Max Verstappen’s time at Oracle Red Bull Racing started at a rush and has barely abated since, but the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has been a curious outlier on his otherwise glittering résumé. The Dutchman’s fourth race for the team was Baku’s debut on the world championship calendar in 2016 and since then he’d never even seen the view from any step on the podium, let alone the top one. That was until Sunday, when he put that right in the most emphatic fashion.
The reigning world champion didn’t qualify on the front row for the race, beaten on Saturday for the second race running by team-mate Sergio Pérez. However, he was in a league of his own when the points were handed out on race day, taking full advantage of a dark day for Ferrari. He then used a potent mix of superior tyre management and pace to pass Pérez for the lead on Lap 15 and cruising thereafter, eventually winning by 20.823s for his fifth victory of the year.
Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB18. 12.06.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan, Race Day.
A maximum haul of 44 points – 25 for Verstappen for the victory, 19 for Pérez for second place and the fastest lap of the race (a 1m 46.046s effort on Lap 36 of 51) saw the team stretch its advantage over Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship to 80 points, with Verstappen leading team-mate Pérez atop the Drivers’ Standings, 150 points to 129.
With Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz failing to finish, Mercedes man George Russell was again there to pick up whatever crumbs fell from the table of the season’s two strongest teams with a third-place result. It was the Briton’s third podium of the year and a result that saw him retain fourth in the Drivers’ Standings.
Here’s how an afternoon that started with a struggle and finished spraying champagne played out for Verstappen in Baku.
To say Scuderia AlphaTauri came to Azerbaijan desperate to make their pace count on the scoreboard after a recent run of outs was an understatement. Between them, Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda had managed just one point in the past three races in Miami, Spain and Monaco.
Gasly, as he did in Monaco, had prodigious pace all weekend – and this time was able to make it pay big on race day. A season-best fifth place saw him score more points in one race (10) than he had in the previous seven (six). The Frenchman was sixth on the grid, splitting Mercedes pair Russell and Lewis Hamilton, and ran as high as fourth place before having to settle for fifth, a late-race decision by the team to not stop for fresh tyres under the Magnussen-caused virtual safety car was not one employed by most of his rivals.
Leclerc’s second retirement in the past three races saw him earn a share of an unwanted slice of F1 history; the last driver to take four successive poles yet not win any of those races was Juan Pablo Montoya for Williams way back in 2002.
Leclerc has started six of the eight races this year from pole, but a 46-point lead over Verstappen after he won in round three in Australia has become a 34-point deficit just five races later.
Elsewhere, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel had his best showing of the season with sixth place at the track where he took his first podium for the team 12 months ago, while another multiple world champion, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, also enjoyed a best result of 2022 with seventh place.
Source Red Bull Magazine