Max Verstappen was told by his Red Bull engineers to slow down moments before securing victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Verstappen set the fastest first sector on the penultimate lap of the race in a bid to snatch Perez’s fastest lap.
However, race engineer Gianpiero Lambiasi told Verstappen to abandon attempts at securing the extra point. After setting the fastest first sector, Lambiasi told Verstappen over team radio: “We can just bring this home, Max, no need to push.”
Verstappen then set a personal best in the second sector, promoting Lambiasi to remind the Dutchman to slow down again. He explained: “Hey Max, bring it home
Verstappen finally accepted the calls on the final lap, reporting that he was “taking it easy”.
Fastest lap points were seen as crucial last season in the ferocious battle with Lewis Hamilton for the world championship. However, Red Bull was likely extra careful with Verstappen to ensure they won the race and capitalised in the championship after a Ferrari double DNF.
Carlos Sainz pulled off the track with a mechanical failure in the opening stages of the race, just a handful of laps before Charles Leclerc’s car went up in plumes of smoke. The Monegasque’s retirement ensured Red Bull went unchallenged until the end of the race and saw them claim another one-two finish.
The win moves Verstappen 34 points ahead of Leclerc in the drivers’ standings while Red Bull now sit 80 points ahead of Ferrari in the constructors. Verstappen suffered a nightmare blowout in the closing stages of last year’s race, throwing away 15 points.
After the race, Christian Horner said the team’s priority was to “capitalise on the events” that happened within the Grand Prix. He also said the team had asked both drivers to race “cleanly and fairly” to ensure a strong result.
He said: “We managed to capitalise on the events within the race with both drivers driving fantastically. We asked them to race each other cleanly and fairly and that’s what they did.
“They’re doing a great job for the team and we’re very proud of what the whole team has achieved today.”
Verstappen has been known to hit out in rage over his team radio this season when things have not gone his way. After a bad strategy call in Bahrain, Verstappen said he was “never” taking it easy on the out lap again.
He then swore repeatedly at race engineers after suffering DRS issues in Spain, complaining the team “can’t even make a DRS that works”.