UK: 18+ USA: 21+ | Begambleaware.org | T&Cs apply | Play Responsibly
The back-and-forth battle between the two Red Bull teammates continued in Baku. Sergio Perez led home Max Verstappen to win the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Final Standings: Who Won the Race?
Sergio Perez won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. After moving past the Ferrari driver on track, Perez benefited from an early Safety Car intervention to leapfrog his teammate in the pits. Leclerc briefly moved to second, but was demoted back to third after the restart. Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz completed the top 5. George Russell scored the single point for the fastest lap.
Verstappen and Perez Get Ahead of Leclerc
Unlike the Sprint race on Saturday, the Grand Prix got off to a tame start. Leclerc retained his lead, while no major incidents happened.
The Red Bulls kept the Ferrari within striking distance. And, as expected, Leclerc became a sitting duck once DRS was enabled. On the first lap with the overtake assist, Verstappen made short work of the Monegasque and moved into the lead into turn 1. Perez followed suit later, making it a 1-2 for the Austrian team.
Safety Car, Perez Jumps Verstappen in the Pits
Perez slowly began closing in on Verstappen, cutting the gap to this teammate to just under a second. At the same time, Verstappen started complaining about excessive wear, prompting an early pit stop on lap 9. And it proved to be a lucky call for Perez instead.
While the undercut seemingly had benefited the two-time champion, it all did a complete 180-turn when Nyck de Vries hit the inside wall through the turns 5-6 complex and stopped on track, retiring on the spot. It prompted a Safety Car intervention, giving Perez and Leclerc a free pit stop. Both drivers emerged ahead of Verstappen, dramatically changing the race.
Perez Retains the Lead, Verstappen Passes Leclerc
On the lap 14 restart, Perez successfully slowed the field down enough to get an early jump and deny Leclerc a slipstream. Verstappen, meanwhile, got a better restart than the Monegasque driver and moved back to second place under braking on turn 3. Fernando Alonso pulled off an aggressive move into turn 6 to overtake Carlos Sainz for fourth place.
Perez pulled away from Verstappen, crucially staying out of DRS range once the overtake assist became enabled on lap 17.
Further down the order, Hamilton started to climb up the order. Like Verstappen, the seven-time champion had pitted under green flag conditions, dropping down to tenth. The Mercedes driver climbed up to sixth, getting by Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon, George Russell and Lance Stroll.
Perez Drives Away, Scores Comfortable Win, Leclerc Holds Off Alonso for Third
As the race settled down, Perez slowly pulled away from his teammate, stretching the gap to over 3.5 seconds. The action settled down, with the two Red Bulls ahead of Leclerc and Alonso. Hamilton closed in on Sainz, but did not manage to overtake the Ferrari driver, as Mercedes once again lacked the straightline speed to pull off a move.
During the final laps, a frantic battle for the fastest lap began. Perez, Verstappen, Leclerc and Alonso exchanged hundreths until the final lap. But it was Russell who came out on top, snatching the fastest lap from Verstappen on the run to the checkered following a late stop for softs.
There was a late scare as late stopper Esteban Ocon, who had run all 50 laps on the hard compound, had to make the mandatory switch. Seemingly unaware of what was going on, race organizers were setting up the park ferme, forcing Ocon to take evasive action entering the pit lane.
Perez crossed the line 2.137s ahead of his teammate. With this, Perez cuts the championship lead down to eight points. Leclerc held off Alonso by just over eight tenths for his and Ferrari’s first podium of the season, ending Alonso’s three-race streak.
F1 returns to action next Sunday in Miami for the first of three visits to the US in 2023.
Subscribe to Punditfeed on Google News for all the latest updates from the world of sports!