By Abhishek and Takle
BAKU (Reuters) – Valtteri Bottas may be on pole position for Sunday’s Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but the Finn will need no reminding that when it comes to the unforgiving streets of Baku that is not even half the job done.
The Mercedes driver was leading last year’s race at the venue when a blown tyre three laps from the end denied him an almost certain win and handed victory to Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas himself had been in a position to win only because of a safety car that had overturned the advantage of Ferrari pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel who had been comfortably leading until then.
“In some races, you feel (qualifying on pole) you’ve done 50 percent of the job,” the 29-year-old Bottas, who led Hamilton in a front-row lockout for Mercedes, told reporters on Saturday.
“Here it’s nowhere near 50 percent and anything can happen, as we’ve seen.
“So I’m glad that as a team we’re at the front and it will be fun tomorrow.”
Mercedes have finished one-two in each of the season’s three races.
Even so, their front-row lockout came as a surprise after Ferrari dominated practise through Charles Leclerc
The 21-year-old Monegasque had been favourite for pole but he crashed, a victim of the circuit’s unforgiving walls.
The resultant delay for repairs to the barriers the Ferrari had ploughed into, which followed a lengthy stoppage after Robert Kubica crashed his Williams at exactly the same spot, swung the advantage towards Mercedes.
“I think that probably with the track and ambient of this morning they (Ferrari) were in a league of their own,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
“And once it got cooler, probably the competitive order changed.”
The Baku race has been won from pole only once, in 2016 when retired champion Nico Rosberg started from the front and won for Mercedes.
Bottas, who replaced the German at Mercedes, will be hoping to repeat the feat which would also make him the first driver to convert pole to victory this season.
But with Azerbaijan serving up some of the most thrilling and unpredictable racing on the calendar, nothing can be taken for granted.
“It’s a very eventful race,” said Bottas.
“We need to keep focussed as a team, and for me as a driver, and focus on taking it corner by corner.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)