The Winners and Losers from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
On a blazing hot Sunday, Max Verstappen emerged victorious at the end of a dramatic Grand Prix in Baku, becoming the sixth driver to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Going into the race, racing fans looking for free bets for signing up had plenty of options to choose from, but in the end, it was unquestionably Red Bull’s weekend. Further back in the field, there were winners and losers to be found in a race weekend that was packed with action.
For much of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, it appeared that Max Verstappen would once again be overshadowed by his Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez.
Despite seeing Perez grab the lead at the start and placing a Ferrari between them, Verstappen showed superior race speed to catch and pass Perez for the lead (following the retirement of Charles Leclerc).
This was his maiden podium in Baku, his fifth win in eight races this season, and his 25th career victory, tying him with Jim Clark and Niki Lauda for fifth all-time winner.
Early in the season, Red Bull’s consistency was questionable, with three retirements in the first three races. But, they’ve made significant progress, and the result has been three first-second finishes in five races.
It’s also only the third occasion in Red Bull’s history that they’ve won five races in a row (Vettel won nine in a row in 2013, while Verstappen and Perez won five in a row last year) and their 81st win in Formula One, tying them with Lotus as seventh all-time winners.
On Saturday, Mercedes’ chances of a podium in Baku appeared bleak, as George Russell finished fifth, his second-best grid position of the season, but still 1.3 seconds off pole. Yet in the race itself, Russell inherited third, after both Ferraris retired, securing his third podium of the season and maintaining his record of being the only driver to finish every race in the top five.
Lewis Hamilton finished fourth, his first top-four finish since Australia, and the team’s third third-fourth finish of the season, bringing them to within 38 points of Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo has had a rough start to the season, with only one point finish in his seven attempts.
However, the McLaren driver appeared to have turned a corner as early as FP2 on this circuit and proceeded to make gains throughout the weekend, matching the pace of his teammate Lando Norris. He then went one step further and overcame the British driver in the race, climbing into the top ten and finishing eighth.
In qualifying, Charles Leclerc was in spectacular form, winning his 15th pole of the season and fourth in a row. While he lost the lead at the start, he was able to claw his way back into contention with an aggressive early pit stop during a virtual safety car part of the race.
When the Red Bull team pitted, he retook the lead and was flying on hard tyres, but a power unit problem forced him to retire from the race for a second time in three races. He last won from pole position five races ago in Australia, and he now trails championship leader Verstappen by 34 points.
Ferrari was in command of the Constructors’ title just two races ago. However, after their first double retirement since the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, they are now 80 points behind Red Bull.
As an indication of how rare and disappointing this outcome was for Ferrari, bear in mind that the team’s last double DNF due to mechanical difficulties was in Australia in 2009. They’ve also now gone five races without a win and have had only three podium finishes since Leclerc’s victory in Australia.
Yuki Tsunoda had been enjoying one of the greatest – if not the best – weekends of his Formula One career in Baku, as he stayed in the top 10 throughout practice before qualifying eighth for his best start of the season. In the race itself, he was in a strong sixth position, when mechanical problems with the rear wing DRS system forced him into the pits, and from there, it was all over.
Lance Stroll had a more difficult weekend than his Aston Martin colleague Sebastian Vettel. In qualifying, he clipped the barrier and while he was able to carry on initially, he then crashed into another barrier, sustaining damage that forced him out. His problems, according to the team, were caused by an engine configuration issue. On race day, he made some early progress from 19th, but had to retire the car due to a vibration issue that was spotted by the team.