Verstappen resisted late pressure from Sainz to win in Canada

Max Verstappen resisted the late pressure from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to win the Canadian Grand Prix following a late safety car disruption, with Lewis Hamilton taking a well deserved third.

The race had already been twice interrupted by virtual safety car periods, which put Verstappen and Sainz on different two-stop versus a likely one-stop strategy for the Ferrari ahead of the closing stages, before the safety car closed them up and set up a straight fight for the victory on the same hard compund, even though Carlos was on fresher rubber.

Behind, Fernando Alonso’s front row start became a seventh-place finish for Alpine behind Mercedes drivers Hamilton and George Russell, while Charles Leclerc’s recovery drive from the back of the grid finished with fifth position.

At the start, Alonso’s intention to attack Verstappen at the first corner never came close as the Red Bull driver made the perfect getaway and easily led into Turn 1.

Sainz followed Alonso through the opening corners while behind Hamilton’s left-front brushed Kevin Magnussen’s right-side front wing endplate when the Haas attacked to the Mercedes’ outside of Turn 3, which broke the part and left it hanging off.

As Verstappen consolidated his lead, which was 1.0 seconds at the end of lap 1 of 70, Sainz took until the end of lap three to pass Alonso – using DRS to get by on the approach to the final corners.

Verstappen eked out a few tenths per lap over Sainz during the initial laps, where the Ferrari driver struggled with graining tyres, but the Spaniard was starting to reverse this trend when the first stint was interrupted by the first VSC activation on lap nine.

Just after Magnussen had been ordered to pit to replace his front wing by the FIA, Sergio Perez pulled out of the mid-pack with what he suspected was an engine problem that meant he stopped in the runoff behind Turn 9 and the run down the hairpin late in the lap.

While one of its cars was being cleared away under the VSC, Red Bull immediately pulled Verstappen in to switch for hards to take advantage of the reduced time stop with racing neutralised, as Sainz and Alonso stayed out while Hamilton followed Verstappen in.

Sainz led for the next phase of the race after green flag racing resumed at the end of lap ten, with Verstappen then eating into what was a maximum 6.4 seconds advantage for the Ferrari over the former leader, who quickly caught and passed Alonso for second, getting by with an easy DRS move down the back straight

The status quo held until lap 20, when the VSC was activated again after Mick Schumacher, who had fallen back from his sixth-place starting spot on the opening lap, pulled off with a mechanical gremlin at the same spot as Perez had done earlier.

This time Sainz pitted to take the hards, rejoining just as the VSC ended at the start of lap 21 and slightly ahead of the already-stopped Hamilton, then leading him back up behind Alonso, who again stayed out despite the offer a cheap VSC service.

Like in the very early stages, Sainz used DRS to blast by Alonso on the run to the final corners on lap 22, which left him with a 9.4 seconds deficit to Verstappen, while Hamilton soon followed the Ferrari past Alonso to run a distant third behind the leaders.

Sainz used his fresher hards to slowly erode Verstappen’s lead over the next section of the race, but it was still holding firm at just above eight seconds with 30 laps completed and even as Verstappen reported his hards were beginning to lose grip.

But by the start of lap 40, Sainz had been taking ever bigger chunks from Verstappen’s meant the gap had shrunk to just over six seconds and so Red Bull opted to bring the leader in for a second time, again taking new hards on lap 43.

Verstappen was frustrated to come out just behind Hamilton, but shot past the Mercedes with DRS the next time down the back straight, with Hamilton then immediately pitting for a second time as well.

Sainz therefore enjoyed a 10.8 seconds lead with 25 laps remaining, but Verstappen quickly pushed to bring that down to 7.7 seconds at the end of lap 49.

But the race picture was then completely altered when Yuki Tsunoda crashed just after making his second stop and slid straight into the Turn 2 barriers at the pitlane exit.

Ferrari called Sainz in and he was able to take fresh hards and re-joined just behind Verstappen, which set up a 14-lap chase to the finish once the race resumed at the start of lap 56 after the AlphaTauri had been craned away.

Sainz could not put a move on Verstappen at the restart after the leader had waited until the final corners before shooting back to top speed, with the Red Bull pulling a 0.8 seconds gap on the first lap back to racing speed.

But Sainz pushed hard to stay in DRS range when the system was reactivated two laps after the restart and so was able to keep Verstappen under severe pressure.

Lap after lap the Ferrari used its DRS to close in on the long final and pit straights, but Verstappen was able to stay ahead thanks to his excellent traction out of the hairpin and final chicane.

Twice Sainz got to 0.3s back from Verstappen’s rear wing and twice moved towards the inside line for the final chicane in a bid to put his rival off, but Verstappen did not crack to the pressure.

Sainz locking up at the hairpin on the final lap meant Verstappen was able to scamper to a final winning margin of 0.9 seconds, with Hamilton completing the podium having been quickly dropped by the leaders after the safety car restart.

Russell was a gainer under the second VSC and was homing in on Hamilton before the leading Mercedes pitted after Verstappen blasted by, after which Russell was also given a second stop and so ran behind his teammate to the finish, with neither coming in under the safety car.

Leclerc’s race was one of frustration as he struggled with rear tyre grip while making his way up the order from P19 on the grid.

He made steady progress through the lower positions but was not making the progress he expected and was then frustrated for a long time behind Esteban Ocon during the middle phase of the race.

By this point, Alonso had finally stopped and was roaring back towards the Ferrari, which had started on the contra-strategy of hards for the start and had likewise not come in during the two VSC periods.

When Leclerc pitted on lap 41, a slow service meant he re-joined behind a gaggle of cars – Zhou Guanyu, Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo – that were trailing the then yet-to-stop Lance Stroll.

He took several laps to clear them, with Leclerc just clearing Stroll before Tsunoda’s crash and he was another driver not to come in during the resulting safety car.

That meant he trailed the Ocon and Alonso for the restart, the latter still behind his teammate due to what Alpine called a “straight line speed issue” following his pitstop.

Despite having older rubber (Ocon and Alonso did stop for the same mediums Leclerc was already running), Leclerc fought his way past the pair with two moves at the hairpin to rise to fifth – although his pass on Ocon came after he had got a move into the chicane wrong and had to let his rival by a short while beforehand.

Alonso suggested Alpine should let him by Ocon before the finish, but ended up coming home behind his teammate in seventh.

Valtteri Bottas was the second-highest one-stop finisher (behind Leclerc) in eighth, with Zhou taking ninth after a battling drive following his period stuck behind Stroll.

The Canadian claimed the final point after a late DRS pass on Ricciardo, who lost time with a long stop during the second VSC.

Lando Norris also lost a heap of time due to McLaren’s double-stack stop calamity, with the Briton then handed a five-second time addition for speeding in the pitlane.

Norris eventually took P15 ahead of Nicholas Latifi and Magnussen, who ended up as the last finisher.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning the race and extending his championship lead. Carlos Sainz put up with a brave fight against the defending champion, but the Red Bull car was faster than the Ferrari. As for Lewis Hamilton, this was a solid result following so many difficult weekends. The next race is Hamilton’s home race in Silverstone so expect massive fan support from the British fans.

Canadian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:36:21.757
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.993
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 7.006
4 George Russell Mercedes 12.313
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 15.168
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 23.890
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 24.945
8 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 25.247
9 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 26.952
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 38.222
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 43.047
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 44.245
13 Alex Albon Williams 44.893
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 45.183
15 Lando Norris McLaren 52.145
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams 59.978
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 68.180
– Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri DNF
– Mick Schumacher Haas DNF
– Sergio Perez Red Bull DNF

Verstappen takes Canadian pole with Alonso in P2

Max Verstappen was in a different league in qualifying, quickest in all three segments, taking a fine pole position for Red Bull at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Yet, the star performer was Fernando Alonso, who will qualified his Alpine on the front row and will start ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Rain falling throughout the day in Montreal meant qualifying took place in similar wet conditions to FP3 earlier, which Alonso was fastest.

The Alpine driver beat Sainz to take second position with the final timed lap of Q3, where all the drivers were fuelled to run for the whole session to take advantage of the track drying and the tyres being worked into the optimum working range.

Verstappen was untouchable out from, leading from the off in Q3 and he worked the pole benchmark down to a one minute, 21.299 seconds.

Sainz had looked like he could run Verstappen close after setting the quickest first sector on his final lap, but while he stayed in contention despite losing a fraction in the middle sector, a big slide exiting the final corner meant he dropped enough time for Alonso to get in ahead of his fellow countryman a few moments later.

Lewis Hamilton took fourth for Mercedes, which split its strategy late in Q3 by fitting softs to George Russell’s car, a decision that backfired when George spun at the opening corners on his first lap on the slicks.

Russell dropped from the leading positions to eighth by the end of Q3, with Haas duo Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher leading in pushing the Briton down by taking fifth and sixth.

Then came Esteban Ocon, while Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu rounded out the top ten.

Zhou is one of several drivers to face a post-session investigation for their driving during a slew of off-track moments throughout qualifying or trying to find space in the traffic during the earlier segments.

Q2 began with the drivers split over staying on the full wets used throughout Q1 or switching to the intermediates, with Alonso using that compound the lead the way early on in that segment, just before Sergio Perez caused a red flag going off into the barriers at the Turns 3/4 chicane.

The Red Bull driver was also on the inters, but locked his right front and after snatching the other front brake he slid across the grass and quickly went head on into the barriers.

Although his car did not appear to be massively damaged, Perez took a long time to engage reverse and when he did he was unable to move backwards as his nose was buried in the barriers so was instructed to switch off his engine, with the barriers then needing to be rearranged once his car had been craned away minus its front wing.

When the session restarted after a 12-minute delay, all the remaining drivers headed back on the inters, with a dry line beginning to appear.

Leclerc did not bother to join them as by getting through to Q2 he secured starting ahead of Yuki Tsunoda at the back of the grid thanks to their engine-change grid penalties, but Lando Norris also did not appear at the start of the remaining nine minutes of Q2.

Norris reported an engine issue pre-red flag that confined him to the McLaren garage until there were just two minutes to go as the team tried to find and rectify the issue and, although he did get out for one lap, he was soon ordered to pit again after touring several seconds off the pace.

By not setting a time after the red flag, Norris’ banker lap from the start of Q2 left him P14 and behind Perez’s best time from before his off, with Leclerc not taking any part in the middle segment and so being knocked out in P15 ahead of his pre-race grid drop.

With three cars in trouble or not on track, only two drivers were at risk of elimination and when Hamilton leapt up the order with his final lap, the pressure was on Alex Albon, Valtteri Bottas and Ocon.

The first two named set personal bests with Bottas ahead, but Ocon’s improvement with the last lap in Q2, which Verstappen topped, knocked out the Finn.

As in Q3 and Q2, all the drivers generally ran throughout the opening segment as the times improved by around six seconds as they blew the water away from the racing line, other than big puddles of standing water at the apexes of the first two corners and the exit of the hairpin late in the lap, with Verstappen ending up on top.

Pierre Gasly was eliminated in P16, with AlphaTauri reporting that he was suffering from a brake problem on this left front wheel, which possibly contributed to his off late in Q1 across the Turns 9/10 chicane.

Gasly only briefly went off track but by not staying to the left of the bollard in the runoff ahead of the short straight down to the hairpin, he did not follow the race directors’ instructions and so will face a post-session investigation.

Sebastian Vettel was frustrated to be eliminated in P17 after being third in the similarly wet FP3 session earlier on Saturday afternoon, with Lance Stroll’s P18 compounding a miserable qualifying for Aston Martin.

The other home hero, Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, was knocked out in P19, finishing ahead of Tsunoda, who pitted several minutes ahead of the end of Q1 knowing he would start on the back row in any case.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen with this fine pole position. Brilliant to see Fernando Alonso to take P2 and that’s a front row for the Alpine driver. As for Lewis Hamilton, P4 is a solid qualifying effort despite a tricky Mercedes car to drive. Bring on the race!

Canadian Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:21.299
2 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:21.944
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:22.096
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.891
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:22.960
6 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:23.356
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:23.529
8 George Russell Mercedes 1:23.557
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:23.749
10 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:24.030
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:26.788
12 Alex Albon Williams 1:26.858
13 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:33.127
14 Lando Norris McLaren No time
15 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:34.492
16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:34.512
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:35.532
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:35.660
19 Charles Leclerc Ferrari No time
20 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:36.575

Verstappen victorious in Baku as double retirement hits Ferrari

Max Verstappen took a commanding Red Bull 1-2 finish to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as rival Ferrari suffered a nightmare with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz was forced to retire with technical issues.

The defending champion extended his championship standings lead from nine to 34 points over Leclerc – who had started from his sixth pole position of the season – as he scored his fourth victory in five races over teammate Sergio Perez by 20.8 seconds.

Verstappen’s twenty-fifth Formula 1 triumph arrived after passing early leader Perez for the provisional lead, with Leclerc out-of-sync due to pitting in response to a virtual safety car before his engine blew shockingly.

With Sainz also eliminated as part of an extreme attrition rate for Ferrari-powered cars, the way was paved for Verstappen to win as George Russell completed the podium.

Most of the grid assembled with brand-new medium compound C4 tyres, apart from Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen (on used tyres) plus Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and the back row of Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher who were all shod on the C3 hard rubber.

Perez was encouraged over radio to get his “elbows out into Turn 1” and duly delivered by taking the lead on the first corner.

Leclerc’s initially getaway was sound enough but wheelspin in the second phase allowed Perez to draw alongside at Verstappen was boxed in after the best launch of the lot.

The Ferrari driver then considerably locked-up his front-left into the opening 90-degree left-hander to run well wide of the apex and ensure Perez took the lead of the race.

Verstappen was able to have a look up the inside of Leclerc but thought better of it as Sainz tried to get in on the act before dropping adrift of the leading three cars.

Perez completed the first lap with 1.3 seconds in hand over Leclerc to immediately escape the DRS zone and extended that by half a second over the next two laps to secure first place.

With Leclerc sliding around, Verstappen was able to stick within 0.7 seconds of his title rival.

Leclerc endured a wiggle out of Turn 16, the last defined corner, to allow Verstappen to close even further with DRS before a yellow flag then virtual safety car interrupted play.

The Ferrari attack was down to one car when Carlos Sainz ran down the Turn 4 escape road with a possible power unit failure while 5 seconds behind Verstappen and 5 seconds ahead of Russell.

Ferrari rolled the dice to gain a theoretically cheaper pitstop by calling Leclerc in for a set of hard tyres on lap ten but despite no obvious error, the Scuderia took 5.4 seconds to service Leclerc.

Red Bull did not cover the strategy, giving Perez a lead of 2 seconds over Verstappen as Leclerc resumed 11 seconds behind the pair – but from lap 13 began setting the fastest laps of the race.

Verstappen was able to eat into Perez’s advantage before, who dropped 2 seconds on one lap, was told “no fighting” to allow his DRS-assisted teammate to take the lead on lap 15 into Turn 1.

At the end of the following tour, Perez pitted for softs but like front-row rival Leclerc, was hampered by a massively slow 5.7 seconds stop led by a problem with the front-right wheel.

Red Bull called Verstappen in for his jump to hards only two laps later, and he too endured a sub-par 3.5 seconds service to rejoin in the lead with a 13 seconds deficit to Leclerc – managing overheating rear tyres – as Perez nicked fastest lap from the Ferrari while running 4 seconds behind Verstappen.

But too hot tyres were the least of Leclerc’s troubles soon after as at the end of lap 20, his engine blew up through the final and he coasted into the pitlane to end Ferrari’s disaster.

After the MGU-H turbo failure in Spain, it marked the second engine-based retirement for Leclerc in three races to add to the lost Ferrari 1-2 – from strategy mistakes – in Monaco.

That left Verstappen in the lead by 5.2 seconds over Perez as fifth-starting Russell moved into podium contention ahead of Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen would negotiate target lap times with his engineer as they tried to find a balance between preserving the car but not allowing the tyres to cool too much.

Then the virtual safety car made its second appearance to account for P16 Kevin Magnussen, who had been climbed up to P11 to battle with Ocon for points.

But then the Ferrari engine in the back of the Haas also blew, to go along with Ferrari customer Alfa Romeo having to stop Zhou Guanyu eight laps previously.

Magnussen parked up on the approach to Turn 15 and waved to the marshals to help recover the Haas VF-22, which started to roll down the hill to the apex.

Red Bull reacted by pitting Verstappen for a second time to take on a set of hard tyres to the flag, finally nailing a 2.7 seconds stop, before Perez made his stop for hards on the same lap 34.

But a rear-left delay meant more time was lost in the pitlane thanks to a 4.4 seconds stop, to give Verstappen a lead of ten seconds when the four-minute VSC interluded was over.

Although it was Perez that would walk away with the fastest lap of the evening, Verstappen’s second half race pace stretched gap to north of twenty seconds at the flag.

Russell strapped in for a lonely race but profited from the Ferrari nightmare to seal a podium despite a troubled weekend for the porpoising and draggy Mercedes W13.

Despite back pain, Lewis Hamilton climbed to fourth thanks to a spirited drive with notable overtakes on the one-stopping trio of Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.

Gasly did manage his hard tyres for the long-haul, sealing fifth as a racy Sebastian Vettel recovered strongly from an early error to climb to sixth position.

Despite starting on a used set of mediums, Vettel had been fighting with Hamilton for seventh before pitting for hards to then chase after Ocon.

The Aston Martin passed the Alpine for ninth place on lap 13 before locking up at Turn 3 to abort the corner and spin in the escape road, narrowly missing Tsunoda when resuming in P12.

Fernando Alonso was another strong climber, sealing seventh for Alpine as Ricciardo just managed to keep eighth over Lando Norris by just three tenths, the McLaren pair having each had to make their case for track position in the opening and final phase of the race as they ran on split strategies.

Ocon’s long opening stint on the hards returned the final point as Valtteri Bottas in P11 marked the highest finish for a Ferrari-powered car.

Alex Albon climbed to P12 ahead of Tsunoda, who had to pit for some tape to his rear wing after his DRS flap split in half. Schumacher crossed the line in P14.

Latifi’s afternoon was spoiled before it had really begun for the Williams driver was handed a ten second stop-go penalty when a team mechanic rolled his car back, illegally touching the car.

He was then handed a further five second penalty for failing to comply with blue flags.

Stroll joined Magnussen, Zhou and the Ferraris in the list of retirements.

So a bad race for the Scuderia with both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc suffering technical issues. Rival Red Bull scored maximum points with this 1-2 finish at Baku and Max Verstappen extends his points lead.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:34:05.941
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 20.823
3 George Russell Mercedes 45.995
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +71.679s
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +77.299s
6 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +84.099s
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine +88.596s
8 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +92.207s
9 Lando Norris McLaren +92.556s
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine +108.184s
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1 lap
12 Alex Albon Williams +1 lap
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1 lap
14 Mick Schumacher Haas +1 lap
15 Nicholas Latifi Williams +1 lap
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF
– Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF
– Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo DNF
– Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF
– Carlos Sainz Ferrari DNF

Leclerc scores pole position for Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc achieved his fifteenth career pole position with an incredible lap around the streets of Baku. This is his sixth pole in eight races this season, showcasing his confidence and speed in qualifying driving that beautiful F1-75 race car.

After trading fastest times in each sessions at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sergio Perez just missed out on scoring P1 but getting a front row start is a good position considering the RB18 is very fast in a straight-line. His Red Bull teammate and championship leader Max Verstappen is right behind with P3.

It was an exciting qualifying session and the Ferrari driver had been adrift of teammate Carlos Sainz in the early part of Q3, but Charles stepped up with a mighty final flying lap turned in a rapid first two sectors.

A weekend-best time of one minute, 41.359 seconds at Baku, a circuit thought to favour Red Bull, gave Leclerc a substantial 0.282 seconds cushion over Sergio Perez as points leader Max Verstappen snared third.

Sainz, meanwhile, backed off on his last attempt to settle in fourth but was still some nine tenths quicker than the next car, George Russell in the Mercedes W13.

Former championship leader Leclerc, who has not won a race since the third round in Australia, was 0.05 seconds adrift of Sainz after the first batch of quick laps in the final shootout for pole.

But he still retained second as Perez brushed the inside wall when entering Turn 5, having already oversteered on the exit of Turn 1, to nick third ahead of Verstappen.

The Ferraris were doing the damage in the first two sectors although the RB18s were faster by 0.2 seconds on the long sprint to the line.

Sainz was first to go for a final flying lap but was slow through the Turn 5-6 chicane and messy on the exit of Turn 7 to back out of his effort.

That threw the attention on Leclerc, who set the fastest first and second sectors of the day to have a massive half-second cushion ahead of the flat-chat run to the line.

Perez was able to use the grunt of the rebadged Honda power unit to close a little after setting two personal best sectors but failed to match the rapid Ferrari driver across the line by nigh on 0.3 seconds.

This came after Checo was late out for his final lap when the engine struggled to fire, which teammate Verstappen questioned – seemingly having been left without a tow.

The trend of Verstappen falling fractionally behind his Monaco-winning stablemate continued as the defending champion ran to a one minute, 41.706 seconds, missing Perez by 0.06 seconds.

Sainz held in fourth ahead of Russell, while Pierre Gasly ran to sixth as part of an impressive double Q3 appearance for AlphaTauri.

Lewis Hamilton, who struggled with his brake pedal, porpoising and was noted by the stewards for driving too slowly in Q2, mustered seventh ahead of Yuki Tsunoda. The Mercedes driver’s incident will be investigated after the session.

A fraught session for Aston Martin ended with Sebastian Vettel snaring ninth, the four-time champion recovering after nosing into the barriers in Q2 after a Turn 15 lock up and being fortunate not to damage the car.

Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, completed the top ten although caught the attention of Alex Albon earlier on, when he was accused by the Williams driver of deliberately causing a yellow flag.

Lando Norris was the first driver to miss out on Q3, having missed the cut off by 0.022 seconds in the 15-minute Q2 session – his cause not helped by a late error – that Perez had topped by 0.009 seconds over Leclerc.

Lando’s first effort was stymied by tyres that were not cool enough before being notably held up by Hamilton at the exit of Turn 12.

His final attempt to make it into the top ten was undone when he ran straight on at Turn 15, tethering him to P11 as Daniel Ricciardo was another 0.18 seconds in arrears in P12.

Esteban Ocon was P13 ahead of the Alfa Romeos. Zhou Guanyu has impressed by running fifth fastest on five-lap old tyres at the mid-point of Q1 but he and stablemate Valtteri Bottas were shuffled down to P14 and P15.

It was an evening of struggles for Bottas. He had run off at Turn 3 in the first part of qualifying and then had to abort his next flying lap to leave him adrift of Zhou initially.

Lance Stroll brought out the red flags following a second crash in quick succession in Q1, to pause a session that Verstappen would top with a one minute, 42.722 seconds to lead Perez by a tenth.

The Aston Martin driver was languishing down in P19, as teammate Vettel was running high in fifth position, but brought out a quick yellow flag when he hit the barrier at Turn 7.

Stroll locked the front-left and nosed into the Tecpro although punched reverse and was given the all-clear on damage to go again immediately for a flying lap to move into Q2.

But with two minutes and 30 seconds of Q1 to the 18-minute Q1 to play, he understeered through Turn 2 and whacked into the outside wall to rip off his front wing and crumple his right wheel.

The session was paused for ten minutes to add to the delayed start, while the cars most at risk of eliminated queued at the end of the pitlane in a bid to find clear track position.

That teed up a mini-race as all but the Ferraris, Red Bulls and Ocon waited to go out – with Alex Albon, Valtteri Bottas, Nicholas Latifi and Mick Schumacher in the drop zone alongside Stroll.

Schumacher was told to “push like hell” and Norris was handed the instruction: “elbows out, let’s overtake these cars”.

But when the Haas lunged on the McLaren into Turn 16 of the out-lap, both drivers had their lines for the 1.35-mile flat-chat sprint to the next braking zone of Turn 1 ruined.

Norris backed out of his lap and before long and so did teammate Ricciardo, but they were spared elimination (progressing in P13 and P14) when Fernando Alonso ran off.

The Alpine driver took to the escape road of Turn 15 to bring out a yellow flag, which the chasing Albon considered to be foul play, accusing Alonso of braking early and still missing the corner.

That left Kevin Magnussen, both Williams drivers and Schumacher at the back of the grid.

The Haas cars are also under investigation for the pitlane incident, thought to be butting their way into the queue out the team garage at the end of the pitlane at the start of Q1.

The session start had been delayed by 15 minutes to allow for repairs to the Tecpro barriers following a spate of crashes in the supporting Formula 2 sprint race.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc with pole position at Azerbaijan Grand Prix. That was an epic lap around Baku and to be half a second clear ahead of his Ferrari teammate is supreme. And yet the straight-line speed of the Red Bull is going to make an exciting race. Game on.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:41.359
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:41.641
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:41.706
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:41.814
5 George Russell Mercedes 1:42.712
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:42.845
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:42.924
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:43.056
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:43.091
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:43.173
11 Lando Norris McLaren 1:43.398
12 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:43.574
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:43.585
14 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:43.790
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:44.444
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:44.643
17 Alex Albon Williams 1:44.719
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:45.367
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:45.371
20 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:45.775

Perez wins wet/dry Monaco Grand Prix as Leclerc only takes fourth

Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez scored his third career victory by winning the most iconic Formula 1 race on the calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix. Checo finished just 1.1 seconds ahead of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. As for Charles Leclerc, the strategy by Ferrari went wrong and he lost track position from pole to P4.

Max Verstappen extended his championship lead over Charles Leclerc with third position ahead of the home hero, who had dominated the early stages that followed a long delay due to a rain storm soaking the Principality.

Rain began to fall just before the scheduled start time, which was pushed back initially by nine minutes before this was extended to 16 minutes with a safety car formation lap mandated – on safety grounds per the FIA because there had been no prior running in the wet this weekend – and in that gap the deluge intensified.

The cars were sent out for two formation laps behind the safety car, with proceedings stopped at the end of the second as the rain was falling to such an extent huge areas of standing water formed, with rivers running around the Rascasse as the field passed by, heading for the pits.

The cars remained there for nearly 50 minutes before they were sent out for a second safety car formation lap procedure, which meant all the cars had to be fitted with extreme wet tyres.

After two laps behind the safety car – taking the first two from the new race distance of 77 and during which Lance Stroll clipped the barrier at Massenet and picked up a right-rear puncture and his fellow Canadian Nicholas Latifi crashed at low speed at the hairpin, damaging his front wing – racing began with a rolling start at the end of lap three.

Leclerc led the charge ahead of Sainz, Perez and Verstappen – his Ferrari squirming around as he applied full power for the first time down the pit straight, but staying in the right direction as the Monegasque led the field into Ste Devote.

They made it through unscathed but spread out, many drivers getting very sideways coming out of Casino Square as Leclerc edged to a 1.8 seconds lead by the end of the first racing tour as the Ferrari drivers fired their tyres up quicker than the chasing Red Bull duo behind.

Leclerc soon pulled clear of Sainz – the Ferrari drivers quicker at different points of the track, with the leader regularly pulling a second clear through sector one before Sainz stole a few tenths back in the second and third segments as they worked their way down the one minute, 30 seconds laptime brackets (the first racing lap was a one minute, 43.218 seconds for Leclerc).

By lap 15 Leclerc led by five seconds, with the leaders discussing with their teams whether to switch to intermediates as Pierre Gasly, Stroll and Latifi had done ahead of the rolling start.

Sainz insisted staying out and going straight to slicks was the best option for Ferrari, but its hand was forced when Perez, who had been advocating for inters, took them at the end of lap 16.

His pace was so strong on that compound that when Ferrari brought Leclerc in on lap 18, with Verstappen doing likewise and both taking inters, Perez vaulted ahead and quickly chased after Sainz.

The Spaniard led until lap 21, by which time Perez was only a few seconds behind despite having already stopped and indeed as Sainz completed a slippery out-lap, Red Bull brought Perez and Verstappen.

As they exited the pits on lap 23, Verstappen appearing to get very close to the pitlane exit line if not go over it, Perez had leapfrogged Sainz to lead, with Verstappen slotting into third just behind and Leclerc fourth.

The former dominant leader had been brought in for a second time a few seconds behind Sainz, Ferrari giving him confusing radio messages about whether or not to come in and double-stack.

Now all the leaders ran hard slicks, but this time the Red Bulls appeared to get better tyre warm-up – Sainz even nearly dropping his car as he ran closely behind Perez at the end of lap 23.

Just as Perez was starting to keep the lead he had gained while Sainz was saving his sideways moment, and then defending from Verstappen and the frustrated Leclerc behind, the race was interrupted again.

Mick Schumacher had been the first driver to take hards on lap 18 and as he battled Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, he dropped his Haas running between the two Swimming Pool chicanes.

The impact was not at massively high speed, but the angles and forces involved snapped Schumacher’s car in half and as a result of needing to repair the barrier and clear away a large amount of wreckage the red flags came out again after the incident had first been covered by a virtual and then full safety car.

After a stoppage of 20 minutes, Perez led the pack back out for another rolling start after two more tours behind the safety car – the order behind Sainz, Verstappen, Leclerc, George Russell and Lando Norris, who had lost out to his fellow Briton by taking inters for a few laps and the Mercedes stayed out on full wets for a few more laps before going straight to slicks.

At the restart on lap 33, with the Ferraris on the same set of hards they had been running before the stoppage and Perez and Verstappen switched to new mediums, Perez was unchallenged into Ste Devote.

He did lock up heavily approaching Mirabeau, but still built a lead of nearly a second as the pack returned to racing speed in the one minute, 23 seconds.

A few laps later they were down to the one minute, 18 seconds, with the Ferrari cars not dropping back with slow tyre warm-up despite being on a used harder compound.

But after they leaders exchanged fastest laps between the four cars over the next phase of the race, DRS now switched on and the pace reaching the one minute, 16 seconds, Perez began to edge clear and Leclerc, unable to stay in the 1m16s, lost contact with Verstappen in fourth.

By lap 45 Perez’s lead was 2.2 seconds over Sainz and his main concern became catching the rear of the field to lap the backmarkers – a long snake having formed behind Fernando Alonso, who had dropped back from Norris while leading Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon.

But ten laps later, Ferrari’s hoped for Perez’s tyres to grain and wear finally arrived and the leader dropped back to the 1m18s bracket, which meant Sainz quickly erased his lead and closed in to under second, with Verstappen doing likewise and Leclerc also able to reverse his earlier losses.

Ferrari urged Sainz to pressure Perez as the leaders did catch traffic – Verstappen behind not struggling as much keeping his mediums alive to the finish, which by this point was the two-hour time limit after the repeated delays.

A final 10-minute chase ensued, with Sainz initially threatening to make a move into the chicane, but got closest, and twice nearly ran into the back of Perez, at the hairpin.

But a bold move for the lead never came, with Verstappen also not attempting a risky pass on Sainz and Leclerc kept at bay in fourth as a tense stalemate played out.

Perez completed 64 laps and finished with a final margin of 1.1 seconds, Sainz just 0.3 seconds clear of Verstappen and the top four covered by just 2.9 seconds.

Russell finished a lonely fifth having been steadily dropped by the leaders in the laps after the second rolling start, with Norris pitting during the chase to the flag as he had enough of a gap behind thanks to Alonso’s slow pace, but remaining sixth for McLaren.

Alonso did lift his laptimes as the finished approached and he finished 4.0 seconds clear of Hamilton, who had battled with Esteban Ocon ahead of the second red flag.

The pair clashed into Turn 1 at one stage, for which Ocon was given a five-second time addition that dropped him out of the points from ninth on the road behind Hamilton at the finish.

That promoted Valtteri Bottas to ninth, Sebastian Vettel to the final point in P10 (full points were awarded as over 75% of the set distance was completed) and Gasly P11, the AlphaTauri driver rising through the field on his inters during the laps before the Sainz and Russell stayed out to go straight to slicks.

Two other cars failed to finish: Alex Albon who stopped in the pits ahead of the closing stages and Kevin Magnussen who retired due to a water pressure loss just before Schumacher’s crash.

So congratulations to Sergio Perez in winning the Monaco Grand Prix. What a difference a week makes for Checo. Got pulled aside in Barcelona to let Max Verstappen through to victory. This time, Perez got track position and resisted the huge pressure to take a popular win in Monaco. That’s back-to-back victories for Red Bull Racing. Bonus!

Monaco Grand Prix, race results:
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:56:30.265
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1.154
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1.491
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2.922
5 George Russell Mercedes 11.968
6 Lando Norris McLaren 12.231
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 46.358
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 50.388
9 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 52.525
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 53.536
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 54.289
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 55.644
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 57.635s
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 60.802
15 Nicholas Latifi Williams +1 lap
16 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1 lap
– Alex Albon Williams DNF
– Mick Schumacher Haas DNF
– Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF

Home hero Leclerc takes Monaco Grand Prix pole position

Charles Leclerc will start his home race at Monte Carlo in pole position. The Scuderia Ferrari driver was in the zone throughout qualifying, setting the quickest time in Q1, Q2 and Q3.

The Monaco Grand Prix qualifying finished under red flags after Sergio Perez crashed late in Q3 and was then collected by Carlos Sainz.

Leclerc had led his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz ahead of the final laps in Q3, with his one minute, 11.376 seconds the time for pole.

Perez looked to be Red Bull’s best hope for P1 after topping FP3 and leading Max Verstappen throughout qualifying and he trailed Leclerc on the final flying lap on the soft tyres, the second set for the top three runners in the final segment.

Leclerc set a purple sector in the opening third of his final effort – he ended up with the quickest time in all three based on his one minute, 11.376 seconds lap – while the following Perez could not reproduce a personal best at that point.

While Leclerc was exiting the tunnel, Perez lost the rear of his Red Bull and smashed the right rear of his car against the barriers at the exit of Portier, after which Sainz also spun when he came around the right hander and found the wrecked Red Bull.

Sainz therefore struck the right front wheel of Perez’s car and was also stranded, with the red flags flying and preventing any late improvements or position changes as there was less than a minute of Q3 remaining and no chance of it being restarted.

That sealed the deal for Leclerc’s second Monaco Grand Prix pole in a row, with Sainz’s best time from the start of Q3 putting him 0.225 seconds adrift, with Perez third thanks to his one minute, 11.629 seconds.

Verstappen ran one set of softs throughout as he opted to continue chasing time to the flag, ending up fourth and unable to improve – he had just set a personal best in the first sector that was 0.1 seconds down on Leclerc’s leading time there – because of his teammate’s incident.

Lando Norris slotted into fifth position just before the leaders began their final laps, with George Russell sixth for Mercedes.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso took seventh, but he too had a late crash, ending up in the barriers at Mirabeau at nearly the same time as Perez and Sainz were crashed further down the hill in sector two.

Lewis Hamilton ended up eighth, with Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon rounding out the top ten.

Leclerc led the session’s middle segment, which featured a worrying moment for the Ferrari driver as he missed his call to visit the FIA’s weighbridge with just over five minutes of Q2 remaining.

Fortunately for Leclerc he stopped in the pitlane before returning to his garage and so could be pushed backwards by his mechanics to be weighed, the result of which should mean he does not receive a sporting penalty, as returning to the Ferrari pits risked a qualifying disqualification.

At the end of Q2, Yuki Tsunoda failed to produce a personal best when it mattered and he was eliminated in P11.

Valtteri Bottas jumped to P12 on his final run, with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher also their quickest times of the session on their final fliers behind.

They ended up P13 and P15, sandwiching McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who also set a personal best at the end of Q2 but could do no better than P14.

In Q1, which Leclerc also topped, Tsunoda clipped the inside wall at the hairpin and picked up an immediate puncture with just over two minutes of that segment remaining, with the red flags flying as a result.

That led to a huge queue at the end of the pitlane as the drivers below the top five at the time rushed out to try and secure one final lap, with track evolution a major factor in who progressed through the early sessions as rubber went down and the drivers built confidence.

But gaps emerging between the cars in the long snake leaving the pitlane meant several drivers missed out on a chance to even start a final flier, with Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu eliminated in P17 and P20 as a result – the former’s banker effort slowly shuffled down the order until Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri teammate was knocked out with the chance to post one last effort.

Alex Albon had headed the cars that queued at the end of the pitlane and managed to post a personal best with his final lap, but was subsequently pushed down as others behind found time.

This was particularly the case with the Tsunoda and the McLaren drivers, who all jumped out of the drop zone with their final Q1 laps to leave Albon P16 and out.

Lance Stroll could not post a better time on his last Q1 run and was dumped out, screaming down his team radio, in P18, ahead of Nicholas Latifi, who did save his best for last but could do no better than P19.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in scoring pole position at his home race. As overtaking is next to impossible around Monte Carlo, starting at the front is the best chance of racing success. But rain is being threatened come race day, so anything can happen in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Monaco Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:11.376
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:11.601
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:11.629
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:11.666
5 Lando Norris McLaren 1:11.849
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:12.112
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:12.247
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:12.560
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:12.732
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:13.047
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:12.797
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:12.909
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:12.921
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:12.964
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:13.081
16 Alex Albon William 1:13.611
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTaur 1:13.660
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:13.678
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:14.403
20 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:15.606

Verstappen becomes new championship leader following Spain victory

Max Verstappen is now the new championship leader by winning in Spain. The Red Bull driver recovered from a half-spin to take the important 25 points following Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc retirement.

In a frenetic first half of the Spanish Grand Prix, Verstappen cost himself second position by losing the rear end and careering across the gravel before mounting a remarkable recovery run.

Aided by runaway leader and polesitter Leclerc suffering the misfortune of a terminal power unit failure, Verstappen was able to force Red Bull to take a change for position.

That left Sergio Perez to concede a potential victory, which in turn allowed Verstappen to complete a run of three race wins to finish 13 seconds at the flag.

The 25-point swing in the early title race gives Verstappen a six-point standings lead heading to Monaco.

George Russell, meanwhile, completed the podium for Mercedes as Carlos Sainz fought back from an early error to claim fourth thanks to a late pass on Lewis Hamilton’s poorly W13.

Verstappen enjoyed the marginally better initial launch from second place but on a used set of softs versus the new C3s for Leclerc, the Ferrari clawed away in the second phase.

That gave Leclerc just enough breathing space to pull to the right and put Verstappen off from attempting a lunge into Turn 1 to enable the 13-time polesitter to retain first place.

Sainz, however, was starting on old softs and bogged down to fall back from third behind Russell, Perez, and then Hamilton nabbed fifth around the outside of Turn 3.

But that left the Mercedes squeezed and he and Kevin Magnussen collided to give Hamilton a front-left puncture and the Haas driver came away with a front-right flat and both pitted.

Leclerc moved ninth tenths clear at the end of lap one, maintained the gap to Verstappen next time around and then critically toured 0.3 seconds faster to move clear of the DRS range when the aid was enabled.

His Ferrari teammate then committed his latest mistake as Sainz spun unaided on entry into Turn 4 and careered over the gravel on lap seven, but two laps later Verstappen made a similar mistake in the tail wind as the rear slid out and he ran over the gravel.

That rare error promoted Russell to second but with a hefty 8.5 seconds deficit to leader Leclerc.

As Perez attempted to pick up the mantle for Red Bull by challenging Russell, the battling duo enabled Leclerc to further escape up the road so as Verstappen recovered, the team allowed him to pass Perez out of Turn 6 to take the challenge to the defensive Mercedes.

But the reigning champion’s attack on Russell was thwarted by a DRS issue, as he had suffered in qualifying to abandon his pole lap, and despite a change of actuator on his RB18 for the race that had meant Verstappen was a late arrival to the grid.

Russell and Verstappen pitted for mediums on lap 13 to leave Perez almost 14 seconds behind Leclerc as the pre-event points leader pumped in laps sixth tenths quicker than his rivals.

Perez was then called to box on lap 18 for a stint on the medium tyre to leave Leclerc alone with a seemingly insurmountable 30 seconds lead as Verstappen nearly dropped his RB18 chasing Russell, having to deftly catch a slid after clipping the inside kerb at Turn 8.

As the Dutch racer grew agitated by his temperamental DRS, Leclerc was called to pit for mediums on lap 21 and Ferrari aced a 2.2 seconds stop to take give Leclerc a 5.7 seconds lead over Russell.

Out alone, Leclerc stretched his lead to 11.2 seconds as Verstappen and Russell avoided any reprimand from the stewards for a robust battle through Turn 3.

But then Leclerc suddenly began to slow on lap 27 with a power unit failure and had his 12 seconds lead evaporate as he crawled to the pits and retired.

That left Russell to defend from Verstappen into Turn 1 for what had become first place, but the Mercedes driver was given respite when the Red Bull pitted on lap 29 for another set of softs.

Verstappen passed the baton to teammate Perez, who could overtake Russell for the lead into Turn 1 thanks to a double helping of DRS and the Red Bull engine overspeed.

As Verstappen nailed an accomplished outside pass on Valtteri Bottas through Turn 12, he recaptured third which soon became second when Russell was pitted again on lap 37.

That left Verstappen 6.2 seconds behind Perez as Red Bull closed in on a 1-2 finish before Checo pitted for mediums to allow Verstappen to complete an eventual rise to the lead.

With the Red Bull pit crew earning their pay cheque, Verstappen made his third stop and took on a pair of medium tyres, and he emerged 5 seconds behind Perez but 1 seconds ahead of Russell.

Red Bull used the argument of its drivers running different strategies to call on a disgruntled Perez to let Verstappen by, and the positions changed at Turn 5 on lap 49 to give Verstappen the lead.

He duly converted it into a fine victory by 13 seconds over Perez, as his early season recovery from Red Bull unreliability morphs into a championship challenge.

The Mercedes duo were hobbled by a late water leak, meaning Russell finished 20 seconds adrift of Perez to complete the podium on a weekend when the updated W13 took a step forward.

But Sainz was able to depose Hamilton at the start of the penultimate lap, as the seven-time champion was told to lift and coast and the Ferrari gained DRS down the main straight.

Alfa Romeo’s bold call to put Valtteri Bottas on a two-stop strategy had looked potentially sound enough for a podium but the late decline of his medium tyres dropped him to sixth.

Esteban Ocon finished seventh for Alpine as Lando Norris, who had been particularly ill before the race and was filmed keeled over and with streaming eyes, ran to eighth.

Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, recovered strongly from a team strategy error that eliminated him in Q1 to land ninth as Yuki Tsunoda completed the top ten.

Aston Martin lost all data on Sebastian Vettel’s car late on as the four-time champion complete a recovery similar in scale to Alonso to rank P11 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly.

Mick Schumacher fell from a fair chance of a top ten down to P14 thanks to a two-stop strategy that left him on leggy mediums as Lance Stroll landed 14th after spinning following a Turn 1-2 coming together with Gasly.

Nicholas Latifi was P16 as Haas put Magnussen on a mammoth hard-tyre stint to rank P17 ahead of Alex Albon, who was given a 5 seconds penalty for repeated track limit violations.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen. New championship leader for the defending title winner. But this race was eventful with a spin in Turn 4. DRS issue working not correctly when trying to get pass George Russell. In the end, the pitstop strategy and race pace allowed Max to take the win.

Spanish Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:37:20.475
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 13.072
3 George Russell Mercedes 32.927
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 45.208
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 54.534
6 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 59.976
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine +75.397s
8 Lando Norris McLaren +83.235s
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine +1 lap
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1 lap
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1 lap
12 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1 lap
13 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1 lap
14 Mick Schumacher Haas +1 lap
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1 lap
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams +2 laps
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas +2 laps
18 Alex Albon Williams +2 laps
– Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo DNF
– Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF

Leclerc recovers from spin to take Spanish Grand Prix pole

Big pressure was on the championship leader Charles Leclerc, when he spun on his first Q3 run at the chicane. The Ferrari driver was on the back foot without setting a lap time, but recovered to take an impressive pole position for Formula 1’s 2022 Spanish Grand Prix as Max Verstappen was hurt by a final-lap DRS issue.

The Ferrari driver had it all to do in the last part of qualifying after spinning at the penultimate corner during his banker lap in Q3 but then the points leader produced a magic lap on his second attempt.

A run to one minute, 18.750 seconds marked comfortably the fastest lap of the weekend as he seized his 13th Formula 1 pole position by three tenths over his title rival Verstappen.

The defending world champion, who held provisional pole after his first Q3 effort, was forced to abort his final flying lap after his Red Bull endured yet more unreliability.

Comfortable Q2 pacesetter Verstappen had not long delivered a crushing run through the final sector to extract a four tenth advantage on his first flying lap in the final part of qualifying to post a one minute, 19.073 seconds.

That threw him to the top of the timing screens as he ran a mighty 0.35 seconds ahead of provisional pacesetter Sainz, while Perez clocked third ahead of the Mercedes pair.

Leclerc was the major name missing from the top of the times after he threw away his first Q3 lap with a Turn 14 spin despite setting five session-best mini-sectors over the lap.

The rear axle of the Ferrari rotated into the left-handed part of the tight chicane when, like in Imola, he grabbed too much kerb. He then locked all four tyres bringing the car to a stop.

Leclerc was equipped with a fresh set of soft tyres and headed out comparatively early for the qualifying climax, leaving his garage with three and a half minutes left to play.

But he stitched together the fastest second and third sector to romp to pole.

After the DRS issue, Verstappen was able to record another front row slot ahead of Sainz, who fell a tenth adrift with his one minute, 19.166 seconds.

George Russell led the renewed effort from Mercedes with fourth position as he nipped ahead of Sergio Perez, while Lewis Hamilton ran to sixth after his first Q3 lap was hurt by oversteer out of the final corner.

Valtteri Bottas snared seventh for Alfa Romeo ahead of Kevin Magnussen, while Daniel Ricciardo was resigned to ninth after McLaren elected not to send him out for a second Q3 charge.

Mick Schumacher, meanwhile, completed the top ten. This was Mick’s first appearance in Q3 and the Haas driver will start in his best grid position.

Lando Norris failed to progress into the top ten by 0.035 seconds when the stewards deleted his final flying lap in the 15-minute session for marginally exceeding track limits at Turn 12.

The McLaren driver, who also clipped the Turn 14 bollard, had just prevented Mick Schumacher from squeezing into Q3 before his lap was binned and he was relegated.

Esteban Ocon aborted his second effort in Q2 to tether himself to P12, while Yuki Tsunoda nipped ahead of AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly.

The French racer had struggled with Turn 5 understeer on his final run, having sat out almost all of FP3 owing to a fire igniting on his installation lap.

Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou rounded out the top 15.

World champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were the major scalps to be claimed in the first part of qualifying as they were shuffled into the bottom five places.

Alpine driver Alonso, preparing for his home race, was forced to back out of his final flying lap thanks in part to early traffic from Norris, however the stewards did not to intervene. That left Alonso prey as the customary flurry of improved times landed late on.

The better laps from Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo secured their progression and subsequently dropped Vettel and Alonso to a final P16 and P17 on the leader board.

Vettel, having missed the Q2 cut-off by 0.07 seconds, did at least manage to out-qualify teammate Lance Stroll as the Canadian guided the heavily scrutinised and updated AMR22 to just P18.

Alex Albon pipped Williams stablemate Nicholas Latifi to round out the final row of the grid.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in rising to the challenge despite big pressure to set a lap time after spinning. The Ferrari driver did the job by securing pole position. Kudos Charles!

Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.750
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:19.073
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:19.166
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:19.393
5 Sergio Peérez Red Bull 1:19.420
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.512
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:19.608
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:19.682
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:20.297
10 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:20.368
11 Lando Norris McLaren 1:20.471
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:20.638
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:20.639
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTaur 1:20.861
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:21.094
16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:20.954
17 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:21.043
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:21.418
19 Alexander Albon Williams 1:21.645
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:21.915

Verstappen takes Miami victory from Leclerc

Max Verstappen was victorious at the Miami Grand Prix by passing Charles Leclerc and then resisting the pressure from the Ferrari driver.

Carlos Sainz finished in third position ahead of Sergio Perez, with George Russell coming home in fifth ahead of Lewis Hamilton after gaining so much ground with the safety car timing and then beating his Mercedes teammate in battle afterwards.

At the start, Leclerc led away from pole position in P1, while alongside his teammate Sainz could not make a similarly quick getaway from away from the racing line on the right-hand side of the track.

That meant Verstappen was able to quickly get alongside the second Ferrari and the defending champion went wheel-to-wheel with Sainz through the first corner before passing with a forceful move in to the second corner sweep through which they were soon blasting.

Leclerc had a 0.8 seconds lead at the end of the first lap of 57 and quickly moved to pull clear of Verstappen’s DRS range by the time it was activated on the third lap.

For the opening phase of the race, Leclerc would gain three-four tenths each time through the first sector before Verstappen’s superior top speed brought him back towards the Ferrari along the long straights in the second two thirds of the circuit.

Leclerc’s lead reached a maximum of 1.4 seconds at the start of lap six, just as he had set a then fastest lap in the high one minute, 33 seconds, but soon after this a dark band of rubber appeared on his right front tyre.

Verstappen, informed his rival was struggling to preserve the mediums tyres all the leaders had started on, then began to edge back towards the Ferrari.

At the end of lap eight, Leclerc slid exiting the Turn 17 hairpin and Verstappen arrived right on his gearbox, moving alongside as they ran down the pit straight and then taking the lead with a simple pass into Turn 1, Leclerc opting not to fight too hard.

On the next lap, Leclerc pushed hard to keep up through the first sector that favour’s Ferrari’s higher downforce package, but was dropped as Verstappen ran down every subsequent straight and was out of DRS threat after two laps.

The Red Bull was steadily able to build a lead, aided by Leclerc locking up and sliding deep at Turn 17 on lap 12, which cost him a second and meant at the end of that tour Verstappen’s lead had reached 2.6 seconds.

That was 4.2 seconds by lap 21 – Leclerc being told Ferrari was moving to its “Plan D” strategy, while Red Bull informed Verstappen his right front tyre management was making the key difference.

Behind the leaders, Sainz had soon fallen back, with Perez initially following him closely before losing over five seconds as his engine developed an issue that Red Bull had to issue a steering wheel setting fix to correct.

Leclerc was able to set competitive times at this stage, but could not do so consistently and with Verstappen able to cover him off each time anyway, so Ferrari called him in to switch to the hards at the end of lap 24, just after he had reported his car was “so difficult to drive”.

Red Bull left Verstappen out for two more laps before he was switched on the hards, gaining another 0.8 seconds with a quicker service from his mechanics compared to those working on Leclerc’s car earlier.

Verstappen led by 7.5 seconds at the start of the second stint, which Leclerc initially cut with a series of fastest laps into the high one minute, 32 seconds, before the lead responded with an even quicker best time and restore and then maintain his advantage.

Much like at the start of the race, Leclerc regularly gained several tenths through the twisty first sector before Verstappen took back time later in the lap – the pair trading fastest laps but the gap between then staying stable.

Heading into the final third, Verstappen led by 7.8 seconds, with Red Bull seemingly only concerned about a threat of rain, as clouds built up above the Miami Gardens track.

But a serene had no chance to play out after the safety car was called out on lap 41 after Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris collided, putting the McLaren driver out just past the start of the long, meandering acceleration zone that follows the fake marina at Turn 8.

Gasly was touring slowly having just had an earlier collision with Fernando Alonso at Turn 1 as they fought in the lower reaches of the top 10 and when the AlphaTauri ran wide through Turn 8 Norris moved to overtake on its right-hand side.

But Gasly appeared to drift left, unaware Norris was coming by, reporting his “car doesn’t turn” with a problem, and the contact spun Norris around and knocked off his right-rear, after which the race was neutralised for five laps, during which Perez pitted from fourth to go back to the hards.

At the restart, Verstappen easily pulled clear of Leclerc, while Perez pressured Sainz heavily onto the pit straight but was rebuffed on the outside line into Turn 1.

There followed a thrilling 11-lap sprint to the finish, with Leclerc able to stay within DRS threat for much of the remaining action and putting Verstappen under severe pressure.

Leclerc came closest to making a pass with a look to the inside of Turn 11 at the end of the long, curving run from the ‘marina’, but was pinched on the inside line and lost ground – never getting alongside the leader.

He closed in again, but clattering the kerbs hard at the chicane on lap 52 meant he dropped from 0.5 seconds behind to 0.8 seconds and as Verstappen’s superior top speed then came into play on the next straight the writing was on the wall for the Ferrari driver.

On the next lap, Leclerc fell out of DRS range on the back straight and never recovered it – Verstappen easing clear to win by 3.7 seconds.

Sainz took the final podium spot despite his tyres being much older than those on the following Perez, who had closed in again after his restart attack did not pay off.

On lap 52, Perez, still down on power after his earlier issue, made a late lunge at the first corner, but when Sainz swept right and the pair nearly touched the Red Bull driver locked up and went deep, allowing the Ferrari back into third, which he did not lose from there.

George Russell finished fifth after gaining massively under the safety car – the Mercedes driver having started in P12 on the hards and running a very long first stint in the hope of a race interruption.

He got his wish and so was able to take the mediums while the rest where travelling slowly and restarted behind Lewis Hamilton, who had recovered from a slow first lap where he climbed over the Turn 1 kerbs and was then tapped by Alonso at the next turn, cost him momentum.

Hamilton recovered to run sixth behind Valtteri Bottas at the restart, with the Finn then gifting the Mercedes pair a place when he glanced the wall exiting Turn 17 – after which Russell came out on top of a wheel-to-wheel fight with his illustrious teammate going through the Turns 11-12 sequence.

He had to repass Hamilton at the same spot with DRS when the seven-time champion had nipped back ahead late on, but Russell held on from there to finish fifth.

Bottas was seventh ahead of Esteban Ocon, who benefitted from a late Turn 1 shunt between Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher.

The pair had both been running in the points when Ocon attacked Schumacher at Turn 17 on lap 53, with Vettel passing both in one move but giving DRS to Schumacher as they ran onto the pit straight.

There was contact between the Aston Martin and the Haas at Turn 1, which spun Vettel around broke Schumacher’s front wing, the former later retiring in the pits with damage and the latter coming home P15 having missed the chance to score his first Formula 1 career points.

Alonso, who was given a five-second time addition for his clash with Gasly, took ninth, with Alex Albon completing the top ten for Williams.

Zhou Guanyu was the other retirement, ordered to stop in the pits during the early laps.

Congratulations to Max Verstappen and Red Bull in winning this Miami Grand Prix. The event was overhyped by Formula 1 standards as this is a new race in terms of location and excitement but the actual racing was simply lacking. Only the late safety car made it entertaining. Still, important championship points scored.

Miami Grand Prix race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:34:24.258
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 3.786
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 8.229
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 10.638
5 George Russell Mercedes 18.582
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21.368
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 25.073
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 28.386
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine 32.128
10 Alex Albon Williams 32.365
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 35.902
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 37.026
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 40.146
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams 49.936
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 73.305s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri DNF
– Lando Norris McLaren DNF
– Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo DNF

Leclerc leads Ferrari 1-2 in Miami qualifying

Charles Leclerc led a Scuderia Ferrari 1-2 in Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix qualifying ahead of Carlos Sainz, while a last-lap mistake from Max Verstappen dropped the defending champion from provisional pole to third position.

Verstappen led after the first runs in Q3 with a time of one minute, 28.991 seconds, with Leclerc and Sainz trailing – just 0.080 seconds covering all three.

On the final runs, Leclerc headed the pack and was up on his own personal best time from the off, then taking the best time in the middle sector to roar to a one minute, 28.796 seconds.

Running behind, Sainz registered a stunning first sector 0.2 seconds quicker than his teammate, but he lost time as the lap went on and he ended up 0.190 seconds adrift.

But that was still enough to slot him ahead of Verstappen’s run one time, which secured second position on the grid for Sunday’s race as the Red Bull driver abandoned his final effort.

Verstappen had to catch a massive oversteer snap he encountered after throwing his RB18 through the fast, flowing Turns 5 and 6, sliding off at the latter corner and winding up 0.6 seconds down on Leclerc in sector one – after which he toured back to the finish line and accepting his defeat with the note that he “fucked it”.

Sergio Perez took fourth for Red Bull ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Pierre Gasly took seventh, with Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll rounding out the top ten.

In Q2, Fernando Alonso set his best time right at the end, but could not reach the top ten shootout as he was eliminated in P11, on spot ahead of FP2 pace-setter George Russell.

Russell went for most of Q2 without a time on the board as he struggled with wild oversteer snaps through the track’s flowing first sector and porpoising elsewhere, but finally reached the top ten with his final effort.

But that came nearly two minutes before the middle segment of qualifying had finished and he did not have enough time to return to the pits for fresh tyres and so was pushed down the order and eliminated.

He finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who lost time by sliding out of the chicane at the end of the second sector for his P13 result, ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Haas driver Mick Schumacher.

In Q1, a series of late improvements from several drivers languishing down the order after the early running – including Hamilton and Alonso – shuffled Kevin Magnussen down to P16 and out.

Zhou Guanyu was knocked out in P17, frustrated to hit heavy traffic at the final corners of his last flying lap, describing the scenes as “dangerous” and urging Alfa Romeo to report the incident to the sport’s governing body, the FIA.

Williams had hoped Alex Albon could replicate his strong speed FP3, where he finished ninth, but he rued not setting personal best times in the final two sectors of his last lap, which left him down in P18.

That was ahead of Nicholas Latifi in the other Williams, who set a personal best right at the very end of Q1 but could not climb off the back row of the grid for Sunday’s main event.

Esteban Ocon took no part in qualifying after a crack was discovered in his chassis following his heavy crash at the chicane in FP3 and he will start the race last as a result.

So congratulations to Ferrari with this front row lock-out. Championship leader Charles Leclerc achieved a brilliant pole position to beat Max Verstappen and edged ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz. Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix is going to be interesting as this is the first time the drivers will go racing. Hopefully a good race on Sunday.

Qualifying times, Miami:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.796
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:28.986
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:28.991
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:29.036
5 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:29.475
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.625
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:29.690
8 Lando Norris McLaren 1:29.750
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:29.932
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.676
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:30.160
12 George Russell Mercedes 1:30.173
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:30.214
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:30.310
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:30.423
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.975
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:31.020
18 Alex Albon Williams 1:31.266
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:31.325
20 Esteban Ocon Alpine No time