Verstappen wins F1 Azerbaijan GP

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Verstappen wins F1 Azerbaijan GP

Max Verstappen led Sergio Perez as Red Bull took an easy 1-2 finish in Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as both Ferraris retired with mechanical issues.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc started from pole position but lost out to Perez at the first corner, and it was the Mexican who led the opening laps of the race, with Leclerc second, Verstappen third and Leclerc's teammate Carlos Sainz in fourth.

The top four stayed in that order until lap 9, when Sainz suddenly slowed and pulled off with a hydraulic issue.

The stricken Ferrari necessitated the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car, and Leclerc took the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres, emerging in third behind the two Red Bulls, who swapped places on lap 15 as Verstappen overtook Perez.

On fresher rubber, Leclerc began closing on the Red Bulls, and when the pair made their pit stops on laps 17 and 19, Leclerc assumed the race lead.

But any hopes the Monegasque had of challenging for victory were dashed just two laps later, when he suddenly slowed with smoke pouring from the rear of his F1-75.

"I am more than frustrated," Leclerc said. "The first stint we weren't particularly strong at the beginning but then I was catching [Perez]. I think pitting was the right choice. We were leading and then I was managing the tyres well. We just had to manage the tyres to the end and we were in the best position to do that. Another DNF. It hurts."

Ferrari's double retirement brings the question of reliability into sharp focus, with Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu and Haas' Kevin Magnussen – whose cars both use Ferrari power units – also retiring from Sunday's race.

"It is more than significant," Leclerc added. "I don't really have the words. It is just a huge disappointment and I hope we can jump back from it and be on top of those things."

With the Ferrari threat having disappeared, Red Bull had an untroubled run to the flag, with Verstappen taking his fifth win of 2022 ahead of Perez.

Behind the top two, George Russell continued his excellent form so far in 2022 by finishing third ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who appeared to be struggling with back pain as he climbed out of his Mercedes, with the W13 porpoising badly on the long straights at the Baku City Circuit.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly scored his best result of 2022 with fifth place, and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel also scored his highest finish of the year in sixth, despite a mid-race spin.

Fernando Alonso took seventh for Alpine ahead of the two McLarens, with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of Lando Norris, and Alonso's teammate Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten.

Verstappen's win sees him extend his lead in the Drivers' Championship, and the Dutchman now has 150 points. Perez moves into second place with 129 points, with Leclerc remaining on 116 points and dropping into third place.

In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull now have a commanding lead with 279 points, with second-placed Ferrari non-scoring and remaining on 199 points. Mercedes are third with 161 points.

The ninth round of the 2022 Formula 1 season is next weekend's Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

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