Reigning champion Max Verstappen led a Red Bull one-two in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz retired from the race due to power unit-related issues. It was the third consecutive time that Ferrari's Monegasque driver was deprived of the win.
Starting from the pole position, Charles Leclerc lost the lead after Sergio Perez had a better getaway from the line and managed to overtake the Monegasque driver into Turn 1. The opening laps saw the Mexican pull away from Leclerc, who had Verstappen as company.
Further back, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were squabbling despite being on different strategies. The Briton was ahead, but the Australian wanted his team mate to raise his speed.
In the meantime, Verstappen had DRS on multiple times and closed in on Leclerc. The Ferrari driver did not make any mistakes despite the immense pressure from Verstappen and managed to chip away a bit from the gap to race leader Perez.
The Mexican reported on Lap 8 that he started to “struggle a bit with traction.” Just on the next lap, Ferrari’s Spanish driver needed to park his Ferrari down at Turn 4 due to mechanical problems. Sainz reported on the radio that it was related to the brake-by-wire system.
The virtual safety car was deployed and Leclerc used the misfortune of his team mate to pit and change to the hard tyres.
The two Red Bulls refused to pit and Verstappen closed in on his team mate on Lap 15. He also had DRS and made the move stick into Turn 1 easily after Perez was instructed by Red Bull not to fight against the Dutchman.
Perez decided to pit two laps later as his tyres started to go off the cliff. It was a slow stop for the Mexican with the work lasting 5.7s. His team mate stayed on the track for other two laps before pitting for new hard tyres.
On Lap 21, race leader Leclerc was hit by disaster as his engine was billowing smoke. The Monegasque cried on the radio that "Problem, problem, engine", and was forced to drive back to the pits. As Leclerc could quickly return to the pits on own power, there was no need for a safety car or virtual safety car. The race turned into a disaster for the Scuderia and meant a huge turnabout in the championship as it appeared to hand an eye-catching lead to Verstappen in the Drivers' standing and Red Bull in the teams' championship.
On Lap 24, Zhou Guanyu was called to the pits due to retire from the race as Alfa Romeo found a reliability issue on his car. The Chinese driver’s retirement from the Baku race was the third time of the last four races that he has not seen the chequered flag.
Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas were running long after they all started on the hard compound. On 34, another Ferrari-powered car was hit by reliability isseues with Kevin Magnussen forced to park his Haas down at Turn 15.
The virtual safety car was deployed which presented Verstappen and Perez with a great opportunity to pit for new tyres. George Russell, Ricciardo, Hamilton also pitted for fresh rubber.
After the short interruption, Verstappen led the race from Perez who was followed by Russell. Gasly found himself in fourth place with his team mate Yuki Tsunoda occupying P5. Hamilton lost a position to the Japanese driver, but had much fresher tyres.
On lap 36, Hamilton picked off Tsunoda and started to chase down Gasly for P4. In the meantime, Tsunoda had problems with his rear wing as half of his rear flap opened up. He received black and orange flag from the Race Control and needed to pit. AlphaTauri taped the rear wing shut while also fitted Tsunoda’s car with fresh tyres.
On safety grounds, Red Bull also told Verstappen not to use DRS for the rest of the race.
In the meantime, Hamilton was all over the back of Gasly’s AlphaTauri and had a look around the outside into Turn 1. Although his first attempt failed, he made the manoeuvre stick into Turn 3 and was up to fourth.
The FIA stewards handed out a five-second time penalty to Nicholas Latifi for ignoring the blue flags.
While it was an easy second half of the race for Red Bull, there were some battles further down the order. On lap 48, Ricciardo closed in on Alonso with only 1.7s separating the Australian and the Spaniard. The two-time world champion tried to drag everything he could out of his Alpine to hold on to seventh.
Further back, Lance Stroll was told to retire due to high oscillations.
At the front, Verstappen cruised to victory with his team mate Perez and Russell rounding out the podium. Hamilton took 4th with Gasly behind. Sebastian Vettel secured a brilliant P6 for Aston Martin following a driver error at the beginning of the race while Fernando Alonso could hold on to P7 ahead of the McLaren’s duo of Ricciardo and Norris. The Spaniard’s team mate Esteban Ocon grabbed the last point-scoring position.
After a horrific race for Ferrari, Red Bull now leads the championship on 279 points with the Scuderia 80 points adrift. Mercedes is only 38 points behind Ferrari thanks to their perfect reliability.
In the drivers’ standing, reigning world champion Verstappen finds himself in complete control of the championship battle with Perez overtaking Leclerc. The Monegasque had a gap of 34 points to the Dutchman with the reliability issues making his life even tougher as he is definitely going to extend his allocation of power unit elements.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||51||1:34:05.941||0|
|2||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||51||+20.823s||0|
|5||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||51||+77.299s||0|
|6||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||51||+84.099s||0|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||51||+88.596s||0|
|8||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||51||+92.207s||0|
|9||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||51||+92.556s||0|
|10||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||51||+108.184s||0|
|11||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||50||+1 lap||0|
|12||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||50||+1 lap||0|
|13||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||50||+1 lap||0|
|14||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||50||+1 lap||0|
|15||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||50||+1 lap||0|
|16||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||46||DNF||0|
|NC||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||31||DNF||0|
|NC||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||23||DNF||0|