Verstappen out to settle 'unfinished business' in Baku

By Sports Desk June 08, 2022

Max Verstappen is looking to settle some "unfinished business" at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as he sets out to further extend his lead in the Formula One drivers' championship.

Verstappen is nine points ahead of Charles Leclerc after a chaotic Monaco Grand Prix in which the Dutchman finished third ahead of his Ferrari rival.

Leclerc was apoplectic as a Ferrari miscue that saw them double stack the Monegasque and team-mate Carlos Sainz in the pits cost him the chance of a home victory.

Red Bull have won each of the last four races, with Leclerc's loss in Monte Carlo the gain of the victorious Sergio Perez, who will be out to replicate his 2021 triumph in Baku.

That win for Perez came after a rear tyre failure caused Verstappen to crash from the lead on lap 47, a piece of misfortune for which he is keen to make up.

"I'm looking forward to returning to Baku, we have some unfinished business there after last year," said Verstappen.

"It's a tricky track with big braking zones and a tight run-off, finding the best set-up for the car will be difficult in terms of making sure we get the correct wing level.

"It will also be interesting to see if we can make our one-lap performance better for qualifying as we’ve been lacking a little."

Ferrari have never tasted victory at the street circuit in the Azerbaijan capital, which presents one of the most challenging tests on the F1 calendar.

Leclerc finished fourth from pole last year and failing to back up qualifying performance on race day has been a persistent problem for Ferrari in 2022.

Luckless Leclerc

Leclerc has claimed pole in five of the first seven races this season and could become the first Ferrari driver to record six poles in the opening eight races since Michael Schumacher in 2001.

Yet he has only two victories to his name this campaign, with wins snatched from his grasp in Barcelona and Monaco.

For his career, Leclerc has won just four of the 14 races in which he has taken pole position. His win percentage of 29 per cent in those races is the second-lowest behind Jarno Trulli (25), who won one of the four races he started on pole.

Given the prevalence of fast straights in Baku, this is a track more likely to favour Red Bull, meaning it could be another frustrating weekend for Leclerc even if he continues his dominance of qualifying.

A Perez title push

Perez is himself only 15 points behind Verstappen in the title race and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner recently said the Mexican is "in this championship just as much as Max is".

That statement runs contrary to the call Red Bull made in Barcelona, ordering Perez to let Verstappen through en route to victory there.

Perez made his dissatisfaction in Spain clear, and Verstappen's father Jos expressed his irritation after Monaco that the Red Bull strategy went against the reigning world champion.

"Max was not helped by the chosen strategy. That was disappointing for me and I would have liked it to be different for the championship leader," he wrote on Verstappen.com.

Should Perez triumph again in Baku, any talk of Red Bull playing favourites may have to give way to an in-team title tussle.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 125
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 116
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 110
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 84
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Red Bull 235
2. Ferrari 199
3. Mercedes 134
4. McLaren 59
5. Alfa Romeo 41

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  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell

    George Russell secured Mercedes their first podium of the Formula One season at the Canadian Grand Prix, but felt his third-place finish was a missed opportunity.

    The British driver was on pole for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2022 and led for the first 21 laps before being overtaken in quick succession by McLaren's Lando Norris and eventual winner, Max Verstappen. 

    In a contest that saw the drivers endure difficult conditions and in which five cars failed to finish, Russell did manage to regain first place from his compatriot on lap 27 following the safety car being deployed, but again found himself chasing Norris after running wide. 

    He dropped to fourth behind Oscar Piastri, but would reclaim a podium place with his fresh medium tyres for the closing laps, enough to get past the Australian and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who were on the hard compounds.

    Red Bull's Verstappen claimed his sixth victory of the season, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to 56 points after a weekend to forget for the Italian team. 

    Speaking after the race, Russell believed he had the pace to catch the Dutchman before his coming together with Piastri, but enjoyed being back at the front of the pecking order despite admitting to a few mistakes. 

    "It feels like a missed opportunity, to be honest," said Russell shortly after the conclusion of the race. "We were really quick at the beginning of the race on the inters, and then obviously Lando came through really fast.

    "Then we got back on to the slicks, made a couple of mistakes out there just pushing the limits and paid the price for it.

    "Nevertheless, first podium of the year and we truly had a really fast car this weekend and to be back in the mix fighting for victory was really fun.

    "When we put the mediums on at the end we were really, really fast and I think that mistake with Oscar when I tried overtaking him and I lost the position to Lewis cost us at least P2 and maybe we could have fought with Max later in the race."

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