Perez duped Verstappen at the race in Baku
Red Bull doesn’t give the Formula 1 competition a chance in Baku either. But Max Verstappen has to leave the victory to his teammate.
Baku. Sergio Perez let out a few shouts of happiness, Max Verstappen patronized his Baku defeat. “You can’t be perfect every time,” he said Formula 1 World Champion, after finishing second behind his Red Bull team-mate in Azerbaijan on Sunday. With his second win of the season, the Mexican Perez reduced his deficit in the World Championship to six points and increased the pressure on the champion.
Tactical error by Verstappen
“It just worked for me today,” said the 33-year-old after his second win in Baku. A somewhat premature tire change by Verstappen also helped the flawless Perez. “Sergio was lucky with the safety car. It’s still a long season,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner radioed to chief pilot Verstappen.
With just four races out of 23, Red Bull’s overwhelming dominance looks set to be an internal battle for the world title. Street circuit specialist Perez had already won the sprint on the Caspian Sea on Saturday.
First podium for Ferrari this season
Third place on Sunday went to vice world champion Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari – it was the first podium for the Scuderia in the fourth Grand Prix of the year. Nico Hülkenberg, who started from the pit lane, had to settle for 17th place in the Haas racing car after a courageous race for a long time.
Before this weekend, Verstappen didn’t just have good memories of Baku. Although he won for the first time last year, he retired in 2021 when he was in the lead due to a puncture. After the impact on the wall, he got out of his car, pissed off, and kicked the punctured tire in frustration. In 2018 he even collided with his then teammate Daniel Ricciardo – and the Grand Prix was over for both Red Bulls.
Perez also wins the sprint race
This time, too, things didn’t initially go according to plan. On the first weekend with a new format and two separate qualifications for the sprint and the main race, Verstappen was twice not the fastest in the hunt for a starting position. Leclerc took first place in each case, and then Perez won in the sprint on Saturday ahead of the Ferrari star. Verstappen had to settle for third place and complained about a tough skirmish with Mercedes driver George Russell.
“It’s not fun for me,” the champion fumed about the new weekend format, which is to be performed six times this year. “It’s not racing, it’s gambling like in the casino. It’s more for the show,” the 25-year-old explained his displeasure.
Superior Red Bull cars also in Baku
Verstappen started the Grand Prix on the 6.003-kilometer street circuit in second place behind Leclerc. After just three laps, however, the world champion passed Monegassen almost effortlessly thanks to the DRS overtaking aid. Leclerc didn’t stand a chance against Perez either, the Red Bulls have been thinking about it so far this season.
A defect in Nyck de Vries’ Alpha Tauri then caused a quick rearrangement at the top. The safety car rolled onto the track, Verstappen had just turned off to change tires. When the field had sorted itself out again, the world championship leader was only third behind Perez and Leclerc. Leclerc’s Ferrari was not a major obstacle for the Dutchman on the second attempt either. Verstappen’s colleague Perez was now leading the race.
The Red Bull duo quickly hurried away from the competition. Behind them, some close battles for positions developed. In the middle of it all, experienced Hülkenberg drove. Due to later modifications to his Haas, the Rhinelander was only allowed to start from the pit lane and was able to postpone his tire change until the final phase. After the early safety car phase, the 35-year-old clung to tenth place for a long time. In the end, however, Hulkenberg slipped far back.
Right at the front, Perez played off his art of steering on city routes. The Mexican has won most of his victories on courses like this. The 33-year-old from Guadalajara has also triumphed in Monaco, Singapore and Jeddah. Halfway through the race, he was more than two seconds ahead of Verstappen, who was complaining about balance problems in his company car.
With a series of fast laps, Perez confidently kept the defending champion at bay. So the only question left was who would end up doing the best lap of the day. The answer: George Russell raced to the extra point in the Mercedes thanks to a very late pit stop with fresh tires.
Sunday, April 30, 2023, 3:29 p.m
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