Heading into Baku there were many questions about Red Bull and the possibility of an internal battle for the driver’s championship between Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen. On the other hand, Ferrari was hoping to rebound from poor results that caused the team to fall behind in both championship standings.
The Baku City Circuit is one of Formula 1’s most unforgiving tracks where even faltering or losing focus for a split second will have meeting the wall and end your race early. The stage was set for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and only the drivers and teams could decide their fates on this dangerous street circuit near the Caspian Sea.
The combination of tight corners and long straights on a narrow track surface forces teams to find the right balance between down force and pure speed and during qualifying drivers pushed their cars to the limit with the hopes of winning pole position. Throughout the three qualifying sessions, drivers flirted with the walls surrounding them, getting within millimeters of touching them and for some even bumping into them.
Ferrari and Charles Leclerc once again proved to be a force to be reckoned with during qualifying, claiming their fourth consecutive pole position. Charles Leclerc’s pole position gave him fifteen total in his career with Ferrari elevating him as one most successful qualifiers in the Scuderia’s history. Red Bull was not far behind with Verstappen claiming P2 and his teammate Perez in P3.
The stage was instantly set for the possibility of a battle between the red bull drivers at the start of the race. Leclerc’s only support in Carlos Sainz Jr qualified in fourth. Alpha Tauri had their best Saturday of the season with Pierre Gasly in P6 and Yuki Tsunoda in P8.
On race day the sun came out in full force without any clouds in sight to help cool the 48-degree track temperatures drivers would have to face. Perez won the 2021 race in Baku and was looking to add his second win in a row for the season and at the track. In the four last races in Azerbaijan, four different winners have claimed the top spot on the podium. Who will be the winner in 2022?
Ferrari and Leclerc led the warm up lap and lined up in on pole position as the rest of his rivals did the same. The red lights began to light up only to go out and the 2022 Azerbaijan GP began. Leclerc’s start was no match for Perez who took the lead diving into Turn 1 displacing Ferrari. Behind them, Verstappen had his hands full with Ferrari’s Sainz battling for P3. The race order throughout the field remained relatively the same and no major incidents occurred during the start. A clean start and no yellow flags which were shocking in their own right due to the recent history of the wild race starts in Baku.
Verstappen, who managed to hold off the Spaniard, set his sights on Leclerc and P2 and inched his way closer on every lap. On Lap 9 Sainz and Ferrari encountered their first big disaster of the day when Sainz left the track on Turn 4 due to hydraulic issues taking him out of the GP.
A virtual safety car was immediately issued, and Leclerc was the first to jump into the pits. Red Bull elected to stay out on the track and once the green flag was waved restarting the race, Verstappen made easy work of his teammate overtaking him on Lap 15 and taking over the lead of the race.
Ferrari’s woes had only begun when on Lap 21 Leclerc’s power unit went silent and taking any chance of overtaking the lead again of the GP was finished. Ferrari who also provides engines to HAAS and Alfa Romeo suffered the same issues as Kevin Magnussen and his Haas also exited the race with power unit problems and Zhou Guanyu in his Alfa Romeo with hydraulic problems. This was certainly a race Ferrari would like to forget!
On the track, Verstappen was unstoppable and undeterred by his teammate or any other driver for that matter. The Dutchman led comfortably and took the chequered flag with a twenty-second lead over Perez in second place. Red Bull scored their third 1-2 finish of the season allowing them to extend their lead in the Constructor’s standings.
Perez’s strong race and point tally helped the Mexican jump into second place for the driver’s championship surpassing Leclerc. Red Bull’s internal battling it seemed was only beginning with the Canadian GP coming up in a week.
George Russel had his best finish of the season for Mercedes, stepping onto the podium in third place. Russel, who has been aptly called Mr. Consistency, has not only finished in the top five in all of the races this season but has also outperformed teammate Lewis Hamilton, who in Baku finished in P4.
REST OF THE PACK
Away from the podium, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly had the best race of his season finishing in P5, while his teammate Tsunoda finished out of the points after his team was forced to duct tape his year wing eliminating his usage of DRS. Aston Martin’s Sebastien Vettel also had his best finish of the season in P6 followed by Fernando Alonso and his Alpine in P7. McLaren, who has been struggling, claimed P8 with Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris in P9 giving the team some much-needed points. Rounding off the top ten was Alpines Esteban Ocon who continues to have solid races in P10.
HEADING TO CANADA
Formula 1’s traveling circus could not linger long in Baku as there would be no two-week break between races. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal was ready and waiting to welcome back Formula 1 after a three-year hiatus due to covid-19. Ferrari was now under extreme pressure for positive results to allow them back into the championship race, but Red Bull was certainly not going to make it easy for them.
2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Final Standings
|1||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NETHERLANDS||RED BULL|
|2||SERGIO PEREZ||MEXICO||RED BULL||1:46.046|
|5||PIERRE GASLY||FRANCE||ALPHA TAURI|
|6||SEBASTIEN VETTEL||GERMANY||ASTON MARTIN|
|11||VALTERRI BOTTAS||FINLAND||ALFA ROMEO|
|13||YUKI TSUNODA||JAPAN||ALPHA TAURI|
|RETIRED||LANCE STROLL-LAP 46||CANADA||ASTON MARTIN|
|RETIRED||ZHOU GUANYU-LAP 23||CHINA||ALFA ROMEO|
|RETIRED||CHARLES LECLERC-LAP 21||MONACO||FERRARI|
|RETIRED||CARLOS SAINZ JR-LAP 8||SPAIN||FERRARI|