Red Bull and Max Verstappen take a dominating victory in Sunday’s Azerbaijan GP with teammate Sergio Perez taking 2nd place. Ferrari suffered their first DNF since 2020 with Sainz out early on in the race to a hydraulic issue while Leclerc being thrown out due to an engine problem.
George Russell rounded up the final podium spot after a rather uneventful race on his part, while teammate Lewis Hamilton took 4th as he nursed back problems caused by the W13’s porpoising.
Sebastian Vettel was also a highlight of the race, with him making moves all over the field and finishing 6th; the first time the German has finished outside of P4 in Baku. Pierre Gasly returned back to his form as he finished P5, and hauled some necessary points for Alpha Tauri in their championship fight against Alpine.
Classification for the Azerbaijan GP:
As it happened:
Pole sitter Charles Leclerc was dropped to P2 by the way faster reacting Sergio Perez as the Ferrari locked up into turn 1. Both Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez had an amazing start while neither of the Ferrari’s had the same.
Post some uneventful laps later, Carlos Sainz went off into turn 3 on lap 9 because of a hydraulic failure. The Spaniard’s luck has not been by his side, with this being his 4th DNF of the season. Only this time around it surely was not due to any fault of his own.
The incident brought out the VSC and Ferrari pit their P2 running Charles Leclerc by taking a gamble on hard tires. Mercedes and Aston Martin were the only other teams to pit, with Vettel being able to jump Hamilton on the latter’s stop.
Couple of laps later, a feisty battle brewed between Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon, with the German even making a move on the Frenchman but not being able to stick it as he locked his front right wheel into the run-off area. Recovering in a spectacular fashion, Vettel had already lost 2 places by then.
Leclerc meanwhile, with the newer set of tires, was flying and gaining acres of time over the Red Bulls. The Monegasque was pulling closer onto the defending champion by margins in the neighbourhood of around 6s a lap. Soon after on lap 15, the Dutchman being faster by over a second on his teammate, overtook the other Red Bull. Two laps hence, both the Red Bulls also pit, albeit giving away the lead to Leclerc.
Utter heartbreak struck for Ferrari once again as on Lap 25, Leclerc was seen going slowly with plumes of smoke coming out his exhaust. This meant it was Leclerc’s 2nd DNF in 3 races as yet again the championship contender could not convert his 4th pole in a row into a win. Verstappen inherited the lead of the race with his teammate running 2nd at this point.
The Azerbaijan GP even produced two more DNFs due to engine failures, all powered by Ferrari power units. Both Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen seemed to have had PU failures, causing them to retire from the race.
In a bizarre incident, Yuki Tsunoda was shown the black and orange flag, after he was seen with his DRS flap only opening half of its entirety. Back into the pits the next lap, Alpha Tauri patched it with gaffer tape, and Tsunoda did not have access to DRS for the remaining of the race.
Hamilton had been having a brilliant race up with him making moves all throughout the field. Starting the weekend on the back foot with both their cars suffering from immense porpoising, the 7 time world champion made an amazing recovery drive in the Grand Prix. Even in the closing stages of the race, Hamilton overtook the Alpha Tauri of Gasly with a brilliant move into turn 3, snatching P4.
It was also a last lap dash between the McLaren drivers, with Lando Norris being told by his team to hold position against teammate Daniel Ricciardo ahead in P8. Both drivers had even helped each other out throughout the race. But it was Daniel who finished ahead of the Briton after starting P12, a slight glimmer of hope for his return to form.
Rigged with mild DRS issues of his own, Max Verstappen took the chequered flag with a commanding lead of 20s over his teammate Sergio Perez, who came home 2nd.
The Azerbaijan GP cemented the necessity of reliability in addition to being the fastest car on track. Track temperatures soaring beyond 40 degrees and drivers taking their laps at full throttle around 60% of the lap, making sure the engines perform at an optimum level was of course a major concern. There were 5 DNFs this race, most going out due to problems related to the power unit. Although we are just 8 races into the calendar, the championship lead seems to have started to take shape with Red Bull now having a mammoth 80-points lead over Ferrari.
The winners for the Azerbaijan GP:
- Well of course, Red Bull: The leader of both championships took another 1-2 in a weekend where pace was of utmost importance. Although not 100% perfect, the team patched their weaknesses and capitalised on Ferrari’s botched expedition. Sergio Perez himself hadn’t had the best of lucks, with both his qualifying and end of race compromised slightly because of a lack of power.
- Mercedes: No, the car is still a pain to drive. But the fact that both of its drivers could pull together a podium as well as a P4, is just a mega performance. Both of their drivers complained against back pains, while Hamilton was even seen reeling in extreme pain as he got out of the car. At a track as fast as Baku, managing porpoising along with scraping away a podium is no mean feat!
- McLaren: Again, being a car with relatively low pace, this team came to secure a double points finish. Norris could have even finished a touch higher had it not been for team orders, but a very good recovery from the team.
And the losers for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix are:
- Ferrari, yet again: The Maranello team had their first double DNF since 2020, and this weekend could come to bite them hard in the recent future. Sainz had anyways not been helping his team much in closing the gap against Red Bull, and this was yet another non-points scoring race for him. Charles Leclerc on the other hand, has had blistering Qualifying pace, but something or the other always props up that has been stopping him from converting those into wins. Even though they were expected to be on the back foot on race day because of Red Bull’s race pace, obviously a zero points haul weekend is extremely costly for the Scarlet Scuderia.
- Alfa Romeo: The team was on an upward curve two races prior, and now, they are going out of this weekend with one non-points scoring car and one DNF.
- Haas: The team looked set for points by Kevin Magnussen, only to be thwarted by an engine problem. Mick Schumacher has still not gotten to grips with his VF22, while finishing well out of the points. In a weekend of “what could have been”, the team went home with another dry spell of outcomes.
Sergio Perez has hence overtaken Charles Leclerc for 2nd place in the championship and Verstappen extended his lead over Perez by 21 points. George Russell is now in fact only 17 points away from Charles Leclerc in the standings.
The Azerbaijan GP did not have all that drama we expected, but was not a snoozefest either. Not a lot of on-track battles happened for the lead, but down the field were aplenty. Although you don’t have to wait long to get some more F1 action, as just in 7 days’ time, Formula 1 goes to Montreal, Canada for the Canadian Grand Prix!
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