BAKU — Max Verstappen drove his luck to an undisputed first win in Baku on Sunday, opening a commanding lead in the championship after Ferrari’s challenge imploded at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Dutchman crossed the line 20.8 seconds faster than Sergio Perez who, ordered not to fight Verstappen, made a one-two for Red Bull.
George Russell maintained his record by finishing in the top five every race this season with a third-place finish for Mercedes.
Ferrari’s miserable afternoon ended after 20 of the race’s 51 laps.
Leading the team’s challenge and having started from pole, Charles Leclerc pulled into the pits from the lead as his Ferrari spewed smoke to mark his second retirement from three races.
His teammate Carlos Sainz had been pulled to the side of the track 10 laps earlier due to a hydraulic failure.
“Today we had incredible speed in the car, we were able to take care of the tires and destroy them,” said Verstappen, all too familiar with the heartbreak of pulling back from the lead after crashing while driving first. in Baku last year.
“A little luck with the retirement, but the car was fast today.”
The win was Verstappen’s fifth of eight races this year and made him the sixth different Baku winner out of six races.
He extended his overall championship lead to 21 points more than Perez, winner in Monaco two weeks ago, who has moved up to second place.
Leclerc, who has won two races this year but none since the third of the season in Australia, dropped to third place, 34 points behind his Dutch rival.
“It hurts, we have to look at it so it doesn’t happen again,” said Leclerc, who left Australia with a 46-point lead over Verstappen.
Leclerc had entered Sunday’s race determined to make up for his fourth consecutive pole after failing to convert the top spot into victory in the last three races.
But he was on the back foot from the start, losing the lead to second seeded starter Perez in the first corner.
He didn’t seem to have the pace to match Perez and was instead fending off Verstappen.
But an opportunistic pit stop during a virtual safety car period caused by Sainz’s failure allowed him to bounce back to first place until the demise of his car finally wiped out his hopes.
Verstappen, meanwhile, had passed Perez, who bid to become the Baku race’s first repeat winner. Red Bull ordered the Mexican not to resist and the Dutchman inherited the lead when Leclerc stopped.
“Anything can happen in this place … we managed to get a one-two, so that’s a great team result,” said Perez, who took the point for the fastest lap.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth but suffered a sore back, the result of the porpoise, or bounce, that plagued his Mercedes.
Kevin Magnussen activated another safety car when his Haas came to a stop. China’s Guanyu Zhou also retired his Alfa Romeo due to a technical problem. Both teams use Ferrari power units.
Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were engaged in a McLaren battle within the team, with the pressured Australian crossing the line in eighth ahead of the Briton.
Montreal-born Nicholas Latifi was awarded two penalties for violating the grid and ignoring blue flags, finishing 15th. His fellow Montrealer Lance Stroll failed to complete the race, finishing 16th.