Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Valtteri Bottas looked destined to win Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. A timely Safety Car on Lap 40, for contact between Red Bull Racing drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, allowed Bottas to pit for ultra soft Pirelli tires while holding the lead.
And given its proximity to end of the 51-lap race, the Safety Car also forced rivals like Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to do the same, allowing Bottas to retain the the lead when racing resumed on Lap 46.
When Vettel overshot Turn 1 in an attempt to overtake Bottas on the restart, the Mercedes driver looked to be in the clear to take his first victory of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season.
Alas, it all went away one lap later, when he ran over a piece of debris on the front straightaway, resulting in a right-rear tire puncture as he approached Turn 1. He eventually had to pull off the track, relegating him to 14th in the finishing order.
A gutted Bottas was able to keep things in perspective, but his disappointment was evident.
“I’m absolutely heartbroken. It hurts a lot. But this is racing; some days are good, some days are bad – and some days are very bad,” he explained.
Bottas further explained, “A small piece of debris destroyed my entire weekend. We had a good race until the puncture. The car felt really good and we were fast. I thought I had everything under control on the Safety Car restart, but then suddenly my tire exploded. I didn’t see the debris and I couldn’t feel it until the tire blew. It was really close the last couple of races, so it’s good that our team won today, but I’m obviously still very disappointed. I’ll try again in two weeks.”
Bottas sits fourth in the driver’s championship with 40 points after four races.