Sergio Perez doubled up on the streets of Baku by adding to his Sprint race triumph with victory in Sunday’s drama-filled Azerbaijan Grand Prix, leading Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc home to boost his title push.
Verstappen and Perez overhauled pole-sitter Leclerc in the early stages and proceeded to trade fastest lap times at the head of the field, with the defining moment of the race coming when a Safety Car was deployed either side of the Red Bull drivers pitting.
With Verstappen pitting under yellow flags brought out when Nyck de Vries stopped on track, and Perez coming in under a Safety Car that followed, the Mexican cleared his team mate and rejoined the action in the lead.
Verstappen fell to third, meaning he had to overtake Leclerc for a second time. While that was a formality when the race resumed, he could not make inroads on Perez during the run to the checkered flag and had to settle for second.
Leclerc held off a late charge from Fernando Alonso to take third, meaning the two-time champion’s 2023 podium run came to an end – though fourth still represented another strong haul of points for the Aston Martin driver.
Carlos Sainz crossed the line fifth in the other Ferrari, fending off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in the closing stages, with the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll and Silver Arrow of George Russell picking up minor points after a close call in the pits early on.
Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg rose from the pit lane to hold points-paying positions for much of the race, as they extended their first stints on hard tyres, but late mandatory pit stops meant they were banking on more Safety Car drama that never arrived.
McLaren’s Lando Norris moved into the points with a late move on Hulkenberg, before gaining another spot when Ocon pitted, while Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10 to salvage a result for AlphaTauri.
Oscar Piastri, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly all narrowly missed out on points as they completed a close midfield pack, ahead of final finishers Ocon, Logan Sargeant, Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas – the latter making three trips to the pit lane amid tyre woes.
Bottas’ Alfa Romeo team mate, Zhou Guanyu, pulled into the pits late on with an unspecified technical issue, with De Vries the other retirement after his aforementioned visit to the wall at Turn 5 in the early stages, which caused terminal damage.
With back-to-back Baku wins, which add to his 2021 Grand Prix victory at the venue, Perez cuts Verstappen’s championship lead to single figures heading to the next round of the season in Miami, which follows in a week’s time.
Perez, who also took home the Driver of the Day award, could have made up further ground in the drivers’ standings had it not been for a late stop from Russell, who bolted on a set of softs to grab the fastest lap bonus point.
See the full story:
See all of the latest from Azerbaijan:
Photo's: Oracle Red Bull Racing