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Verstappen stretches title lead after Ferrari engine failure

Verstappen stretches title lead after Ferrari engine failure

FORMULA ONE: Max Verstappen has taken a firm hold of the 2022 world championship with a comfortable victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix yesterday (June 12) after title rival Charles Leclerc suffered an engine blow-up.

Formula-One
By Michael Lamonato

Monday 13 June 2022, 09:33AM


Verstappen takes the chequered flag in Baku. Photo: Hamad Mohammed / AFP

Verstappen takes the chequered flag in Baku. Photo: Hamad Mohammed / AFP

Leclerc’s power burst into a cloud of oil smoke on lap 20 of 51 - just 11 laps after his teammate, Carlos Sainz, pulled to the side of the road with an engine hydraulics failure - to complete an embarrassing double DNF for the Scuderia.

It gifted Red Bull Racing its third one-two finish of the season, with Max Verstappen slipstreaming past teammate Sergio Perez easily in the opening stint of the race and sprinting out to a comfortable margin to inflict maximum damage on the ailing Leclerc.

The Dutchman led Leclerc by nine points in the drivers championship, but the gap between them now stands at a whopping 34 points - an 80-point turnaround in the five races since the Ferrari driver won the Australian Grand Prix.

“It hurts,” Leclerc told the UK’s Sky Sports. “I don’t really find the right words to describe. Obviously it’s very, very disappointing.

“I don’t know what’s going on.”

Verstappen, yet to finish a grand prix lower than third, was buoyed to have collected his fifth victory of the season and fourth in five races.

“I think today we had incredible pace in the car,” he said. “We could really look after the tires, chip away at it, pass for the lead.

“A tiny bit lucky with the retirement, but nevertheless our car was really quick today. I could’ve closed that gap, btu then you have a race on our hands.”

Teammate Perez was a distant second after suffering higher tyre wear borne of his qualifying-focused set-up that had him start on the front row and lead the race early. He moves up to second on the championship standings 21 points behind Verstappen.

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“I just hit too much deg on the medium tyre,” he said. “The deg was extremely high for me. It’s something we have to understand, what happened there, because certainly Max was a lot stronger today on the medium stint. But it’s still a good team result.”

George Russell completed the podium for Mercedes for the third time the season. He was comfortably best of the midfield and benefitted from the Ferrari retirements ahead to just about keep himself in touch with the title leaders.

“You’ve got to be there to pick up the pieces,” Russell said. “Thanks so much to all the guys back at Brackley and Brixworth to get the car to the end.”

He was backed up by teammate Lewis Hamilton, who complained that his car was bouncing so significantly down the long front straight that it was hurting his back - a common complaint among the drivers this weekend, with 19 of the 20 uniting in support of rule changes to stamp out the cars ‘porpoising’ on their suspension at high speed.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finished a strong fifth ahead of Sebastian Vettel for Aston Martin.

Fernando Alonso held off the faster McLaren cars thanks to his prodigious straight-line speed despite it costing him high tyre wear.

Daniel Ricciardo led home Lando Norris for the papaya cars in Alonso’s wake in a strong return to decent form of the Australian, who had been under pressure after two lacklustre rounds in Spain and Monaco. It was just his second Sunday point score of the season after a solid race performance from 11th on the grid.

Esteban Ocon completed the top 10 for Alpine, up from 13th, ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Thailand’s Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunoda, who dropped out of the points late with a broken rear wing.

Mick Schumacher was 14th for Haas ahead of Nicholas Latifi, who was the last of the finishers in 15th.

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