Masterclass victory from Verstappen

Max Verstappen dominated the Styrian Grand Prix from start to finish and the Red Bull driver extends his lead in the championship. Rival Lewis Hamilton had to settle with second while Mercedes Valtteri Bottas finished in third position, just ahead of Sergio Perez.

At the start, Verstappen and Hamilton leapt off the line together, with the Red Bull driver coming across to cover the inside line into Turn 1.

As the leading duo raced clear up front, Sergio Perez put Lando Norris under huge pressure for third position through the opening corners, but the McLaren driver was able to resist the Red Bull and even had a look around the outside of Hamilton at the downhill long right of Turn 4.

Verstappen raced to a 0.9-second lead at the end of the first lap and the next time by was already out of DRS range from Hamilton behind, with the Max’s advantage reaching nearly three seconds by the end of the first ten laps of 71.

The top two quickly pulled well clear of Norris, who initially kept Perez and the chasing Valtteri Bottas at bay with good straightline speed through the Red Bull Ring’s three DRS zones.

But on lap ten Perez dived to Lando’s inside at the tight uphill right of Turn 3 and moved into third as the McLaren driver offered little defence against the move, which Bottas essentially copied on the following lap.

By the end of the race’s first 15 laps, with Perez 15s off the lead in third, Verstappen edges over the three second mark ahead of Hamilton, as he was regularly able to lap in the high one minute, 09 seconds bracket as the chasing world champion swung between matching Verstappen and logging times in the low one minute, 10 seconds.

Over the next 13 laps Verstappen gradually worked his lead up to nearly six seconds before the pitstop phase kicked off.

Perez was the first of the leading four cars to pit when he came in at the end of lap 26, to switch his starting softs for hards, but was delayed by a slow left-rear change.

That allowed Bottas to jump ahead into third when he came in at the end of following tour to go from the mediums to hards, which Hamilton did as well one tour later at the end of lap 28.

Red Bull duly brought Verstappen in to make his own switch to the hards one lap after Hamilton and he easily retained the lead, albeit with his advantaged reduced to 4.4 seconds by the time the stops had shaken out.

Mercedes instructed Hamilton to push to close the gap, which came down to 4.0 seconds as he set a then fastest lap at the end of lap 34, before Verstappen was able to edge his lead out again over the next part of the race as the leaders made their way through traffic.

Verstappen’s lead was back to nearly six seconds at the end of lap 46, with Bottas nearly 30 seconds adrift in third as the final phase of the race approached.

The only problem Verstappen encountered from there was what he called a “random” brake pedal issue Red Bull advised was being caused by him braking on the Turn 9 exit kerbs ahead of the final corner.

His margin of victory at the finish was 35.7 seconds, with Hamilton reporting he spotted his right-front tyre blistering in the closing stages, as although the weather clouded over in the final ten laps, the rain stayed away.

Behind the top two, Bottas held on to finish third, but only just ahead of Perez after Red Bull called him for a surprise second stop on lap 55.

Perez had a near 20 seconds gap to close, having been running just behind Bottas for the opening phase of the Mercedes driver’s second stint, and he quickly scythed into that advantage – sometimes taking over two seconds a lap back.

But as they also negotiated the traffic the leaders had already passed and Perez’s new mediums began to wear, the gap came down at slower rate, with Bottas eventually taking the final spot of the podium by just 0.5 seconds, with Perez unable to get close enough to make a move in time.

Norris came home in a solid, if lonely, fifth place, ahead of the Ferrari duo led by Carlos Sainz.

Sainz’s progress from P12 on the grid came via running deep into the race on the medium tyres and overcutting a big group of cars that had run ahead of him in the early stages, then moving up to sixth by passing Lance Stroll shortly after his pitstop by using DRS to blast by on the inside out of Turn 3 on lap 45.

Charles Leclerc’s race to seventh behind his teammate was rather more adventurous, as he had to stop at the end of the first lap after clouting Pierre Gasly on the run up to Turn 3 on the opening lap, which gave the AlphaTauri a left-rear puncture and damaged the right side of the Ferrari’s front wing.

Leclerc made two stops on his way back up the order, showing strong pace and making a series of bold overtakes – twice going down the inside of Antonio Giovinazzi and Turn 3 and passing Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso around the outside at Turn 4 – with the former pass occurring at the turn-in point for the corner and with the Alfa Romeo’s front wing picking up a bit of damage as the cars briefly came together.

A final stint charge helped Leclerc recover to surpass Stroll for seventh, with Alonso finishing just behind and himself only just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who took the final points-paying place in P10.

Raikkonen was 11th ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, who had made an excellent start to run in the top ten early on before falling back dramatically on lap seven, when he reported he had “low power”.

Although Ricciardo’s power level returned, he ran in the pack from there and ended up P13 ahead of Esteban Ocon in the Alpine.

Gasly retired as a result of the puncture he picked up on lap one, with the Frenchman also making contact with Giovinazzi – spinning the Alfa at Turn 3 just a few moments after his clash with Leclerc – as he fought to control his damaged car.

In the runoff beyond Turn 3, Gasly also touched Nicholas Latifi (who eventually finished P17 between the two Haas drivers) and gave the Williams a puncture before limping back to the pits with his left-rear destroyed.

The other DNF was George Russell, who was running strongly behind Alonso in the early stages as they headed a train of cars looking to take seventh place, boosted up the order by Leclerc and Gasly’s clash.

But Russell was warned of a reliability problem ahead of his stop, where he was stationary for nearly 20 seconds as Williams had to top up the pneumatic pressure in his power unit, and he then had to come in again immediately for the process to be repeated.

Although Russell returned to run at the rear of the pack for a while, he was called in and retired on lap 39.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning at the Red Bull Ring. That’s his fourth victory of the season and he extends his lead in the championship over Lewis Hamilton. The next race is at the same track. Can Mercedes strike back?

Styrian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:22:18.925
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 35.743
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 46.907
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 47.434
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +1 lap
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +1 lap
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
11 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +3 laps
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +3 laps
– George Russell Williams-Mercedes DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF

Verstappen secures back-to-back pole, beating title rival Hamilton

Max Verstappen claimed his back-to-back pole position with a solid qualifying performance at the Red Bull Ring, finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who made a mistake on his final Q3 lap.

Verstappen will start alongside Hamilton on the front row as Bottas will take a three-place grid penalty for his FP2 pitlane spin, with the trio the only top ten drivers getting through Q3 on the medium compound, with which they will start the main race.

At the end of Q3, Verstappen set two laps that were good enough for pole, but it was his one minute, 03.841 seconds time from his first run that clinched it.

The Red Bull driver ran at the rear of the queue for the final Q3 fliers, but ended up posting a one minute, 03.919 seconds with his last effort.

Bottas improved to second with his final run, but the 0.194 seconds difference to Verstappen meant the championship leader was the only driver to brake the one minute, 04 seconds bracket.

Hamilton unusually had three goes in Q3 as he took the track almost immediately after the final segment began, posting a one minute, 04.208 seconds.

He came into the pits and then joined the usual sequence for two further runs, with his middle effort – a one minute, 04.067 seconds – ending up being his best, when he posted the fastest time in the first sector, as Verstappen came away with the best times in the first two thirds of the lap from his first run.

Hamilton followed Verstappen out of the pits ahead of the final runs and completed a much faster out-lap where he overtook a gaggle of cars touring slowly through the final turns and waiting to begin their laps.

The world champion ended up following Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who ended up P7, and was 0.2 seconds down on Verstappen’s first run time at the end of the first sector, which became 0.45 seconds down after the middle third was complete.

Hamilton then had to catch an oversteer snap as he ran through the penultimate corner and was sent wide, the time being deleted for a track limits offence even though he ended up posting a lap over two seconds slower than his personal best.

Lando Norris took fourth ahead of Sergio Perez, with the duo each to be boosted one spot up the grid on Sunday by Bottas’s penalty.

Pierre Gasly was sixth, with his teammate Yuki Tsunoda ending up behind Leclerc but facing a post-qualifying investigation after appearing to hold up Bottas at Turn 4 during the Finn’s first flying lap in Q3.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso took ninth ahead of Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll, who made it into Q3 despite having his final lap in Q2 deleted for a track limits infringement by running to wide at the final corner.

At the end of Q2, George Russell ended up P11 and just 0.008 seconds from a first Q3 appearance for Williams after Alonso’s last-gasp improvement knocked the Briton out.

Carlos Sainz lost his best time in Q2 – the one minute, 04.711 seconds he set on his final run in the middle segment – for running too wide out of the penultimate corner, but he would have been behind Russell in any case.

Daniel Ricciardo was only P13 for McLaren, ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who lost an identical time to Sainz’s deleted effort on his final lap in Q2, but the German driver had his taken away for running to wide at the final corner.

Antonio Giovinazzi made it through to Q2 for Alfa Romeo, but ended up P15 and last of the Q2 runners.

In Q1, Nicholas Latifi and Esteban Ocon were shuffled down the order as other drivers improved on their final laps, with the latter a shock exit despite setting a personal best on his last effort for Alpine.

Kimi Raikkonen also set a personal best on his final flier but was dumped out in P18, The Iceman also skating through the gravel at Turn 4 – the long, downhill right at the end of the track’s third long acceleration zone – at the end of the runs in the middle part of the opening segment.

Mick Schumacher abandoned his final Q1 run after catching an oversteer snap and taking to the runoff at the exit of the first corner, but his previous best effort still kept him ahead of his Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin, who brought up the rear of the field.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen with pole position. Starting at the sharp end of the grid at the team’s home race is an advantage. Lewis Hamilton is next to him on the front row but can challenge his rival to the title? Bring on the race.

Styrian Grand Prix qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing-Honda 1:03.841
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.067
3 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:04.120
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing-Honda 1:04.168
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:04.035
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:04.236
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:04.472
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:04.514
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:04.574
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:04.708
11 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:04.671
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:04.800
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:04.808
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:04.875
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:04.913
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:05.175
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:05.217
18 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:05.429
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:06.041
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:06.192

Verstappen overcame first lap error to win French Grand Prix

Max Verstappen made a penultimate lap overtake to beat his title rival Lewis Hamilton, with an aggressive and unexpected two-stop strategy key to his victory at Paul Ricard.

Verstappen had earlier lost the lead by running off track ahead of the race’s second corner, before gaining first position back when the power of the undercut caught out Mercedes at the first pitstops.

But, with all the drivers struggling more with tyre degradation than had been expected in what were cooler conditions at Paul Ricard on race day compared to the rest of the weekend, this time it was Red Bull that gave up track position for the second half of the race to set up another grandstand finish along the lines of the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix and the 2021 race in Spain.

At the start of the French Grand Prix, Verstappen led Hamilton away from the front of the grid and looked in command as he ran through Turn 1, but as he swept around the fast left-hander and began to move towards the Turn 2 right, the Red Bull driver had to catch a sudden slide.

Verstappen was suddenly heading right when he should have been positioning his car to the left ahead of Turn 2 and had to run off track as he caught the slide, keeping tight to the bollards on the inside of the second corner.

As Verstappen was catching his slide and running off, Hamilton steamed around Turn 2 and the Red Bull inside kerbs to easily move into the lead.

From there, Hamilton built a 1.4-second lead by the end of the first lap, despite having to catch his on lurid slide coming onto the pit straight at the end of lap one of 53.

The leaders quickly dropped Sergio Perez, running in P4 in the second Red Bull, as Hamilton ran untroubled up front and Bottas pressured Verstappen’s second place – dipping in and out of DRS threat towards the end of the opening ten laps.

The three leaders were the only cars able to lap regularly in the low-mid one minute, 39 seconds throughout the opening stint, where Hamilton calmly built a solid lead over Verstappen.

The gap had just about reached three seconds when Mercedes brought Bottas in at the end of lap 17 to switch his starting mediums for hards, after drivers who had stopped earlier and were running in the pack – Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo – made gains with an undercut.

Red Bull reacted by bringing Verstappen in at the end of the following lap and the Dutchman was able to return comfortably in net P2, now also on the hard tyres.

Hamilton made the same switch a lap later, but Verstappen stunned him by making into Turn 1 ahead as the Mercedes, which was stationary for a tenth of a second less at its stop compared to the Red Bull, was still getting back to speed.

Verstappen was back in front by under immense pressure from both Mercedes, who ran in DRS range behind the net leader (Perez led until he stopped at the end of lap 24 having cycled to the front when the runners in front came in).

For the ten laps after Verstappen retook the lead, Hamilton was able to run within a second, but, as the leaders discussed the possibility of turning their expected one-stop strategies into two stops, the gap began to edge out.

By lap 32, Verstappen led by 2.2 seconds as he was able to stay in the one minute, 37 seconds bracket, while the following Black Arrows cars slipped beyond that into the mid one minute, 38 seconds, but at the end of that lap Red Bull called the leader in to go back to the mediums.

Once he had completed his out-lap, Verstappen had an 18 seconds gap to close back to the lead and he began to carve into that advantage by around two seconds a lap as he ran in the mid one minute, 36 seconds versus Hamilton’s mid one minute, 38 seconds.

Perez waved Verstappen by at Turn 11 on lap 35, with Mercedes telling Hamilton the catch would depend on how long it took his title rival to battle by Bottas and if Verstappen could keep his mediums in better shape than most drivers managed in the first stint.

Verstappen reached Bottas with ten laps to go, his rate of catching the two Mercedes cars slowing after his initial onslaught, with Hamilton in particular getting back to regularly lapping in the one minute, 37 seconds, as they all had to make their way through backmarker traffic.

On lap 44, Verstappen closed on Bottas with DRS down the first half of the Mistral Straight, and when the Mercedes defended to the inside of the first part of the Turns 8/9 chicane Bottas ended up losing momentum.

That allowed Verstappen to get alongside on the run down the rest of the straight and he retook second as they swept through Turn 10, Signes, which gave Verstappen 5.1 seconds to close on Hamilton over the final nine laps.

The gap initially only came down in small bursts, but as Hamilton toured back in the one minute, 38 seconds as the distance to go ticked under five laps, Verstappen was able to gain the best part of a second a lap as the traffic between the leaders disappeared.

At the start of the penultimate lap, Verstappen was finally within DRS range – the gap at 0.7 seconds – and he seized the lead back at the first opportunity, heading into the chicane on the Mistral Straight.

Verstappen had closed in rapidly with DRS, and although Hamilton defended to the inside, the Red Bull as able to get alongside on the left-hand side approaching Turn 8 and Verstappen sealed the lead at the apex of the first part of the chicane/

He pulled clear over the final lap and a third, winning by 2.9 seconds, with Perez coming home third ahead of Bottas as the Mexican driver was able to bring his offset one-stopper tyre life advantage to bear in the closing stages.

Perez took third sweeping around the outside of Signes on lap 49, with Bottas furious he had not be switched to a two-stopper.

Lando Norris was another driver to make late stop on the one-stopper work to his advantage, as he climbed the order to finish fifth and ahead of teammate Ricciardo.

Pierre Gasly finished seventh ahead of Fernando Alonso, with Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll coming home in the final points paying positions after starting on the hards – Stroll from the last row of the grid – and running deep into the race before coming in.

Leclerc, the first driver to pit in the race, tumbled down the order as his hards wore out, and he was eventually put on a two-stopper, which left him down in P16.

Carlos Sainz Jr also struggled for tyre life in his Ferrari, finishing 11th having started fifth, with George Russell beating the pitlane-starting Yuki Tsunoda to P12.

So excellent race to victory from Max Verstappen. After giving away his lead on the opening lap with a slide, the Red Bull strategy played a major part in strategy and Max’s speed was so awesome and to pass championship rival Lewis Hamilton on the lap 52 was great. Really enjoying this title fight this season.

French Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:27:25.770
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2.904
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 8.811
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 14.618
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 64.032s
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 75.857s
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 76.596s
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 77.695s
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 79.666s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 91.946s
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 99.337s
12 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
17 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +1 lap

Verstappen wins pole position showdown from Hamilton

Max Verstappen has beaten his championship contender Lewis Hamilton to pole position at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

After the Red Bull driver finished the final practice session by over 0.7 seconds, Verstappen led the way again after the first runs in Q3, with a 0.386 seconds advantage over Hamilton.

The defending world champion found enough time on his final run to out-do Verstappen’s first flying effort in the final segment of qualifying, but the championship leader had already put the P1 benchmark out of reach as he led the top four runners to the line, as they ran at the rear of the pack on the final laps.

Although Hamilton ultimately came away with the best time in the first sector, purple sectors for Verstappen in the second two thirds of the lap, after he’d put in his own personal best in the opening sector, resulted in a one minute, 29.990 seconds.

Hamilton ended up 0.258 seconds adrift, but beat his Mercedes teammate Bottas for the first time in the weekend, as Valtteri finished 0.386 seconds down on Verstappen after topping Q2.

Perez was followed by Carlos Sainz, who led the way in qualifying for Ferrari for the second time in 2021, with Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc taking sixth and seventh – Gasly needing to deliver on his final Q3 run after losing his first time for running too wide through Turn 6.

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were separated by Fernando Alonso’s ninth-placed Alpine, as the trio rounded out the top ten.

All of the top ten runners will start the race on the medium tyres, after traversing the middle segment on the harder rubber, which is expected to perform much better than the softs in race conditions on Sunday.

In Q2, Esteban Ocon set a personal best on his final lap in the middle segment but was knocked out by 0.121s behind Ricciardo – who had switched to run the softs on his final Q2 lap, which he abandoned when it was clear he was through to ensure he will start the race on the preferred medium starting strategy.

Sebastian Vettel’s final run in Q2 was nearly a slower than his personal best as he ended up P12, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Williams driver George Russell.

The latter pair ran contra tyre strategies for the Q2 runs, with Giovinazzi copying the rest in taking the mediums at the start of the segment, while Russell went for the softs.

When they swapped compounds for their final laps, Russell nipped ahead into P13 as he ran the mediums, but the soft-shod Giovinazzi got back ahead at the chequered flag fell to end the middle segment, and both drivers will be free to pick any starting compound for the race.

Mick Schumacher made it through to Q2 for the first time in his Formula 1 career, but only after he had ended Q1 25 seconds early when he crashed at Turn 6, the long right-hander that feeds into the Turn 7 left kink and the Mistral Straight early in the lap.

The rear of the Haas came around midway through the corner as he went to complete on final Q1 run and he went off backwards at high-speed, facing the wrong way across the runoff before hitting the barriers backwards on the outside, which damaged his rear end and the left-front was knocked off as the car snapped back around in the impact.

That stopped any late improvements, and kept Schumacher in a Q2 berth he could not take up, finishing P15 in qualifying’s provisional classification, with Nicholas Latifi leading the eliminated drivers in P16 – the Williams driver knocked out by just 0.002 seconds behind Russell, who had been set to complete a much faster late Q1 time before having to abandon the lap when the red flags came out.

Kimi Raikkonen and Nikita Mazepin were trapped in P17 and P18, while Lance Stroll ended up P19 with no competitive time set.

Stroll had lost a time that would have got him through Q1 in the top ten for running too wide through Turn 6 earlier in the opening segment and getting his lap deleted.

He had enough time to complete two runs before the scheduled end to Q1, but after abandoning the first lap and setting up for one final run, he was caught out by the late red flag and unable to set a time under two-minutes as the session was not restarted.

The opening segment had already been disrupted by a red flag after just three minutes, when Yuki Tsunoda spun off backwards into the tyre barrier behind Turn 2.

The AlphaTauri driver had clipped the kerbs on the inside of Turn 1 as he started his first flying lap, which unsettled his car and sent its rear quickly swinging around as he went off the track backwards before reaching the second corner.

The AlphaTauri’s rear suspension wing were already oscillating wildly as the car went backwards off the track, before being damaged against the barriers, from which Tsunoda was unable to get engage a car and drive away.

He eventually climbed out of the board and will start last, with Q1 suspended for ten minutes, after which the first times of qualifying were finally set.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in scoring Pirelli’s 250th pole position in Formula 1. Fantastic P1 effort with title rival Lewis Hamilton alongside him on the front row. Roll on race day!

French Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:29.990
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.248
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:30.376
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:30.445
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:30.840
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:30.868
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:30.987
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.252
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:31.340
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.382
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:31.736
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:31.767
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:31.813
14 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:32.065
15 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari No time
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:33.062
17 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:33.354
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:33.554
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 2:12.584
20 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda No time

Perez wins dramatic Baku race

Sergio Perez claimed his first win for Red Bull Racing in a crazy and yet dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix following Max Verstappen’s tyre failure and Lewis Hamilton’s restart overtake went wrong.

Verstappen’s incident led to a red flag with three laps remaining, which became a two-lap shootout following a second standing start, where Hamilton challenged Perez for the lead at Turn 1.

The Mercedes driver’s brakes were smoking heavily ahead of the second start, but he made the better getaway from the front row and was ahead of Perez as they braked for the first corner.

But Hamilton’s right-front wheel locked and he sailed into the deep run-off area, falling out of the championship points and eventually coming home in a disappointing P15, as Perez ran clear in the lead to claim his first victory for Red Bull Racing, finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Over two hours earlier, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had led briefly from pole before the long-time top three powered by, with the race split in two by a safety car period that followed Lance Stroll also suffering a tyre failure along the main straight, before the Verstappen incident added an unexpected late drama.

At the initial start, the top three on the grid pulled away, with Leclerc staying in command from pole as Hamilton and Verstappen slotted in behind in grid order, with Perez the main player as he moved from P6 to fourth by taking advantage of Carlos Sainz losing momentum fighting Pierre Gasly and then battling by the AlphaTauri into Turn 3 at the end of the back straight.

Leclerc ended the first lap just 0.3-seconds ahead, but his lead did not lost much longer as Hamilton was able to close in and shoot by as they ran back across the grid for the second time.

Debris falling ahead of the Turn 15 fast left where several cars have crashed this weekend appeared to cause Leclerc to cut the corner, which gave Hamilton the momentum he needed to get a run on the Ferrari and take the lead.

Leclerc was able to stay with the Mercedes for several laps, with Verstappen in close attention behind, but when he dropped out of DRS range at the end of lap six of 51 the Red Bull bounced.

Just as lap seven began, Verstappen swept by on the outside run to Turn 1, with Perez doing likewise to drop Leclerc to fourth in similar fashion one lap later.

Hamilton was able to run clear of Verstappen’s DRS for the next few laps, but the Red Bull was just beginning to close in when the pitstop phase kicked off.

Two laps after Leclerc came in at the end of lap nine from behind the three leaders, Hamilton came in to change his softs for hards, but a delay waiting for Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri to pass by the Mercedes pits cost him significantly.

Verstappen was lighting up the timing screens on the next tour, his in-lap, but 1.9 seconds stop for hards compared to Hamilton’s 4.3 seconds meant he came out comfortably ahead in the net lead.

Perez also delivered a stunning in-lap on the next time by, which became crucial as he was able to jump Hamilton too despite a slow left-rear change meaning he was stationary for 4.3 seconds.

Hamilton had DRS to look to attack Perez into Turn 3 on his out-lap, but the Mercedes couldn’t get close enough to make a move, as the net leaders settled down in their new order while running behind Sebastian Vettel’s long-running Aston Martin.

Verstappen gradually eased away from his teammate as Hamilton chased Perez for much of the next phase of the race, with the trio cycling back into the proper lead when Vettel pitted for hards on lap 18, rejoining behind Leclerc, who lost out to Gasly in the stops, in sixth and seventh.

By lap 15, Verstappen’s advantage over Perez was 3.1 seconds, where it stabilised for the next ten laps as the leaders made sure not to over consume their tyre life, with Hamilton eventually slipping out of Perez’s DRS range during this stage.

A string of fastest laps as he lapped and then pulled away from Nikita Mazepin meant Verstappen’s advantage reached five seconds just past the half-distance mark, with Perez losing time to both his teammate and Hamilton on the lap where he came to pass the Haas.

Verstappen’s lead was approaching seven seconds when the race was interrupted by a shocking tyre failure for the yet-to-stop Stroll, who had started P19 but suffered a left-rear tyre blowout as he came to lap Mazepin as they ran down the main straight at the end of lap 30, with Stroll running in an elevated fourth place.

The tyre blowing out sent the Aston Martin spearing to the inside wall nose-first and coming to a stop near the high-speed pitlane entry, with debris strewn across the track and so the safety car was quickly deployed and the pitlane closed.

Stroll was able to climb out unharmed, with five laps passing behind the safety car as the wreckage was cleared.

The race restarted at the start of lap 36, with Verstappen dropping Perez as they reached the grid with the green flags waving and then racing clear to a two-second lead by the end of the first lap back at full speed.

Hamilton was got close to Perez at the restart but never looked like being able to make a move, as the top three again moved clear of the pack, which was soon headed by Vettel – who nipped by Leclerc exiting Turn 1 at the restart after the Ferrari had tried to repass Gasly, with the AlphaTauri then losing out in a drag race with the Aston down the main straight ahead of lap 37 beginning as Vettel gained two positions in less than one tour.

Verstappen quickly pulled out his lead again and looked in full control and easing to a second victory in succession, his advantage reaching 4.4 seconds at the start of lap 46, at the end of which his race ended in shocking fashion.

Just before the Red Bull reached the start/finish line at top speed, his left rear tyre gave away in a similar fashion to Stroll – with the Red Bull pitched into the outside wall opposite the pits.

Verstappen was sent around several times after going into wall nose-first and as he climbed from his wrecked RB16B and kicked the destroyed left-rear tyre, the safety car had been called.

But after a few laps with the safety car leading the pack through the pits, the race was stopped – just after Red Bull had suggested to the FIA that such a development would allow all cars to change tyres given it had had no warning of Verstappen’s failure, per team sporting director Jonathan Wheatley.

After a delay of 35 minutes, the final shootout took place with all the cars back on soft tyres, proceedings beginning again with another standing start restart, where it all went wrong for Hamilton and Perez’s path to a second career win was eased, winning by 1.3 seconds.

Vettel came home an excellent second thanks to Hamilton’s off, with Gasly fending off a determined attack by Leclerc on the final lap to seal third position for AlphaTauri.

Lando Norris had battled back from a poor initial start to climb to eighth before the red flag, which was became seventh thanks to Verstappen’s absence, and he gained two positions at the second start to rise to fifth, ending up very close to Leclerc as the Ferrari challenged Gasly.

Fernando Alonso had led a pack of four cars to take a second stop when the pitlane reopened just before the Stroll-incident safety car came in, but was set to finish at the tail end of the top ten before the stoppage.

The Alpine driver also had an excellent second start to climb to sixth ahead of Yuki Tsunoda and Sainz, with Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen rounding out the top ten.

George Russell could not take the restart as he lost drive approaching the grid on the second warm-up lap and crawled back to the pits, where he joined Esteban Ocon as the other non-finisher.

Ocon stopped at the end of lap four after he reported a loss of power, with a puff of smoke coming from his car as he exited the final real corner before he pulled into the pits.

So yeah, well done Baku with a crazy race. Congratulations to Checo Perez in taking the flag in P1. His Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen should’ve won this and had this in the bag, but that rear tyre failure changed everything in terms of the championship. At least his title rival Lewis Hamilton was unable to score following a mistake on the second start.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix, race results:
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 3:33.686
2 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1.385
3 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 2.762
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 3.828
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 4.754
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 6.382
7 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 6.624
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 7.709
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 8.874
10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 9.576
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 10.254
12 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 11.264
13 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 14.241
14 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 14.315
15 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 17.668
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 42.379
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes DNF
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda DNF
– Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes DNF
– Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault DNF

Leclerc survives Baku qualifying to take pole

Charles Leclerc achieved his second successive shock Formula 1 pole position as Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying ended in similarly bizarre circumstances to Monaco with a late Q3 red flag.

The Scuderia Ferrari driver led the way after the first runs in Q3, but Yuki Tsunoda crashing at Turn 3 with just a few seconds of the session remaining – and Carlos Sainz also hitting the barriers just behind the AlphaTauri – secured Leclerc’s pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

The session had already been heavily disrupted and delayed by three other red flags, caused by Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi crashing in Q1 and Daniel Ricciardo doing likewise in Q2.

Leclerc’s time of one minute, 41.218 seconds initial lap in Q3 came as he led the pack around, but crucially picked up a significant tow when he caught up with Hamilton – completing a second warm-up lap running behind teammate Valtteri Bottas – in the closing stages of the track.

This boosted Leclerc to a 0.232 seconds advantage over Hamilton when the Mercedes drivers did complete the first of what should have been two runs in Q3, with Bottas ending up down the order as he had towed Hamilton.

Red Bull, the favourite for pole position, ended up with Verstappen in third as he could not match Leclerc on the opening Q3 runs despite being towed by teammate Sergio Perez.

Pierre Gasly took an excellent fourth as the AlphaTauri drivers completed their first Q3 laps in the middle part of the segment when the rest of the top ten were in the pits preparing for the final goes that were ultimately aborted.

Tsunoda towed Gasly around – the rookie’s lap ending up being good enough for P8, with Bottas shuffled down to P10.

Along with the rest, he never got the chance to improve as Tsunoda – who had stayed out for a second go following a cool-down lap where the AlphaTauri drivers became mixed in with the rest of the pack, now preparing for their final runs – crashed at Turn 3 – the 90-degree left at the end of the back straight early in the first sector.

He braked too late and locked his left-front, which sent him nose-first into the barriers, with Sainz “losing the focus” as he followed Tsunoda’s lock-up and crashed, the Ferrari’s rear swinging around and its front wing being knocked off against the wall on the inside of the Turn 3 run-off area.

Behind the polesitter, Hamilton, Verstappen and Gasly came Sainz, Lando Norris and Perez, while Fernando Alonso was sandwiched between Tsunoda and Bottas in P9.

Norris faces a post-qualifying investigation for a possible red flag procedure infraction during Q1.

Q2 ended 90 seconds early after Ricciardo locked up his front left and slide straight into the wall on the outside of Turn 3.

The McLaren’s right front was knocked off in the impact and the middle segment was not restarted, which meant several drivers – including Ricciardo – were eliminated based on their initial run times.

Sebastian Vettel was vocally livid to miss a Q3 spot by 0.029 seconds as he ended up P11, ahead of Esteban Ocon, who had clipped the wall with his right rear exiting the same corner as where Ricciardo, who qualified P13, would later crash.

Kimi Raikkonen was P14 ahead of George Russell, who maintained his 100 percent progression from Q1-Q2 for Williams in 2021.

This came after he missed the opening minutes of Q1 as his team worked to switch him back to a previously used engine as the new one he had been running in FP3 suffered a water pump leak and had to be removed.

In Q1, the incidents involving Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi meant the opening segment lasted over 40 minutes.

Both drivers hit the wall at the fast Turn 15 left – the turn heading downhill at the end of the second sector where Leclerc and Verstappen crashed in FP2 and FP3 respectively – with Stroll’s occurring first just three minutes into Q1.

The Aston Martin driver struck the wall nearly square-on with his right front after sliding to the incident with understeer.

The impact snapped the suspension and he pulled over to the inside of the track’s final real corner, with the red flags brought out when only Leclerc had completed a timed lap, as he had been running at the end of pack.

After a 12-minute delay, the session restarted, with the Mercedes pair switched from mediums to the softs that the rest of the field were running, but proceedings only lasted a further five minutes before Giovinazzi hit the wall.

The Alfa Romeo driver locked his left-front and went further into the barriers than Stroll, with Giovinazzi stopping immediately with the right-side of his car heavily damaged.

The red flags returned with the Mercedes drivers among those still yet to set a time, although Hamilton eventually took his used softs to the fastest time in the opening segment.

When Q1 eventually finished, Nicholas Latifi and the Haas duo were eliminated, with Mick Schumacher leading Nikita Mazepin, who had to take to the escape road at Turn 4 on his final flying lap – where he was running just in front of Hamilton.

So a dramatic qualifying session with four red flags. In the end, Charles Leclerc survived the chaos to take the fastest lap and pole position in Baku.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:41.218
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:41.450
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:41.563
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:41.565
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:41.576
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:41.747
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:41.917
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:42.211
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:42.327
10 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:42.659
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:42.224
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:42.273
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:42.558
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:42.587
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:42.758
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:43.128
17 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:44.158
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:44.238
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes No time
20 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari No time