With Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc starting in pole position, ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in the front row, the stage was set for a yet another thrilling Ferrari vs. Red Bull battle on the streets of Baku this weekend.
However, it was defending world champion Max Verstappen who took the Baku podium for the first time after an engine failure forced Leclerc to retire early, dealing a severe blow to his championship hopes.
The win allowed Red Bull’s flying Dutchman to build a sizable lead at the top of the current world championship standings.
Verstappen has now opened up a 21-point advantage over his teammate Sergio Perez in the Formula One World Championship, as Red Bull completed a one-two finish in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on a disastrous day for Ferrari.
The race at Baku is considered one of the most exciting and unpredictable in the F1 season, and there are always some impressive performances by the drivers. Long straights, high speeds and close brushes with the wall make the Azerbaijan GP an action-packed race.
With Leclerc out of the way, Perez took the lead in the race, before Verstappen stepped in. Mercedes’ George Russell was third on the podium, followed by his seven-time world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finishing in a season-best fifth position.
It was a demanding finish for Hamilton, however, as he batted through the pain caused by his porpoising car.
Earlier, both Ferrari cars were forced out of the race. Carlos Sainz was the first to go in Lap 9 due to a hydraulic issue, followed by Leclerc’s power unit failure in the 20th lap.
It paved the way for Verstappen to become the sixth different champion at Baku and complete a one-two finish with teammate Perez.
Leclerc, however, slipped 34 points behind the leaders in the drivers’ championship. The former leader now sits third behind Perez, while Ferrari trails Red Bull by 80 points in the constructors’ championship.
In lap 45, Hamilton finally passed Gasly down the back straight for a fourth-place finish. Mercedes, who has been struggling with different issues, will be happy to eventually secure a three-four finish.
Hamilton knew exactly how he felt, struggling to get out of his car after finishing behind Russell for the seventh time in eight races. “I was biting down on my teeth with the pain,” he said. “I can’t express it. Adrenaline got me through. You were just praying for it to end.”
After the race, Verstappen sympathized with Leclerc.
“That’s racing,” Verstappen said about the Monagesque’s retirement.
“It happened to me, it happened to many people in the past. Unfortunately, it’s happening to Charles,” he added.
“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, you know, you always look at how to improve things.
“So we did as well at the beginning of the season, you learn from it – you don’t like it, you’re angry, but we turned it around,” he said.
“But you always have to stay on it because something else might happen and you always have to prevent these issues from happening,” Verstappen added.
Leclerc held down the second position before he stopped under the virtual safety car, triggered by Sainz’s retirement on Lap 9, and was closing in on the Red Bulls on a set of new hard compound tires.
‘The right call’
Perez said Red Bull made the right call to tell him not to fight Verstappen in Baku. Indeed, as Max went past, a radio message was broadcast that said: “no fighting” to Checo. But, some were quick to suggest the team order favored Verstappen.
Ultimately, though, the Dutchman had better pace and Sergio poured water on the suggestion of any favoritism, saying that it was the right call anyway because Max was looking stronger on Sunday.
“I think it was a right call made by the team because at that time Max was a bit further ahead and it was just a good team result,” Perez said.
“And in this place, anything can happen, so at the end of the day, we managed to get a one-two, so that’s a great team result,” he added.
Teams like Mercedes, Red Bull, Aston Martin and Alpine, as well as the F1 itself, have deals with different cryptocurrency exchanges.
The latest to join that bunch is the cryptocurrency trading platform Bybit as it became the Principal Team Partner of Oracle Red Bull Racing, in a three-year, $50 million per year deal.
Bybit will also work with Red Bull on a series of initiatives, including the promotion of crypto literacy, green technologies, sustainability, diversity as well as supporting women in blockchain.
The racing team said the partnership will help it build a “more immersive and unique connection” with fans around the world
The Canadian Grand Prix is up next, and Red Bull will be aiming to make it six wins in a row in Montreal.
Notes from Formula 2
Turkey’s Cem Bölükbaşı of Czech team Charouz Racing System face another did not finish (DNF) after crashing into a fence. France-based DAMS’s Roy Nissany also crashed into the fence.
In Sunday’s feature race, Turkish pilot Bölükbaşı and Nissany’s races were both ended after the DAMS driver locked up into Turn 2, putting both drivers into the barriers.
Nissany called Bölükbaşı an “idiot” over the radio after the collision, however, the FIA ruling holds him “wholly at fault” for the collision.
It earned the Israeli a three-place grid penalty for the next race, as well as one penalty point on his license.
The race finished one lap early and behind the safety car after an error by Juri Vips, with Dennis Hauger taking his second win of the season ahead of Carlin’s Logan Sargeant and MP Motorsport’s Felipe Drugovich, who extended his points lead.
Two more race cars crashed in the Formula 2 race in Baku.