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

Related items

  • Espargaro confirmed to have fractured heel, does not require surgery Espargaro confirmed to have fractured heel, does not require surgery

    MotoGP title hopeful Aleix Espargaro is confirmed to have fractured his heel during a highside at Silverstone.

    The Aprilia rider suffered the injury during the final free practice session at the British MotoGP on Saturday and was stretchered away from the scene before hobbling to the medical tent.

    Espargaro returned for Saturday's qualifying session and secured sixth place, taking his place on the second row on Sunday following doubts over whether he would be fit to race.

    The 33-year-old was unable to compete for the win but secured a ninth-placed finish, picking up seven points and coming in just behind title rival Fabio Quartararo – who he trails by 22 points in the standings.

    Espargaro has now been prescribed a week of rest, during which time he will have to use crutches, but the Spaniard does not require surgery.

    With Espargaro carrying an injury and Quartararo having to serve a long-lap penalty, Francesco Bagnaia took the victory at Silverstone for the second race in a row to boost his title hopes.

    The MotoGP season continues from August 19-21 in Austria.

    A great launch from @FabioQ20 saw Maverick squeezed into a gap that was closing quickly! #BritishGP ?? pic.twitter.com/i9kiaQHJ3o

    — MotoGP (@MotoGP) August 7, 2022
  • Hamilton: 'Worst fears came alive' in controversial Abu Dhabi title controversy Hamilton: 'Worst fears came alive' in controversial Abu Dhabi title controversy

    Lewis Hamilton has opened up on his emotions following the controversial end to the 2021 Formula One season, admitting his "worst fears came alive" in Abu Dhabi.

    The Mercedes driver was at the tail-end of a fierce battle with Red Bull's Max Verstappen for the championship in last year's finale, knowing a record eighth world title would be clinched if he finished ahead of his rival.

    On lap 53, Hamilton led but drama would soon erupt as Williams' Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barrier at the exit of turn 14 and the safety car was deployed.

    Under FIA guidelines, lapped cars are allowed to overtake behind the safety car but that guidance was not followed by race director Michael Masi, who instead only allowed the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to move through.

    Verstappen, having pitted, then completed an overtake of a defenceless Hamilton at the restart to clinch his maiden title.

    The controversy that followed rumbled on for months, with Masi departing his role prior to the start of the 2022 season, and Hamilton has now spoken about his feelings regarding the incident.

    "You see things start to unfold and my worst fears came alive," he told Vanity Fair.

    "I was like, there's no way they're going to cheat me out of this. There's no way. That won't happen. Surely not.

    "I don't know if I can really put into words the feeling that I had. I do remember just sitting there just in disbelief. 

    "And realizing I've got to undo my belts, I've got to get out of there, I've got to climb out of this thing, I've got to find the strength. I had no strength.  And it was one of the toughest moments, I would say, that I've had in a long, long time.

    "I knew what had happened. I knew what decisions had been made and why. Yes, I knew that something wasn't right."

    Ahead of the 2022 season, questions were raised whether Hamilton would return to the grid, and he admits that he considered retirement.

    "I, for sure, considered whether I wanted to continue," he confirmed.

    Hamilton did return, racing alongside new teammate George Russell, but has not been able to compete for the crown, instead encountering numerous issues with Mercedes unable to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari at the start of the season.

    Better fortune was found ahead of F1's summer break, with back-to-back podium finishes for both drivers, but Hamilton remains 112 points adrift of Verstappen in the standings.

  • Zarco 'surprised' by Silverstone crash as he misses out on first win Zarco 'surprised' by Silverstone crash as he misses out on first win

    Johann Zarco was "surprised" by his crash at Silverstone that denied him the chance to secure a first MotoGP victory.

    The Pramac Racing driver started the British Grand Prix on pole as the season resumed following a five-week break and was able to maintain his lead in the early laps of the race.

    A crash at turn eight on lap five ended that charge, however, with Zarco initially continuing but later returning to the pits and retiring from the race.

    It was the eighth time in the premier class that Zarco has failed to turn pole position into a victory, and he felt his tyres were the reason why he missed out again.

    "The warm temperature pushed me to take this medium front – that was a good tyre anyway because Pecco [Francesco Bagnaia] won on it, but it seemed for me, it was the reason of the crash, because there’s always a bit less grip with this tyre," he said.

    "But I was too worried to go with the soft one and not finish the race on a good pace, overall. The medium one, I knew it pretty well, so that's why I was quite confident, and the first laps were pretty good.

    "But I was surprised in that Turn 8. And clearly I'm disappointed, and it's pretty hard to put all the things together to put the victory."

    Zarco's failure to finish saw him drop to fifth in the championship standings, now sitting 66 points behind leader Fabio Quartararo - with Sunday's race at Silverstone being a missed opportunity to close the gap, as the Monster Energy Yamaha rider only finished eighth after having to serve an early long-lap penalty.

    The championship standings do not paint a pretty picture for the Frenchman, but he believes further opportunities will arise.

    "I hope I will be in good form again in Austria, because what I could feel during this weekend and even during the race helped me to grow on the Ducati and get even more feeling as I want," he added.

    "So, yeah, the most positive of today is this feeling that I could take during the race, and understand even more this tyre that sometimes seems a tricky choice, because for nothing you can be hero or zero."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.