Formula 2 have expressed its disappointment at a decision from Hitech Grand Prix to allow Juri Vips to retain his seat for the remainder of the season.

The Estonian was axed by Red Bull following an investigation into alleged racist language used during an online gaming session, stripping him of his reserve driver status and a spot in the team's young driver programme.

However, Vips will retain his seat with Hitech Grand Prix ahead of this weekend's race at Silverstone with team principal Oliver Oakes stating he would give the 21-year-old a "chance to redeem himself".

"I have made the decision for Juri to keep his F2 seat with Hitech for the remainder of the season, a decision we have seriously debated," he said.

"Allowing him to complete his season with Hitech is an opportunity for him to demonstrate, through his actions, the type of person he is. 

"I have made it clear that I think the language used was totally unacceptable, but I choose to give him the chance to redeem himself.

"Hitech GP employs an inclusive workforce and has never condoned racism or offensive behaviour in any forms. 

"That said, if we live in a society where no one can make a mistake, then genuinely apologise, have the chance for redemption and learn from it – what does it say about society?"

The decision resulted in disappointment from F2, which admitted it was not a course of action it would have taken.

"Following the recent incident involving Juri Vips, F2 would like to reaffirm that the use of racist or discriminatory language cannot be tolerated in any environment," it said.

"Hitech Grand Prix's decision today is surprising and not one we would have taken. We will monitor the situation carefully with them to ensure that such behaviour is properly addressed."

Charles Leclerc is confident Ferrari will be fighting for the win at Silverstone – as long as the team can avoid any further reliability woes.

Power unit issues have led to recent retirements in Spain and Azerbaijan, the last of which resulted in a back-of-the-grid start for the Canadian Grand Prix after taking a third unit of the season.

Those troubles, accompanied by a wrong strategy call in Monaco, have seen Max Verstappen and Red Bull take a commanding lead in both championships – with the defending champion winning four of the past five races.

Ferrari's potential is undeniable, with six pole positions out of nine, but only two have resulted in race wins and the last came in Australia almost three months ago.

In his career overall, Leclerc's 15 poles have returned just four wins for a 27 per cent winning percentage – the second lowest in F1 history among drivers who have won at least one race, behind only Jarno Trulli (25 per cent, one win from four pole positions). 

Despite a 49-point deficit in the driver's championship, third-placed Leclerc remains upbeat and believes reliability will be an issue for all teams to contend with this season.

"No, I'm not worried. I mean, it's a big gap but, but I'm just focusing on the job, and I'm confident that we can take that back," he told Motorsport.

"I think reliability seems to be a concern for everyone this season. And yeah, if we fix our reliability, the performance is there to come back. So already from Silverstone we'll try to get a few points back.

"I really like Silverstone. And hopefully we will be competitive enough to be starting on pole and finally win from pole."

Mercedes' hunting ground

Eight of the past nine British GPs have been won by Mercedes, with the only exception being Sebastian Vettel with Ferrari in 2018, and improvements shown in Canada will provide encouragement for the Silver Arrows.

Lewis Hamilton's second podium finish of the season in third was the highlight in Montreal, but George Russell's consistency continues to stand out, with the British driver finishing in the top five in all nine races in 2022.

A win for Hamilton would be the ninth of his career at Silverstone, setting a new record for the most wins in a single GP – overtaking his eight victories in Hungary and Michael Schumacher's eight wins in France.

Driver market

Away from the track itself, the F1 driver market is starting to heat up as teams outline their plans for the 2023 season, and there are a number on the grid who could be under threat of losing their seats.

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are both out of contract at the end of the season – although each could still extend – while Daniel Ricciardo has work to do to impress McLaren to retain his seat despite being tied down for a further year.

Nicholas Latifi at Williams and Mick Schumacher at Haas are also under pressure, with F2 champion and Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri expected to get a chance in 2023. Antonio Giovinazzi has been touted for a return to the grid, too.

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 175
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 129
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 126
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 111
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 102

Constructors

1. Red Bull 304
2. Ferrari 228
3. Mercedes 188
4. McLaren 65
5. Alpine 57

Red Bull have terminated the contract of their test and reserve driver Juri Vips after he allegedly used racist language during an online gaming stream.

The Estonian, who races in Formula 2 for Hitech Grand Prix, was suspended last week following  incident broadcast live on Twitch.

On Tuesday, Red Bull announced that the 21-year-old had been sacked.

A statement from the Formula One team read: "Following its investigation into an online incident involving Juri Vips, Oracle Red Bull Racing has terminated Juri's contract as its test and reserve driver.

"The team do not condone any form of racism."

Vips is highly rated within the young driver ranks and was seen as a leading contender for a seat with AlphaTauri, but was leapfrogged in the pecking order by Yuki Tsunoda following a coronavirus-disrupted 2020 campaign.

He drove for Red Bull in the first practice session at last month's Spanish Grand Prix and was likely to get further opportunities this season due to F1 regulations that promote the use of young drivers.

The sacking of Vips follows condemnation from Formula One and Red Bull towards former driver Nelson Piquet, who allegedly used a racial slur towards Lewis Hamilton last year.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner fears that the Formula One title fight in 2022 could be "decided in law courts" due to global inflation and the season's budget cap. 

The 10 teams on the grid have an annual maximum spend of £119million for the 2022 season, but amid rising costs across the globe, some have pushed for an increase to be announced – including Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

Others, such as Aston Martin, disagree, resulting in a difficult situation for F1 officials on what approach to take, but Horner has continued his push for a budget increase, warning the title battle could be decided in the courts.

"The way you design your car is within your control. That is something that you, together with your group of designers, you create. You're in control of your own destiny," he told Sky Sports.

"What we're seeing in the world at the moment, we're not in control of the inflationary costs that are affecting households around the world. In the UK, we're seeing predicted inflation at 11 per cent.

"That's a direct effect on staff, on raw materials, on electricity, on commodities, on supplied parts. I think it genuinely is a force majeure situation that the FIA need to deal with.

 

"There's probably about 50 per cent of the teams who are going to breach the cap at the end of the year if it continues the way things are. Probably even more.

"We don't want a championship decided in law courts, or in Paris in front of the FIA. We've got six months of the year to address this, we need to act now."

Horner also warned that failure to address the issue could result in the loss of hundreds of jobs within Formula One, while it may also lead to the budget cap being scrapped further down the line.

"I think the top teams would have to get rid of circa two, three hundred people each, to get anywhere near addressing it. Is that right?" He added.

"The problem is if the cost cap fails badly, it'll be gone forever.

"We need to find a solution to this issue. Nobody could have predicted this. We lowered the cost cap by $35m during the pandemic, and nobody could have predicted the issues that we've got."

Red Bull currently lead both championships, with Max Verstappen ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez by 46 points in the drivers' championship, while Red Bull holds a 76-point lead over Ferrari in the constructors' championship.

The FIA allowing Formula One constructors to utilise a second floor stay to combat porpoising is "overtly biased" to one team, according to Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who appeared to reference Mercedes.

Mercedes have struggled throughout the season with porpoising – otherwise known as bouncing unevenly – and are third in the constructors' standings, 116 points behind leaders Red Bull.

Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion and Mercedes star, suffered serious discomfort and back injuries with the W13 car at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Briton was subsequently fit to compete at the Canadian Grand Prix, where he and team-mate George Russell took third and fourth respectively in an improved Mercedes performance.

Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff both suggested after the race in Montreal that improvements were slowly being made to the car.

However, Horner was enraged by the FIA's short-term technical directive to allow the implementation of the second stay in cars to help stiffen their floor, with Mercedes the only team to attempt to do so.

"What was particularly disappointing was the second stay because that has to be discussed in a technical forum," Horner said.

"And that is overtly biased to sorting one team’s problems out, which were the only team that turned up here with it even in advance of the technical directive, so work that one out."

Russell has been one of the more vocal in calling for changes to counteract porpoising, while Hamilton's well-documented injury issues in Baku furthered his reason for concern with the W13 model.

But Horner assures Red Bull have had no similar problems, and thus it is an issue that Mercedes must fix themselves, without the FIA offering short-term technical directives.

"The issue with Mercedes is more severe than any other car," Horner added. "That surely is down to the team, that's within their control to deal with that.

"It's not affecting others. I know they've said that other drivers have been complaining, our drivers have never complained ever about porpoising. Certainly, we haven't had an issue with bouncing."

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer declared on Saturday that any team who ran the stay in qualifying and the race could be protested against, with the rules not matching the technical directive.

Horner agreed with Szafnauer as he lamented the FIA for their technical directive change.

"You can't just suddenly change technical regulations halfway through a season," the Red Bull chief continued. "If a car is dangerous, a team shouldn't field it. It has that choice.

"Or the FIA if they feel an individual car is dangerous they always have a black flag at their disposal."

Carlos Sainz is optimistic his first Ferrari win could be just around the corner after pushing Max Verstappen close to the limit in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Defending Formula One drivers' champion Verstappen defended expertly to keep Sainz at bay over the closing laps in Montreal, sealing a sixth win of his season and extending his championship lead to 46 points.

Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who abandoned Sunday's race in its early stages, sits second, while Sainz is fifth but producing strong results every time he finishes.

The Spaniard has had three DNFs, twice crashing out, but he has had five podiums and a fourth place in the other six races to date.

For the 27-year-old, however, the wait for a first Formula One race victory goes on.

Formerly of Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren, he has been a staple of the top 10 in recent seasons, without yet scaling the top step.

He said of Sunday's race: "I was pushing flat out. I wasn't leaving any inch to the walls. I was pushing everything with the battery.

"I tried everything to pass Max, but today we just didn't have enough pace to get close enough in the hairpin to then get him a bit out of line into the chicane.

"But the positive thing is we were quicker, we were faster all race, we just [needed] that little bit more to overtake around here.

"I'm particularly happy with the race pace, with the way we managed to put pressure on Max during the whole race, and the timing of the pit stops I think was right."

Team-mate Charles Leclerc, third in the championship, has won twice already this season. He surged from a back-row start to earn fifth place in Canada.

Silverstone and the British Grand Prix is next on the calendar, with Sainz seeing grounds for Ferrari optimism.

He said: "Honestly, we tried everything, and we were very, very close to winning today, so I take the positives and keep trying in the next one."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has hailed Max Verstappen for being in the "form of his life" after he extended his lead at the top of the drivers' championship.

Verstappen started on pole at the Canadian Grand Prix and ultimately held off Carlos Sainz to claim his sixth win of the season and mark Red Bull's best start to a Formula One season.

Sainz remained within DRS range for the final 10 laps of the race but was unable to make the move stick, with Verstappen holding firm.

Red Bull have now won seven of the nine races so far this season to put themselves 76 points ahead of Ferrari in the constructor's championship.

In the drivers' standings, the win gives Verstappen a 46-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez, whose race ended prematurely, and Horner believes the reigning world champion is showing the best level of performance so far in his career.

"It wasn't very comfortable at all in those last 10 laps or so because Max just couldn't break the DRS and the Ferrari was very quick in the straight line today," Horner told Sky Sports.

"They could attack the kerbs and stay close but there wasn't a single mistake. We lost communication with the car, it was only one-way traffic where he could hear us but we couldn't hear him.

"All credit to Carlos today, he pushed him really hard. The strategy wasn't clear because we went for that early stop, we felt that was the best route to the end of the race, and then Sainz got a free stop too which set it up nicely for the end of the race. It was super tight.

"We've just got to take each race at time. We've put a great run together and it's great to be heading to Silverstone leading both championships. Max is in the form of his life and doing a great job."

Despite the late surge from Sainz putting Verstappen under pressure, the Dutchman felt it was a "fun" finale.

"It was really exciting at the end – I was giving it everything I had and, of course, Carlos was doing the same," he said.

"I could see he was pushing and charging, but when you're on the DRS it's a lot easier to charge. The last few laps were a lot of fun.

"Luckily, this year, we seem really quick on the straights so that helps a lot."

Max Verstappen showed dogged resistance to secure victory in the Canadian Grand Prix after holding off Carlos Sainz, as Lewis Hamilton returned to the podium.

After the ninth leg of the 22-race season, Verstappen's lead in the Formula One drivers' championship stands at 46 points, and that is because his Red Bull team-mate and closest rival in the championship Sergio Perez was an early casualty in Montreal.

Sainz, in the Ferrari, clung tight behind Verstappen over the closing laps after a lengthy safety car delay but could not quite forge an overtaking opportunity.

That meant Verstappen's 150th grand prix was a triumphant one, as Sainz was kept waiting for his first F1 victory.

Hamilton had not finished on the podium since the season-opening race in Bahrain, a wait of seven races, so the Briton was delighted to get third, ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell. Hamilton said it was "quite overwhelming".

Perez, who crashed out in Q2 on Saturday, pulled over to the side of the track and abandoned the race on lap nine, seeming to lose power and complaining of being stuck in gear.

It was clear that Fernando Alonso, in the Alpine, would not be able to convert second place on the grid into a top-three finish as the two-time champion gradually drifted down the field.

Alonso did not pit until lap 29 and came back out on hard tyres in seventh place, behind team-mate Esteban Ocon and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc first went to the pits on the 42nd lap, but it was a painfully sluggish stop and left the man from Monte Carlo down in 12th place. It was a credit to him and his team that he was able to surge through the field and close in to just three points behind Perez in the championship.

Yuki Tsunoda crashed out on lap 49 and that forced the drivers to proceed behind the safety car for five laps, drawing the field tightly together.

Leclerc, who started on the back row of the grid after his car was fitted with an all-new power unit, jumped ahead of the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon to go fifth, while at the front, Verstappen fittingly showed the defence of a champion to fend off Sainz.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez conceded it was driver error that forced his crash in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix, which will see him start from a lowly 13th on Sunday's race in Montreal.

Perez, who sits second in the driver's standings behind team-mate Max Verstappen, put his Red Bull into the wall at turn three during Q2 on Saturday, forcing out the red flag and ending his hopes of a front-row finish.

Verstappen handled the wet conditions best, meanwhile, finishing almost seven tenths of a second quicker than Fernando Alonso, who qualified second in his Alpine.

After a disappointing qualifying finish, Perez claimed Sunday's race will be about damage limitation from his standpoint.

"I did a mistake from my side, so I'm very sorry for my team," Perez told Sky Sports F1 post-qualifying. "I let them down unfortunately, but I'm going to already be thinking on tomorrow, and hopefully I'm able to recover and get into strong points.

"I wasn't struggling with the brakes, I think they were on the cold side. I had a lock-up into turn 10 the lap before. I flat-spotted them, and it probably meant that I was a bit out of shape and going into turn three I just became a passenger. As soon as I touched the brake, it was a bit too much.

"It can be tricky and difficult, but it was just a mistake from my side. Tomorrow I will just try to minimise the damage and just attack from lap one onwards, and see where we end up."

On the other hand, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer cited driver quality as the reason Alonso was able to qualify in second amid tricky conditions.

Both Alpine cars progressed to Q3, with Esteban Ocon also finishing in seventh but he was out-qualified by nearly two seconds by Alonso, who was without fear in the wet.

"We've had good pace here all weekend," Szafnauer told Sky Sports F1. "We had decent pace in Baku too, so we keep working on the car, but Fernando's experience and skill shone through today, and put it on the front row.

"He's always been really, really good at adapting very quickly, so he's always on the pace very quickly. When you have changeable conditions, that ability to adapt quickly shines through."

Max Verstappen clinched pole position for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix and Fernando Alonso secured an unlikely spot on the front row in Montreal.

Alonso, who set the pace in the final practice session, claimed second place in tricky, wet conditions in Saturday's qualifying session.

That hands the 40-year-old Spaniard his first front-row start in Formula One since he won from pole position at the German Grand Prix just under 10 years ago.

The two-time world champion, racing for Alpine, was the recipient of a huge ovation from the crowd as he celebrated his supreme qualifying performance, clocking up a time of 1:21.944 behind championship leader Verstappen's 1:21.299.

"It feels great. It was an unbelievable weekend for us so far, we’ve been competitive in free practice – which we normally are on Friday but on Saturday we seem to lose a little bit of pace – but in wet conditions today the car was mega, I was so comfortable driving this car and I think the fans gave me a push," a jubilant Alonso said.

When asked what his approach will be on Sunday, Alonso quipped: "Let's see, I think I will attack Max on the first corner."

Verstappen's pole ended the day on a high note for Red Bull, with team-mate and fellow title contender Sergio Perez set to start in 13th place after crashing out in Q2.

In difficult conditions, the reigning world champion – who will be further buoyed by title rival Charles Leclerc having to start at the back on Sunday due to Ferrari changing his entire power unit – was delighted with the composure shown by his team.

"Of course I still expect it not to be a straightforward race, today with tricky conditions, we stayed calm and we made the right calls in Q3 so of course, super happy with that to get pole position here and to be back in Montreal and great to see all the fans," he said.

"You really get that go-karting sensation back on this track with proper curves. We always enjoy driving here and I’m looking forward to tomorrow."

Carlos Sainz looked poised to push Verstappen, but a mistake on the final corner cost the Ferrari driver, who will start third on the grid. An incident involving the Spaniard and Esteban Ocon was investigated, but the stewards decided no further action was required.

Sainz said: "I was feeling quite okay with the car, especially in the full wet. In that lap I knew I had lost a bit too much, I tried to do a very quick last corner but it didn't pay off and it cost me half a second. I ended up with three for that mistake. I think it's going to be a good fight with Max up front and Fernando has been fast all weekend."

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton – who did not hide his frustration with his car after struggling in practice on Friday – was lifted by claiming fourth.

Mercedes team-mate George Russell had to settle for eighth, however, after a decision to go on slicks in Q3 failed to pay off.

Ferrari's recent issues with reliability have put a major dent in their driver's and constructor's title hopes, but they will need to quickly bounce back at this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

It was a painful day for the Scuderia at the Azerbaijan GP on Sunday, with both cars retiring due to technical issues.

For Charles Leclerc, it was the second time in three races he was forced out because of a power unit problem while leading, and the fourth consecutive race where he failed to convert pole position into a race win.

Sergio Perez took full advantage in Baku, moving ahead of Leclerc in the driver's standings with his win, with Max Verstappen opening up a 34-point gap to the Ferrari driver.

With two retirements sandwiching Ferrari's strategic blunder at his home race in Monaco, the Monegasque moves to four wins from 15 pole positions, with only Jarno Trulli holding a lower conversion rate (25 per cent) among winning drivers in the history F1.

Meanwhile, only Michael Schumacher (+23) and Alain Prost (+18) have a higher differential between race wins and pole positions than Max Verstappen, who has claimed 25 and 14 respectively.

Verstappen will already be making his 150th GP appearance at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, looking for his sixth win of the season out of nine starts.

It would provide little solace to the 24-year-old but he has been in supreme form on the Saturday, claiming six poles out of eight this season, and could match his highest tally in a single season from 2019.

Pole position is not essential but it has proved to be convenient in recent years, with each of the past five winners in Montreal coming from the front of grid on the Saturday, the longest such streak in F1.

Since the opening race of the season in Bahrain, Ferrari remain one more one-two finish away from surpassing Mercedes for the most all-time in F1, with both on 82.

Ferrari customers facing similar strife

Problems have persisted for the factory team and Ferrari power unit customers since the first upgrade at the Miami Grand Prix, where Zhou Guanyu retired.

Both he and Leclerc then retired from the Spanish GP, after Valtteri Bottas was forced out of FP2 in the other Alfa Romeo due to an engine failure.

Both Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen experienced MGU-K failures in Monaco, before Leclerc, Magnussen and Zhou had power unit-related DNFs in Baku.

Red Bull in control

After rectifying their own reliability issues at the start of the season, Red Bull have picked up the pieces and are now in control of both championships.

Red Bull drivers have finished on the podium in 11 of their 13 finished races, securing the one-two in three of the last five Grands Prix and are one more from securing the highest tally in a single season.

The last time the team had six wins in the opening eight races of the season was when Sebastian Vettel coasted his way to the driver's title in 2011.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 150
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 129
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 116
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 99
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Red Bull 279
2. Ferrari 199
3. Mercedes 161
4. McLaren 65
5. Alpine 47

Max Verstappen accepts he was "a tiny bit lucky" after Charles Leclerc was forced to retire from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but the Red Bull driver was always confident of victory.

Leclerc once again failed to turn pole into victory in Baku due to a second engine-related retirement from the lead in the space of three grands prix.

He was passed into the first corner by Sergio Perez, who eventually finished second to team-mate Verstappen, and after doing well to recover his day soon got a whole lot worse.

Having dived into the pits under the virtual safety car after fellow Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz had retired with a hydraulics issue, Leclerc's engine failed on lap 20.

It was a procession for Red Bull from that point, with Verstappen leading Perez to a Red Bull one-two in the eighth race of the season, five of which the Dutchman has won.

Verstappen has 25 career wins to his name, meanwhile, and leads second-placed Perez in the 2022 drivers' standings by 21 points, with Leclerc 34 points back in third.

Reflecting on his latest triumph, coming on the same circuit where he himself retired when leading last season, Verstappen said: "We were a tiny bit lucky with what happened.

"But nonetheless our car was really quick, so I could have closed that gap, and then you have a race on your hands.

"You can never make up for what we lost last year, but we had incredible pace in the car and we could look after the tyres and chip away at it. Overall, I'm really happy with how the balance of the car was."

Verstappen has now claimed 66 podium finishes, breaking the record of Sebastian Vettel, who finished sixth for Aston Martin, for the most by a Red Bull driver.

With Perez finishing second, Red Bull are 80 points clear of closest challengers Ferrari in the constructors' standings with 14 race weekends remaining.

"To have a one-two as a team, it was a really good day for us," Verstappen added. "I don't know what clicked exactly – maybe tyre behaviour and general grip of the car? 

"That's what you need around here so you can look after your tyres."

Perez started strongly in the Azerbaijani capital and claimed a bonus point for setting the fastest lap, though he was ultimately unable to match Verstappen's pace.

The Mexican was instructed by his team not to fight against Verstappen for first place, a decision in which he accepts

"I think it was the right call by the team because at that time Max was a bit further ahead. It’s a good team result," he told Sky Sports.

"In this place anything can happen. At the end of the day we managed to do a one-two so it’s a great team result."

Despite climbing above Leclerc into second in the overall standings, Perez believes lessons can be learned ahead of next week's Canadian Grand Prix.

"Unfortunately we missed the virtual safety car stop," he said. "There was some miscommunication and in the end it was a bit too late. 

"We were a bit unlucky there because that would have made our race when we were leading.

"The degradation was extremely high on that medium tyre. It's something we have to understand because certainly Max was a lot stronger on that medium stint.

"There are a lot of things we have to review from today, but it was still a very good team result."

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes know they must "take a beating" in order to recover the lost ground they trail Red Bull and Ferrari by ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion will start seventh on the grid following another disappoint qualifying session in Baku, while team-mate George Russell will start in fifth.

Mercedes have remained dramatically off the pace of their rivals, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc sealing a fourth consecutive pole position in his title race with Max Verstappen.

Hamilton – who won on this track in 2018 – admitted he and his team are continuing to draw the same conclusions from their struggles, in what could be a bad omen for their prospects over the rest of the season.

"I'm not surprised [about the gap], I mean it was the same in Monaco," he told Sky Sports. "It was a really difficult qualifying session, we're constantly pushing.

"We have a very, very small window where we can work this car and everything we try doesn't give us what we want.

"So, we're making lots of changes, but we're always out with the same conclusion, which is most often bouncing, which loses us a lot of performance.

"All the performance is when you get the car low… so we said let's take a beating in our necks and backs to get the car as low as possible for the performance."

Russell, who is out to better his best-ever 15th-place finish at the circuit, posted in 2019, suggested improvements were harder to decipher from within the cockpit.

"The lap felt good, the car felt good but obviously it is pretty shocking when you cross the line and you are one and a bit seconds behind pole position," Russell said.

"We expect so much of ourselves and we are working so hard to bring more performance, but definitely this weekend has brought out the strengths and the weaknesses of all of us.

"To be honest, it truly is just not going fast enough.

"It feels ok from within, except when we are going down the straights because every single bump is the most rigid I have ever felt from any race car before.

"In the breaking zones, it is so bumpy down those straights and feels awful from within but through the corners itself the car feels good.

"So we know it isn't a balance thing getting the car in the right window with the set up, it is more we don't have the downforce and we are balancing a lot of limitations to try and get the downforce.

"We know there is a lot there but we don't know how to extract it."

Charles Leclerc is desperate to "finish the job" after surging to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

In Baku on Sunday, the Ferrari driver will start from the front of the grid for the fourth successive grand prix. 

Leclerc has failed to turn each of his previous three pole positions into a victory, something that has become a familiar story for the Monegasque. 

From his 14 pole positions in Formula One, he has managed just four victories (29 per cent) – only Jarno Trulli (25 per cent – one win from four poles) has a worse ratio among drivers to have topped the podium at least once. 

Leclerc is keen to avoid another disappointment and believes upgrades made by Ferrari can help him get over the line this time. 

"I just want to finish the job. The past two weekends I've already said that on the Saturday and it didn't happen on the Sunday," said Leclerc. 

"So, we need to make it… I mean, we don't need to make it work but it will be very nice if we make it work. Let's see how it goes in the first few laps, and then I will try to keep the lead.   

"I think since we have the new package, we've tried different things. And from my feeling it feels better in the race. But we still need to confirm it. But the feeling is there and it's good, so I'm optimistic." 

Verstappen qualified third for the second successive Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Last year he crashed out from the lead with three laps remaining, handing Sergio Perez the win. 

The reigning champion does not expect to make his move early but still believes he will be in with a good shot of a fourth victory in five races. 

"I think last year I started third here, so a lot of things happen. If you have good pace, I do think you can do something out there in the race," said Verstappen. 

"We'll just look through the data to optimise everything and make sure that the car is good on the tyres. 

"The run to Turn 1 is super short, so there's not a lot you can do there, but it's a long race. Baku has shown that a lot of things happen. We just need to stay calm and focus on having a good race car." 

Charles Leclerc stormed to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, surprising himself by getting the better of the Red Bulls.

Leclerc produced a sensational final lap in Baku to become the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2001 to record six pole positions in the first eight races of a season. 

He was almost three tenths of a second faster than Sergio Perez, who pipped team-mate Max Verstappen to a place on the front row. 

"It feels good. Obviously all poles feel good, but this one I did not expect because in Q1 and Q2 I really struggled to see that we could be faster," said Leclerc. 

"In the last lap everything came together and I managed to do good, so I'm extremely happy. 

"I'm really excited for [the race]. Tyre management is a big thing here. In Barcelona and Monaco we were managing it well but overall our race pace has gone a step up since we brought in the upgrades." 

Championship leader Verstappen was disappointed to miss out on a place on the front row but is confident Red Bull will be able to challenge for the win on Sunday. 

"I think the start was good, then it went away from me a little bit with tiny mistakes," said Verstappen. 

"It's not ideal but in general I was just struggling to find balance over one lap. It's not what I want but being second and third the team has a good opportunity. 

"We'll find out tomorrow, but we maybe seem to lack a bit of pace over one lap but in the long run we should be quite good." 

Perez, who experienced an issue in the garage in Q3, said: "On the first run of Q3 is when you go all out. I hit the wall a couple of times – luckily we managed to survive, which is the key here. 

"We had a problem with the engine at the end, we couldn't turn it on. We lost a few tenths, but I think Charles has done a very good job. 

"It's a very long race ahead, so we just have to make sure we are there. You can make a mistake at any point and that's it." 

Lewis Hamilton could only qualify seventh and was facing an investigation for driving unnecessarily slowly in Q2.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:41.359
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.282s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.347s
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.455s
5. George Russell (Mercedes) +1.353s
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.486s
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.565s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.697s
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.732s
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.814s

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