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Verstappen out to settle 'unfinished business' in Baku

09/06/22

The Dutchman wants to make up for a lost podium in 2021.

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 1® 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.

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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


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