Red Bull claimed the 1-2 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Max Verstappen leading home Sergio Perez, as one by one both Ferraris retired.
Verstappen and Perez took the fight to Ferrari at the Baku circuit, quickly negating Charles Leclerc’s pole position.
But while it looked as if the Monégasque driver was going to fight back, Leclerc P1 after Verstappen’s pit stop, his race ended along with his Ferrari engine.
Carlos Sainz retired earlier in the race with a hydraulics problem while Zhou Guanyu made it yet another Ferrari engine failure with Kevin Magnussen adding his power unit to the list.
Red Bull were able to take it relatively easy after that, or at least as easy as one can around a street circuit, with Verstappen bagging his fifth win of this season ahead of Perez.
George Russell joined them on the podium, the Mercedes driver continuing his run of top-five results.
MAXXXXXX WINSSS!!!!! 🔥🔥🔥⁰
6 RACES, 6 DIFFERENT WINNERS. THIS. IS. BAKU!#AzerbaijanGP#F1Baku#F1#StreetFighters pic.twitter.com/eGxX907O7r
— Baku City Circuit (@BakuCityCircuit) June 12, 2022
Starting from pole position didn’t work out that well for Leclerc as he was overtaken by Perez into the first corner, the Monégasque driver then having to cover from Verstappen with Sainz fourth. Russell held onto best of the rest through the opening lap ahead of Pierre Gasly, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Nicholas Latifi’s race was all but over before it began, the driver hit with a 10-second stop-go penalty for a starting grid infringement as his Williams mechanics pushed him back after he overshot his mark on the grid.
From the get-go the Red Bulls seemed to have the better race pace, Verstappen 15kmph faster down the straight than Leclerc. “Red Bull look quick” said Sainz. Perez put some space between himself and the chasing Ferrari, his advantage over two seconds as Verstappen, despite having DRS, struggled to close those final metres on Leclerc. He was told to be patient.
Further back Hamilton went after Gasly while Daniel Ricciardo made life difficult for his team-mate Lando Norris as he sat on his gearbox. “If this is his pace I’ve got more,” said the Aussie only to be to hold position, dropping back a second.
The Virtual Safety Car was out on lap nine when Sainz, reporting that “something has failed” stopped at Turn 7 with his Ferrari down an escape road. The Scuderia pitted the other Ferrari from second, but it was a long 4s stop. The Red Bulls stayed out with Russell, Gasly, Hamilton and Vettel stopping. Mercedes’ double stack allowed Vettel to jump Hamilton.
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The track was green on lap 11 with Perez leading by two seconds over Verstappen, Leclerc third ahead of Russell, Fernando Alonso, Norris, Ricciardo, Gasly, Esteban Ocon and Vettel. Make that Ocon, Hamilton and Yuki Tsunoda as Vettel’s attempt to pass Ocon with DRS resulted in the Aston Martin driver locking up having to spin his way out of an escape road.
Verstappen also did a better job of passing as he took the lead off Perez into Turn 1 on lap 15. “No fighting” was the order but it was clear that Perez had no answer to Verstappen’s pace, with the Dutchman putting 2.3s between himself and his team-mate in one lap alone. Perez pitted, a long 5.7s pit stop, and he came out P3 and only metres ahead of Russell.
Behind the leaders, Norris and Ricciardo chased Alonso but were unable to make a pass, the McLaren duo finally in clear air when Alonso pitted. Hamilton took tenth off Ocon through Turn 3 and Magnussen overtook Valtteri Bottas for 14th.
The lead changed hands when Verstappen pitted by he was back up into P1 a few laps later as Ferrari’s woes went from bad to worse, Leclerc’s engine blowing on lap 21. “Problem, problem, problem”. Three laps later Ferrari suffered another engine failure, this time for Zhou Guanyu.
Plumes of smoke coming out of Leclerc's car
Looks like his engine has blown. He's out! 😖#AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/Ub4ihbtV0m
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 12, 2022
Ricciardo’s concerns about McLaren’s strategy were realised when he lost a position to Gasly and then to Hamilton, Vettel finally made a clear pass on Ocon, Alonso also shot past the Frenchman and Norris, having pitted, dived up the inside of Alex Albon before taking 13th off Stroll. Closing in on his next target, Gasly, Hamilton reported that his back is “killing” him.
Magnussen’s charge ended on lap 33, the Dane saying “engine” as he pulled over onto the side of the track. The VSC back out with Verstappen into the pits from the lead, and Perez double stacking. Russell pitted from third, Gasly stayed out, and Hamilton pitted. Ricciardo also stopped, his first of the race with the top ten when the track went green on lap 35 Verstappen, Perez, Russell, Gasly, Tsunoda, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo and Norris.
Hamilton shot by Tsunoda for fifth place with the Japanese driver’s race under threat when his DRS split down the middle. He was shown the black-and-orange flag on lap 38 and pitted a lap later, the gaffer tape out to hold his DRS together with the driver told not to use it.
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Heading into the closing laps such was Verstappen’s advantage over his team-mate, almost 16 seconds, he had a conversation with his team about how slow he could go while keeping heat in his tyres. Worryingly, though, he was also told not to use DRS not that it seemed he would need it. Perez in turn was 20s up the road from Russell who was 17s ahead of Gasly, the latter coming under threat from Hamilton who made his move on lap 44 to move into position four.
Verstappen romped to the win, arguably his easiest of this season, crossing the line 20 seconds ahead of Perez to become the sixth different winner in Baku. The reigning World Champion moved onto 150 points, 21 ahead of his team-mate with Leclerc falling to P3, 34 points off the pace.
Russell was third as he bagged his third podium of the championship ahead of Hamilton, Gasly and Vettel. Alonso, Ricciardo, Norris and Ocon completed the points.
1Max Verstappen Red Bull
2Sergio PerezRed Bull20.823s
3George Russell Mercedes45.995s
4Lewis Hamilton Mercedes71.679s
5Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri77.299s
6Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin84.099s
7Fernando Alonso Alpine88.596s
8Daniel Ricciardo McLaren92.207s
9Lando Norris McLaren92.556s
10Esteban Ocon Alpine108.184s
11Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing1 Lap
12Alex Albon Williams1 Lap
13Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri1 Lap
14Mick SchumacherHaas1 Lap
15Nicholas LatifiWilliams1 Lap
Did not finish
Lance Stroll – Aston Martin – engine
Kevin Magnussen – Haas – engine
Zhou Guanyu – Alfa Romeo – engine
Charles Leclerc – Ferrari – engine
Carlos Sainz – Ferrari – hydraulics
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