Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc secured his first podium of the season at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, finishing behind the untouchable Red Bulls, with Sergio Perez taking the chequered flag.
The streets of Baku hosted the first Sprint Race of the weekend on Saturday. That meant two qualifying sessions, both of which were won by Leclerc, who over one lap is unpeered around the tight streets of the Azerbaijani Capital.
However, over the course of the race, there is no resisting the speed of the Red Bulls who dispatched the Monégasque with relative ease in Saturday’s sprint race, as well as Sunday’s main event.
Leclerc finished second in Saturday’s revamped sprint, which no longer has any bearing on Sunday’s grid. Perez took the chequered flag, but Verstappen was unable to catch Leclerc in second, having sustained damage on the opening lap.
Both Red Bulls would get the better of the Monégasque on Sunday. Despite holding the lead into the first corner, Leclerc was quickly down in third.
Sergio Perez uncatchable
A timely safety car worked to the detriment of championship leader Verstappen, who ceded his place to Leclerc in the pitstop phase. But the tactical hiccup was inconsequential with Verstappen retaking second position.
Leclerc went on to lead a lonely race. No one could catch him, but nor could he catch the runaway Red Bulls. Verstappen attempted to catch his teammate, but the Mexcian maintained his slender advantage, preventing the Dutchman from getting within DRS range.
Perez, therefore, gets within six points of Verstappen at the top of the championship standings, whilst Leclerc rises to sixth, level on points with George Russell.
Leclerc can certainly take positives, notably the Ferrari’s pace over one lap, but the Red Bull is unrivalled. “The Red Bulls were once again in another world,” said Leclerc.
“It was impossible for me to keep up with them in the race; we don’t have the same rhythm. The feeling is better, but when I see the gap to them, I tell myself that there is still a lot of work ahead of us,” added the Monégasque.
Red Bull have won all four of this season’s races (two Perez wins, two Verstappen wins), but Leclerc can be comforted with his first podium. Ferrari will be hoping to further close the gap to the Red Bull at next weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.
Photo from Scuderia Ferrari Press Centre