RED BULL’S pairing of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez controlled Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Perez leading the early stages of the race and Verstappen closing down on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc before the talented Monegasque driver suffered a devastating engine failure which ended his hopes of race victory.
With Leclerc’s team mate Carlos Sainz Jr also retiring his Ferrari from the race due to hydraulic failure, Red Bull Racing were left with no one to challenge them, Verstappen and Perez ensuring they looked after their tyres as they ran to a comfortable win.
In third and fourth places came the Mercedes pair of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, but the Mercedes team was once again struggling to find performance, their cars bouncing badly on the demanding Baku street circuit. They benefitted from the double-retirement of both Ferrari cars, Hamilton commenting that the bouncing – or ‘porpoising’ – of their cars is costing as much as one second per lap.
“Charles Leclerc must be wondering what he has to do to find some good luck,” said Mika Hakkinen afterwards. “He has been on pole position for the last four races and his qualifying performance on Saturday was really brilliant. He got everything he could out of the car. I think we were going to see a really close battle for the race win because Max was certain he could close the gap on Charles, but we never got to see what would happen because of the Ferrari’s engine failure.”
“Ferrari know that the last three races have been really critical as two engine issues and poor strategy have cost Charles potential victories in Spain, Monaco and Baku. To have both cars fail to finish is one thing, but on a day when Red Bull then scores a 1-2 finish to extend their lead in both the Drivers and Constructors Wold Championships is a disaster. It will be interesting to find out the reasons for the retirements of two other Ferrari-powered cars at Haas and Alfa Romeo, because if there is a particular problem it needs to be solved urgently.”
“We are only three Grands Prix away from the mid-point of this year’s World Championship and Ferrari really have to get on top of their reliability problems as well as have more confidence in delivering a strong race strategy. Every mistake will be punished by Red Bull, which is what we have seen again in Baku.”
“The other point is that Checo (Perez) is doing a really fantastic job of supporting Max at Red Bull. After his win in Monaco he came to Baku and was quickest in two of the practice sessions, and ahead of Max in all of them. To then qualify second behind Charles and take the lead at the start shows just how much confidence Checo has in himself and the car.”
“Max has Checo to thank for the win, in my opinion, not only in accepting the team’s strategy but also in having a 5 second pit stop at a key moment in the race. Red Bull really does have the benefit of two strong winners in their team, while Ferrari is suffering with Carlos Sainz Jr having a lot of poor luck as well as unable to match the pace of Charles.”
“The one thing everyone knows in F1 is that to win the championship you need that combination of speed, reliability and consistency which is so hard to find. Ferrari has the speed, but the other aspects are not there, while Red Bull is showing exceptionally strong form everywhere. Red Bull has some issues with reliability at the start of the season, but they have now put that behind them. Ferrari needs to do that same, and quickly!”