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Verstappen rides his luck to Azerbaijan GP win

Sport

MOTORSPORT

Verstappen rides his luck to Azerbaijan GP win, while Ferrari’s race ends in misery

Max Verstappen celebrates his Azerbaijan Grand Prix victory at the Baku City Circuit on 12 June 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ali Haider)

Reigning Formula One world champion Max Verstappen took a strong grip on the 2022 title race after his fifth win of the season.

Max Verstappen rode his luck to an unchallenged first Baku win on Sunday, opening up a commanding championship lead after Ferrari’s challenge imploded at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Dutchman eased across the line 20.8 seconds clear of Sergio Pérez who, ordered not to fight Verstappen, completed a one-two for Red Bull.

George Russell kept his record of finishing every race this season in the top five with a third for Mercedes.

Ferrari’s miserable afternoon ended after 20 of the race’s 51 laps.

Charles Leclerc, who is leading the team’s challenge and had started from pole, pulled into the pits from the lead with his Ferrari spewing smoke to chalk up his second retirement from three races.

His teammate, Carlos Sainz, had pulled to the side of the track 10 laps earlier with a hydraulic failure.

“Today we had incredible pace in the car, we could look after the tyres and chip away at it,” said Verstappen, who is all too familiar with the heartbreak of retiring from the lead, having crashed out while running first in Baku in 2021.

“A tiny bit lucky with the retirement but the car was quick today.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit on 12 June 2022. (Photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

‘It hurts’

The win was Verstappen’s fifth from eight races in 2022 and made him the sixth different Baku winner from six races.

He extended his overall championship lead to 21 points over Pérez, the winner in Monaco two weeks ago, who has moved up to second.

Leclerc, who has won two races in 2022 but none since the third of the season in Australia, slipped to third, 34 points adrift of his Dutch rival.

“It hurts, we need to look into it so it doesn’t happen again,” said Leclerc, who left Australia with a 46-point lead over Verstappen.

Leclerc had gone into Sunday’s race determined to make good on his fourth successive pole after being unable to convert top spot into victory in the past three races.

But he was on the back foot from the off, losing the lead to second-placed starter Pérez into the first corner.

He did not appear to have the pace to match Pérez and was instead busy fending off Verstappen.

But an opportunistic pit stop under a virtual safety car period, triggered by Sainz’s failure, allowed him to jump back into first until his car’s demise eventually dashed his hopes.

Verstappen, meanwhile, had moved past Pérez, who was bidding to become the Baku race’s first repeat winner. Red Bull instructed the Mexican not to resist and the Dutchman inherited the lead when Leclerc retired.

“I would say shit happens, that’s racing, you know?” Verstappen told reporters. “It happened to me, it happened to many people in the past and unfortunately it’s happening to Charles. If I would be in the same situation, I would also be disappointed, I think that’s very normal, but it’s about how you come out of it.”

The 24-year-old Leclerc, who went into the weekend nine points behind Verstappen, has now failed to convert top spot into victory in the past four races in a row, for reasons ranging from a lack of reliability to strategic missteps.

Sunday’s failure was the second time in three races that Leclerc had retired from the lead.

It came shortly after teammate Carlos Sainz had also stopped with a hydraulic failure, resulting in a double retirement for Ferrari.

Verstappen has himself been sidelined twice by reliability woes in 2022 and trailed Leclerc after the opening three races of the season.

“You learn from it, you don’t like it, you are angry, but you turn it around,” he said. “You always have to stay on it because something else might happen and you have to prevent these issues from happening.”

Max Verstappen passes his team as they celebrate his Azerbaijan Grand Prix victory at the Baku City Circuit on 12 June 2022. (Photo: Clive Rose / Getty Images)

Hamilton in pain

Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth but was nursing an aching back, the result of the porpoising, or bouncing, plaguing his Mercedes.

Kevin Magnussen triggered another safety car when his Haas ground to a halt, while China’s Guanyu Zhou retired his Alfa Romeo with a technical problem. Both teams use Ferrari power units.

Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris engaged in an intra-team McLaren battle, with the under-pressure Australian crossing the line eighth ahead of the Briton.

Canadian Nicholas Latifi picked up two penalties, for a starting-grid infringement and ignoring blue flags, and finished last.

Team-by-team analysis of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Round eight of the 22-race Formula One season (teams listed in current championship order):

RED BULL (Max Verstappen 1, Sergio Perez 2)

Red Bulls’s fifth win in a row, and sixth in eight races, sent them 80 points clear of Ferrari. Verstappen started third with Pérez second. The Mexican led into the first corner but suffered degradation to his rear tyres and was passed by Verstappen on lap 15, with the team telling them not to fight. Pérez then had a long pit stop on lap 17, dropping behind Leclerc with Verstappen in two laps later. Leclerc’s retirement left the Red Bulls one-two. Verstappen leads Pérez, now second overall, by 21 points. Pérez got the bonus point for fastest lap.

FERRARI (Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz retired)

Leclerc lined up on pole for the sixth time this season, and fourth in a row, but lost out to Pérez when he locked up at the start. The Monegasque switched from medium to hard tyres on lap nine when the virtual safety car was deployed but it was a long one. Sainz retired on lap nine with a hydraulics problem. Leclerc then stopped on lap 21 with a power unit problem while leading. Leclerc is now 34 points behind Verstappen.

MERCEDES (George Russell 3, Lewis Hamilton 4)

Russell took his third podium of the season. Both drivers pitted during the lap nine virtual safety car (VSC) and benefited from the retirement of the two Ferraris. A second VSC period and stop helped Hamilton pass Tsunoda and Gasly. Both suffered from excessive bouncing, with Hamilton in back pain as he stepped out of the car. Russell remains the only driver to have finished in the top five in every race.

MCLAREN (Daniel Ricciardo 8, Lando Norris 9)

Ricciardo started 12th and finished ahead of Norris on track for only the second time this season. The drivers were on different strategies and team orders were applied twice with the Australian quicker in the opening stint on the hard tyre but told to stay behind. Norris was faster later on but frustrated to be told to hold station behind Ricciardo, who had pitted during the second VSC.

ALPINE (Fernando Alonso 7, Esteban Ocon 10)

The Renault-owned team took back fifth place from Alfa Romeo. Alonso started 10th, Ocon 13th. The car performed well on the straights and the drivers benefited from Ferrari’s retirements. Alonso pitted for hards on lap 18, having stayed out during the VSC period. Ocon made his stop on lap 33.

ALFA ROMEO (Valtteri Bottas 11, Guanyu Zhou retired)

Zhou was told to pit and retire on lap 24 with a technical issue on a bad day for engine supplier Ferrari. The Chinese has now had three retirements in his past four races. Bottas said it felt like something was fundamentally wrong with his car.

ALPHATAURI (Pierre Gasly 5, Yuki Tsunoda 13)

Gasly had a good battle with Hamilton but ultimately lost out. Tsunoda was called in by the team who patched up his rear wing with tape and sent him back out without any drag reduction system (DRS). Otherwise he might have been sixth. Both drivers pitted during the first VSC period.

HAAS (Mick Schumacher 14, Kevin Magnussen retired)

Magnussen retired with a power unit issue on lap 33 and had to park up on the track. Schumacher made two stops, on laps 10 and 24.

ASTON MARTIN (Sebastian Vettel 6, Lance Stroll 16)

Aston Martin pulled level with Haas on 15 points after taking the fourth-highest tally of the day. Vettel was able to jump Hamilton thanks to a quick stop. The German might have been higher had he not gone into an escape road after passing Ocon. Stroll, who had a power unit problem in Saturday qualifying, retired with the car vibrating excessively.

WILLIAMS (Alexander Albon 12, Nicholas Latifi 15)

Albon made two stops and was halted towards the end when the teams saw something in the data that caused concern. Latifi picked up an immediate penalty after overshooting his grid slot and being pushed back against the rules by a mechanic. Reuters/DM

 

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