Sergio Perez doubled in Baku by winning Sunday’s dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to bolster his bid for the championship. Early on, Verstappen and Perez passed polesitter Leclerc and continued to trade fastest lap times at the front of the field. The turning point of the race came when a safety car was deployed on either side of the Red Bull drivers’ pit stops. Verstappen made his pit stop under yellow flags raised as Nyck de Vries pulled up on track and Perez followed under a safety car, clearing his team-mate and rejoining the race in the lead.
The race victory meant that Sergio Perez became the first driver ever to win more than one race at the legendary Baku City Circuit. Before him, the Azerbaijan GP had five different winners, including Perez himself. Two of the remaining four were Red Bull Racing drivers in Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and the other two were Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas.
The 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Verstappen dropped to third place, forcing him to pass Leclerc again. While that was a formality when the race restarted, he was unable to overtake Perez on the final straight and had to settle for second place. The two-time champion’s 2023 podium streak came to an end as Leclerc fended off Fernando Alonso’s late attack for third. For the Aston Martin driver, fourth place still meant another considerable sum of points.
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After a close decision in the pits early on, Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and George Russell’s Silver Arrow picked up some points and Carlos Sainz was fifth in the other Ferrari while holding off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. While extending their initial stints on hard tyres, Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg emerged from the pit lane to take points-paying positions for most of the race. However, their late mandatory pit stops meant they banked on additional safety car drama that never materialised. McLaren’s Lando Norris made up ground on Hulkenberg late in the race, gaining another position when Ocon pitted. Yuki Tsunoda completed the top 10 to help AlphaTauri salvage a win.
Outside the points
The last finishers were Ocon, Logan Sargeant, Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas, with the latter making three trips into the pit lane due to tire problems. Oscar Piastri, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly all narrowly missed out on points as they completed a tight midfield. Zhou Guanyu, an Alfa Romeo teammate with Bottas, retired late in the race with an unidentified technical issue and De Vries was the other driver after his early collision with the wall at Turn 5 leading to a terminal , eliminated damage.
Perez cuts Verstappen’s championship lead to single digits and moves into the next round of the season in a week’s time in Miami, with back-to-back victories in Baku adding to his 2021 Grand Prix win at the venue. If Russell hadn’t pitted at the last minute and put on a set of soft tires to earn the fastest lap bonus point, Perez, who also became Driver of the Day, might have gained more ground in the standings.
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