One-two finish for Oracle Red Bull Racing in Baku
Max Verstappen took a controlled Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of teammate Sergio Pérez to seal the Team’s third one-two finish of the 2022 season, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were forced to retire from the race with technical problems. The final podium position was taken by Mercedes’ George Russell.
Max’s Baku P1 is his 25th win in Formula 1 and his fifth win of 2022. The result means that Max continues at the top of the Drivers’ standings with 150 points. Checo moves to second place with 129 points, 13 points ahead of Leclerc. In the Constructors’ Championship, the Team now has 279 points, 80 clear of Ferrari, with Mercedes third on 161 points.
Discussing his performance, driver Max Verstappen said: “Today we had incredible pace in the car, we could really look after the tyres and we could chip away for the lead. Checo did a good job at the start getting ahead of Charles, I got blocked in and couldn’t go anywhere.
“Once I was on the hard tyres and in the lead and I could just manage it and could control the gap. It would have been good to have had a battle with Charles today but he had a DNF.
“To get a 1-2 for the Team was really good, we’ve scored some good points today and made the gap bigger to Ferrari. There’s still a long way to go, it’s a long season so we need to keep pushing as a Team.”
When the lights went out for the start, Leclerc got away well, but Checo’s start was fractionally quicker, and as they reached the end of the short run to turn one, the Red Bull driver was alongside and on the inside line. Leclerc was forced to go deep, looking to hold his advantage, but locked up and Checo was able to steal the lead.
As Leclerc recovered, Max tried to attack but the Dutchman had to back out of the move when fourth-placed Carlos Sainz put pressure on the championship leader through turn two. Behind the leading quartet, Mercedes’ George Russell held fifth ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
Checo quickly began to carve out a gap at the front and by the end of lap 4 he was 2.2s clear of Leclerc who had Max looming large in his mirrors. At the start of the next tour, Max, aided by DRS, closed in on the Ferrari driver, but Leclerc was alive to the threat and used his ERS well to keep the Red Bull driver at bay.
The order remained unchanged until lap nine. But then Sainz suddenly lost power and was forced to take the escape road at turn four. The Spaniard tried to resume but it quickly became clear that his race was run due to what Ferrari later confirmed as a hydraulic issue.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed and under the caution, Ferrari pitted Leclerc. The Monégasque driver’s switch to hard tyres was delayed by a stuck front jack and with Red Bull choosing to stay on track, Leclerc re-joined in third place, 12.8 seconds behind Max who was now second and 2.0s behind Checo.
On lap 15, Max closed on Checo and with DRS made his move past his teammate to take the race lead. Behind them, Leclerc was closing in, running a second quicker than the Red Bulls and by lap 16, the Ferrari driver was 7.9s behind Checo.
Checo pitted at the end of lap 16 for his switch to hard tyres, but like Leclerc, he too suffered a slow stop, this time caused by a problem with the gantry lights.
Leclerc swept past and the Mexican re-joined in third place, just ahead of Russell.
Max made his pit stop at the end of lap 18 and after a 3.5s stop and a switch to hard tyres he re-joined behind Leclerc who now led by 13.6s. Behind them, Checo was closing in and after a sequence of fastest laps he powered to within four seconds of Max.
On lap 20, the shape of the race changed completely. A plume of smoke suddenly bloomed from the back of Leclerc’s car and the Ferrari driver was swiftly on the radio. “Problem, problem,” he sighed as he steered toward the pit lane and retired. Max retook the lead, 5.2s ahead of Checo.
On lap 33, Magnussen pulled over at the side of the track as his Ferrari power unit expired and the Virtual Safety Car was deployed for the second time in the race. The Team took the opportunity to pit both Bulls for fresh sets of hard tyres. Russell, too, took on fresh tyres but Gasly stayed out as did Tsunoda who rose to fifth ahead of Hamilton who pitted during the VSC.
The Japanese driver was swiftly passed by Hamilton and then dropped back the race when he was shown black and orange flags for a DRS that was only actuating on one side. AlphaTauri called Tsunoda to the pit lane and after fixing the wing closed with tape the Japanese driver was released back on track in P13. As a precaution the Red Bulls were told not to use DRS for the remainder of the race.
Further back, Gasly was beginning to struggle for grip on his ageing hard tyres. And after a couple of rebuffed attempts, on lap 44 Hamilton swept past the Frenchman under DRS on the run to turn three.
In the final laps, the order settled and after 51 laps Max crossed the line to take his 25th career win. The win also marks Max’s 66th podium finish for the team, breaking the previous Team record held by Sebastian Vettel. Behind him, Checo took his fifth podium finish of the year to seal the one-two. The Mexican also grabbed the extra point on offer for fastest lap thanks to his 1:46.046, posted on lap 36. The final podium place went to Russell, who scored his third P3 finish of the season.
Discussing his P2, driver Sergio Perez said: “I started really well, we were leading and felt we had things under control. We were a little unlucky with the timing of the VSC which made things a bit more difficult for us. When you are leading the race for the first stint, which is normally the harder one, then you think you are looking strong but that wasn’t to be the case today and that is racing.
“I got some bad degradation on my rear tyres, which meant I couldn’t keep Max behind, he was extremely fast and it made sense for him to pass me rather than fight it. We were told to keep certain pace on the hards once both Ferraris were out of the race and we managed the rest of it well.“We have to understand where we could have got more out of the car today and go forward to Canada and make sure we are in contention once again. Today was a great result for the Team and a good day in the Constructors’ Championship.”
Behind them, Hamilton finished fourth ahead of Gasly, while Vettel secured his best finish of the season to date with sixth place. Alonso finished seventh ahead of the twin McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris and the final point on offer went to Ocon.
Commenting on the teams 1-2, Team Principal Christian Horner said: “It’s a fantastic result for us today on a track that never fails to deliver the unexpected.
“I think it’s a shame that the fans didn’t get to see how the strategy would have played out today, Ferrari stopped very early under that virtual safety car, and with us going onto the hard tyre that much later, I think that would have given us the advantage towards the end of the race. But we managed to capitalise on the events within the race with both drivers driving fantastically.
“We asked them to race each other cleanly and fairly and that’s what they did. They’re doing a great job for the Team and we’re very proud of what the whole team has achieved today.”
There is a short turnaround as the paddock now heads to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend. Due to the global pandemic, this is the first time Formula 1 has been to Canada since 2019 and with the track’s long straights conducive to Oracle Red Bull Racing’s straight line speed, the team will be looking to cement their place at the top of both championships with a good points haul.