Sergio Perez doubled in Baku by winning the drama-filled Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen to bolster his championship bid. From the start, Verstappen and Perez passed pole sitter Leclerc and continued to trade fastest lap times at the front of the pack. The turning point in the race came when a safety car was deployed either side of the Red Bull drivers’ pit stops. Verstappen made his pit stop under yellow flags which were raised when Nyck de Vries stopped on the track, and Perez followed suit under a safety car, clearing his teammate and returning to action in the lead .
The race win meant Sergio Perez was the first driver to win more than one race at the iconic Baku City Circuit. Before him, the Azerbaijan GP had five different winners, including Perez himself. Two of the other four were Red Bull Racing drivers in Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and the other two were the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas.
The 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Verstappen dropped to third, forcing him past Leclerc once again. While it was just a formality when the race restarted, he couldn’t pass Perez on the home stretch and was forced to settle for second place. The double champion’s podium streak in 2023 came to an end as Leclerc held off Fernando Alonso’s late charge to take third place. However, fourth place represented yet another significant points tally for the Aston Martin driver.
Read more – Essential result: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc reacts to the first pole of the 2023 season in Baku
After a tight pit call early on, Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and George Russell’s Silver Arrow took some points, and Carlos Sainz finished fifth in the other Ferrari while fending off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. While extending their first stints on hard tyres, Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg exited pit lane to occupy paying positions for most of the race. However, their late mandatory pit stops meant they were betting on further Safety Car drama which never materialized. McLaren’s Lando Norris gained ground on Hulkenberg late in the race and gained another position when Ocon pitted. Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10 to help AlphaTauri salvage a win.
Outside the spikes
The finalists were Ocon, Logan Sargeant, Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas, the latter of whom made three pit lane trips due to tire issues. Oscar Piastri, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly all narrowly missed out on points as they completed a tight midfield group. Zhou Guanyu, an Alfa Romeo teammate with Bottas, retired late in the race due to an unidentified technical issue, and De Vries was the other driver to retire after his early-race collision with the wall at turn 5 which resulted in terminal damage.
Perez cuts Verstappen’s championship lead to single digits ahead of the next round of the season in Miami, which comes a week later, with back-to-back wins in Baku adding to his 2021 Grand Prix win there. If Russell hadn’t made a last-minute pit stop and put on soft tires to earn the bonus point for fastest lap, Perez, who also won the Driver of the Day award, might have earned more than land in the classification.
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