Formula 1

Formula 1: Verstappen dominates in Baku as Leclerc runs out of luck

Featured Image Credit: @F1 Official Twitter

Red Bull and Max Verstappen have taken a firm hold on both championship titles after a dominant 1-2 in Baku. Championship rivals Ferrari suffered a horror showing as both cars retired as well as two other Ferrari powered cars.

Perez starts strong, Ferrari take a gamble

Perez stormed off the line and managed to muscle past Leclerc into turn 1. The rest of the grid remained relatively unchanged through lap 1, but crucially Perez had opened up a gap of over 1s to Leclerc. Sainz attacked Verstappen early, but he was able to maintain 3rd.

Latifi was given a 10s stop go penalty on lap 3 for a race start infringement. A mechanic wheeled back the Williams after the 15s start procedure. A costly mistake.

By lap 5, Verstappen was using the DRS to full effect to attack Leclerc. However, the Ferrari’s strengths in the twisty sectors gave the Ferrari an inital advantage.

Lap 9 saw the first yellow flag of the session as Sainz was spotted off the track on turn 4. Sainz’s bad luck this year got worse as the car was confirmed to have a failure. The VSC was called, which caused Leclerc to dive into the pits for hard tyres. Russell, in 4th, made the same call before a flood of midfield cars made their way in.

The Red Bulls were now leading a 1-2, with Leclerc 16s behind. Questions were raised as to whether the Ferrari could last 42 laps on hard tyres, it was all to play for.

Vettel was launching an attack on Ocon for 9th, but locked the wheels after the move was completed. He had a swift recovery, but still lost two positions. This left Hamilton free Hamilton to attack, but he couldn’t make any immediate headway. After 7 laps, the Mercedes was able to find a way past.

Up front, Verstappen had been quietly closing on Perez and lunged past into turn 1. He immediately broke out of the DRS range and took hold of the race.

Lap 17 saw Perez diving for the pits, the Mexican had really been struggling on his tyres and to make matters worse, the pitstop was slow. Perez came out just infront of Russell, he was lucky not to spend a lap stuck behind the Mercedes.

2 laps later, Verstappen pitted and also suffered a slow stop, but was clearly infront of Perez. Up front, Lecerc took the lead by 13s.

Ferrari in flames

The McLarens had been told to keep formation, but that came under jeopardy as Gasly appeared behind them. Despite showing that he was able to overtake, the Australian was ordered to stay behind. Norris dived for the pits, but Ricciardo now had to defend hard. However, he was overtaken on lap 22.

Ferrari’s day went from bad to worse on lap 21 as the cameras cut back to Leclerc’s leading Ferrari in flames. The car had to retire, meaning Ferrari would score absolutely no points on this race weekend. The Ferrari garage was morose.

Zhou was the next retirement, with another Ferrari power unit failure.

Alonso’s Alpine had been turning heads all weekend due to it’s straight line speed and after an early stop, the Spaniard was making moves up the grid. He and Vettel were both enjoying a strong race in the top 10.

On lap 29, Hamilton came over the radio to report back pain, reportedly due to the porposing.

Yet another Ferrari power unit failure occurred, causing Magnussen to pull over. The VSC was called and Verstappen dived into the pits again, followed by Perez. Several cars, including both Mercedes, took the pit stop advantage. Alpha Tauri stayed out, however. Gasly and Tsunoda were running 4th and 5th ahead of Hamilton.

Tsunoda had an unusual error with his rear wing. It was split in half vertically meaning only half was opening in the DRS zone. He was pitted under the black and orange flag and the team attempted a bizzare fix, using tape to ‘fix’ the split.

Red Bull Masterclass

Ricciardo pitted during the earlier VSC and came out infront of his team-mate in 9th. His pace was good, but soon Norris was catching. With 5 laps to go Ricciardo was informed that if he wasn’t able to make it past Alonso, that Norris would be let past to have an attempt. McLaren were satisified with Ricciardo’s attempts and they didn’t switch the cars.

Verstappen was ordered not to use DRS, possibly as a precaution after Tsunoda’s wing.

Hamilton made it to 4th after an entertaining battle with Gasly, but he was still over 24s behind Russell in 3rd.

After a calm ending to the race, Verstappen came across the line to take his 25th victory and gain even more control over the championship fight. Perez made it a 1-2, while Russell picked up his 3rd podium of the season. Hamilton completed a Mercedes 3-4 while Gasly took an impressive 5th. Vettel recovered well after his earlier spin and finished 6th ahead of Alonso, who kept his 7th place. There was a late surge from Norris, but he followed team orders to take 9th, behind Ricciardo. Ocon was the final points scorer.

Full Race Results:

  1. Verstappen
  2. Perez +20.823
  3. Russell +45.995
  4. Hamilton +71.679
  5. Gasly +77.299
  6. Vettel +84.099
  7. Alonso +88.596
  8. Ricciardo +92.207
  9. Norris +92.556
  10. Ocon +108.184
  11. Bottas +1Lap
  12. Albon +1Lap
  13. Tsunoda +1Lap
  14. Schumacher +1Lap
  15. Latifi +1Lap
  16. Stroll RET
  17. Magnussen RET
  18. Zhou RET
  19. Leclerc RET
  20. Sainz RET

It was a dream day for Red Bull, with maximum points scored as their closest rivals take none. After such a strong start, Ferrari now have a massive job to claw back this gap. They’ll get another opportunity to attempt next week at the Canadian GP.

Featured Image Credit: @F1 Official Twitter




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