilton – Ferrari’s optimism after two weeks of winter testing in Barcelona now a distant memory.
“He is right, we need to pick it up,” said Vettel, who is on a losing streak which has now extended beyond eight months – his last victory at August’s Belgian Grand Prix.
“We need stronger pace. It is as simple as that. We need to be faster.
“It’s like a Rubik’s cube where you have to have everything in the right order.
“We have a good car, but we’re not using it in the way to get the results we should be getting.”