Max Verstappen enjoyed a fine Sunday out on the track in Baku, as he reclaimed his form to win by a crushing margin of 20 seconds over second placed team-mate Sergio Perez. The Dutchman qualified behind Perez for the second time in a row on Saturday, but a charging drive in the race ensured he won the race quite comfortably, claiming the win he would have got in Baku in 2021 were it not for a late tyre failure.
Speaking after the race, Verstappen’s main takeaway was how fast his Red Bull RB18 proved to be on race day in Baku, allowing him to control his tyre usage and pace accordingly, without losing ground to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez in the early stages of the grand prix:
“Pace was really good. At the start already it was very good, but I got boxed in so I couldn’t do anything, but then already after that you could see I was constantly in the DRS (range) of Charles (Leclerc). The pace was very good.
“I just had to look after my tyres initially, and then once I was in clean air, I could close up to Checo and pass him into turn one.
“From there onwards, of course, we were in a little bit of a different strategy window with the tyres compared to Ferrari – but obviously they had their issues – so from there onwards it was just free road for me. Overall, the pace was really strong today.“
Verstappen admitted he was helped somewhat by the failure of Leclerc’s Ferrari, but is confident he would have caught the Monegasque on track once their strategies fully played out.
“I think today we had an incredible pace in the car, we could really look after the tyres and we could chip away at it, pass for the lead,” he said. “But then, of course also, maybe a tiny bit lucky because with the retirement.
“But I think nevertheless, our car was really good today. So I could have closed that gap. Then of course you have a race on your hands.”
The reigning world champion is fully aware that his Red Bull team can’t be too complacent after seeing the Ferrari suffering from several issues - and is keen to work with his team to “make sure that we don’t retire again”, mentioning Red Bull’s early season reliability woes:
“It also has been the other way around, so you have to stay focused, keep on pushing and making sure that we don’t retire again.”
Ferrari’s implosion didn’t take away from the incredible race pace and tyre management of the Red Bull, and a 1-2 finish in the streets of Baku was down to those qualities, according to Verstappen – who is now the driver with the most podiums ever for Red Bull Racing, with 66 in total:
“Overall, yeah, really, really happy with how the balance of the car was today.
“And that's what you need around here, that you can look after your tyres. So at the end, to have a 1-2 as a team as well, it was a really good day for us,” he concluded.