Copy of 2022-06-12T124219Z_242485650_UP1EI6C0ZAHJC_RTRMADP_3_MOTOR-F1-AZERBAIJAN-1655038663773
Red Bull's Max Verstappen crosses the line to win the race. Image Credit: REUTERS

Baku: As Charles Leclerc’s Formula One title challenge falls apart, Max Verstappen is there to take advantage.

Verstappen extended his Formula One championship lead by winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix today after Leclerc retired from the lead with an engine failure.

Leclerc started from pole but immediately lost the lead to Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, in the first corner. The Ferrari driver regained the lead with a smart strategy call to pit under “virtual safety car” speed restrictions while the two Red Bull cars stayed out.

Leclerc seemed to poised to challenge for the win, but the Monaco driver’s car started spewing smoke on lap 20 of 51 and he had to pull into the pits. It was his second retirement in three races.

Verstappen had passed Perez shortly before Leclerc’s failure and the reigning F1 champion cruised to his fifth win of the season.

'Mature drive'

“Was that a good race or what?” Verstappen asked on his radio.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner replied that Verstappen had won with “a very mature drive.”

Red Bull went 1-2 in the race with Perez finishing second, while Mercedes was third and fourth with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari had a terrible day as both Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. failed to finish, as did the Ferrari-powered cars of Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen.

Verstappen leads the standings by 21 points over Perez, with Leclerc dropped to third and is 34 points behind Verstappen.