The reigning world champion overtook Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez - who was instructed not to fight Verstappen - for second place, before inheriting the lead when Leclerc’s engine conked out 20 laps in. 

Verstappen then cruised to a comfortable fifth victory of the season, and the 25th of his career, which has seen him move into a 21-point lead at the top of the championship over Perez. 

Leclerc’s second power-unit related retirement in three races means the Ferrari driver has now fallen 34 points behind Verstappen after eight races. 

George Russell secured his third podium of the season in third place, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who battled back pain in his bouncing Mercedes to fight his way into fourth after losing ground during an early pit stop. 

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly claimed a strong fifth place, ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso’s Alpine. 

Daniel Ricciardo beat McLaren teammate Lando Norris to eighth, while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon completed the points-paying positions in 10th. 

More reliability woe for Ferrari at Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Ferrari endured a nightmare race in Baku with their first double DNF of the season. 

Carlos Sainz dropped out of fourth place early on when his Ferrari switched off with an expected hydraulic issue, before Leclerc joined him on the sidelines after suffering a hammer blow to his title hopes. 

Leclerc’s hopes of taking third win of the season ended in dramatic fashion on the main straight when smoke was seen pouring out of the back of his Ferrari, forcing him into the pits and retirement. 

There was more reliability for Ferrari’s customer teams as Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen also stopped with technical issues.

With four of the six Ferrari-powered cars failing to see the chequered flag, there will be real concern at Maranello over the state of the Italian team’s reliability.

Red Bull use team orders again 

Verstappen was handed a helping hand by Red Bull en route to his win when Perez was told not to offer any resistance to his teammate. 

The Dutchman caught and easily passed Perez into Turn 1 to snatch second place on Lap 15 as Perez obeyed the order. 

After the race, Perez said the team order was correct given Verstappen’s pace advantage over him at that stage of the race, but it was a clear sign of who Red Bull is backing in the title race. 

Verstappen now finds himself 21 points clear of Perez, who has leapfrogged Leclerc into second place in the standings with 14 races to go.