Red Bull’s Max Verstappen accepts that there was some fortune involved with his victory at Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but puts the success down to having a superior car to Ferrari.
Red Bull’s tyre management that they have shown throughout the season was always going to suit them well on race day in Azerbaijan, and it appeared that their speed over a long distance was generally better than Ferrari’s in the early going in Baku.
Sergio Perez took the lead from Charles Leclerc off the start, and Verstappen was right behind the Monegasque in the opening exchanges of the afternoon.
Carlos Sainz retired from fourth following a reliability failure, prompting Ferrari to pit Leclerc ahead of the Red Bulls, who stayed out.
The cheap stop meant that the 24-year-old was back in the lead after Verstappen and Perez stopped but the reigning champion, who passed his team-mate just before the stops, was closing on the Ferrari driver for the lead.
But he did not need to catch and pass the four-time race winner, because he suffered a smoky engine failure.
But Red Bull’s performance was imperious during the 51 laps in Baku, so Verstappen took victory having lost the win to a puncture in 2021.
“I mean you can never make up what you lost last year but I think today we can incredible pace in the car,” he said after the race.
“We could really look after the tyres and we could chip away at it, pass for the lead but then of course also maybe a tiny bit lucky of course with the retirements.
“But I think nevertheless our car was really quick today so I could have closed that gap, and then of course you have a race on your hands.
“But, overall really happy with the how the balance of the car was today.”
Perez came home to seal a one-two for the Austrian outfit, and the mechanical grip of the car, coupled with the overall pace, gives the team some tremendous momentum.
“I don’t know, just tyre behaviour together with just general grip of course of the car,” explained Verstappen.
“That’s what you need around here, then you can look after your tyres, so at the end to have a one-two as a team as well, really good day for us.”
Despite the race pace so far in 2022, the Dutchman is cautious to suggest that it will be superior again next weekend in Canada.
“Every weekend is a bit different,” added Verstappen.
“You really have to be precise and you really have to be on it with little things for the race management as well so it can swing around every single race weekend.”
Verstappen now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 21 points from second-placed Perez.