Formula 1 Championship 2022: Moments that defined Azerbaijan Grand Prix

By Team NewsableFirst Published Jun 13, 2022, 9:58 AM IST

The F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2022 happened to be unique following Ferrari's retirement from the race. Meanwhile, there were still moments that defined the race as we take a look.

By Dev Tyagi

The 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a race where, although Ferrari didn't shoot themselves in the foot, whether through executing a poor strategy or finding new reasons to dull an exciting, winnable race, the Italian team still ended up as the biggest loser on the grid. On a day marked with several notable race retirements, all interestingly but sadly belonging to Ferrari-powered cars, there was so much despair for the trinity of Sainz, Leclerc and Binotto. At the same time, wide-eyed celebrations befitted describing the Red Bull camp.

Contrasting scenes, mixed fortunes and ultimately, triumphant results dominated a show at Baku that, given the track's history, stayed true to its surprising nature; the 2022 race winner was, once again, not a driver who had won at the same venue before. On a day where everything worked out just about right for Max Verstappen, the championship contender and the pretender to the throne, there was nothing quite right for Ferrari, a team one expected to dominate the proceedings.

Perez fought on, as did Russell and Gasly, as Baku unfurled yet another belter of a contest where there was much joy for some but despair for so many. But which moments marked the 2022 Azerbaijan GP as a memorable contest?

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Lewis fights, shows might
The only thing common, if it could be said, between Lewis Hamilton in 2022 and his best result at Baku is that the number of podiums he's got at the venue is precisely equal to the podiums he's bagged this year. And that happens to be one. Not a lot changed this time for the driver, whose only victory at the said venue came in 2018. But Hamilton, despite the Mercedes car troubles and the evident porpoising, which has been such a complex aerodynamic issue to counter, claimed a fourth at Azerbaijan.

And, truth be known, that was a terrific result for a driver who's had to muscle his way through a tight midfield for the better part of this season. Hamilton's definitive moment of the GP came at the midway stage of the contest, wherein he brisked past the waning Alpine of Esteban Ocon to move up into an even better position than he had started from. The Mercedes driver, who collected twelve solid points from the race, had been coming hard at Ocon right from lap 14.

A dagger through the heart of Ferrari
How many podiums does it take to make it a memorable day for a team in a race? Two, at best, right? But, how many race retirements does it take for a team to be left gutted in a race? Maybe, more than two, and how's that?

Well, when both the drivers belonging to the same marquee team race-retire and, in addition, the team's suppliers also end up registering a DNF, what else can that mean? On a day where nothing went right for Ferrari, with both Leclerc and Sainz ending their contest on lap 22 and 9, respectively, it seemed as though trouble just came looking for the Italian stable and would not budge.

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With the Ferrari-powered Haas of Kevin Magnussen retiring, but not before the Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo of F1 newcomer Zhou Gunayu meeting the same fate, Baku, it suffices to say, was a forgettable event for Ferrari. A date riddled with disappointment, a GP that had nothing grand about it or better yet, a run-in with disaster; there were countless adjectives for the team whose lead driver was running in the lead of the race before he had to bail out of the contest for a minor fault of his own.

More terribly, Leclerc, who entered Baku with only a nine-point deficit to the table-topping Verstappen, remains stranded on 116 points on third, while Perez has moved up into second. Moreover, the Monegasque and the flying Dutchman gap is now 34 points. How and when will Ferrari close the gap and retake a position of authority on the grid is a question none have answers to. Yet, at the same time, it is something that'll likely haunt fans that love red for days to come.


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Vettel, no turtle on the grid!
A four-time world champion, a former Ferrari driver, and a driving ace. An icon of Germany admired the world over. The adjectives surrounding one of the most accomplished drivers of the grid don't seem to end. And, proving why he is so rated, Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel drove home his best race result of the season, given his P6.

Having begun the 51-lap contest right ahead of Fernando Alonso, Vettel drove fast and handsomely to move up from a ninth-place start on the grid and was soon battling Esteban Ocon for on-track ascendency. Even as Ocon, who, despite not pitting, put up a great fight, it wasn't enough to deny the experienced Vettel as the German darted ahead in a closely fought scrap for P8.

It was a battle that began to take great shape from the onset of lap 24 and would, by the completion of lap 26, see the German ahead, having passed the Alpine right after the main straight. Vettel, also in the process, denied Fernando Alonso any chances whatsoever of passing his AMR 22. Not too bad for a driver considered past his best in this current chapter of Formula 1, right?

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George Russell's continued excellence for Mercedes
For a team that used to dominate the proceedings in Formula 1 much like a lion dictating terms in the wild, 2022 has receded Mercedes into being a frail shadow of its former self. The porpoising complexities notwithstanding, the Woking-based outfit hasn't quite been able to command anything substantial this season for one to make a considerable note of.

Yet, one man has been keeping up the fight for a team whose best days perhaps belong to the past: George Russell. In picking his third podium of the ongoing championship and hence, a fourth for Mercedes (given Lewis's podium at the start of 2022), George Russell applied a healing balm of sorts to the wailing fortunes of his side.

His P3 was a fantastic result, one that saw the King's Lynn-born driver compete like a king as he'd go two places further up on the grid, having begun the contest from fifth. In the process of denying a fast-catching Pierre Gasly any chance of latching onto a podium position, Russell again held his ground neatly and determinedly so, which is when he's still very much a newcomer to Mercedes.

For those who tout that exuberance always tends to fall flat when compared to experience, Russell's will to struggle out there for his Mercedes team does prove a point that one can succeed despite not having sufficient expertise. But then, for how much longer? Will some midfielder eventually find a way to get past the ebullient George Russell? We shall wait and see.

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Danny-Ric gets into the act finally
Daniel Ricciardo outscoring his teammate Lando Norris was one of the most underrated and under-appreciated moments of the just-concluded Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It was a significant result, particularly from Ricciardo's perspective since the under-fire Australian was desperately searching for a good performance, having collected woeful results such as his thirteenth at Monaco, the most recent GP before Baku, and the lowly twelfth at Spain.

But, in Azerbaijan, Ricciardo was on the go as soon as the lights went green. In the end, he collected a fighting P8, a result that saw a few lightning-fast overtakes, particularly on the Alpine of Esteban Ocon. Moreover, this was only the third time this season that the man nicknamed Honeybadger went on to outpace his own McLaren teammate for such has been the dominance of Lando Norris (P9 at Baku) all along.

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Last Updated Jun 13, 2022, 2:30 PM IST