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Sergio Pérez takes fortunate Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2023 win

Aditya Chaudhuri Aditya Chaudhuri

Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez continued his strong run of form in Baku as he took a fortunate win. His teammate Max Verstappen finished second ahead of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, with Fernando Alonso finishing fourth. Carlos Sainz finished fifth ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Lance Stroll, George Russell, Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda, who rounded up the top ten positions, in that order.

Pérez is the first driver to win two Azerbaijan Grands Prix since the circuit joined the F1 calendar in 2016. It was a lucky win for the Mexican driver as he benefitted from an ill-timed Safety Car for Verstappen, who was leading the race but was called in just before the Safety Car was deployed, which played into Pérez’s hands.

For Ferrari, on the other hand, it was yet another disappointing weekend. The Scuderia hoped to make the pole count but faltered yet again.

It was pole-sitter Charles Leclerc who got things underway once the lights went out, with 18 cars on the grid. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg started from the pit lane. Leclerc led off the line, with Max Verstappen coming at the Ferrari man at an increasing speed. Sergio Pérez was in third ahead of Carlos Sainz, Lewis Hamilton and Aston Martin drivers Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, the latter having made up two spots in the opening few corners. 

As soon as DRS was enabled on Lap 3, Verstappen wasted no time to take the lead of the race at the start of Lap 4, breezing past Leclerc on the main straight. The Dutchman immediately built a lead of over a second inside a lap of taking the lead, with Leclerc being pressurised by Pérez behind him. The Monégasque was coming under increasing pressure from the Red Bull driver in third place, who was right on his gearbox. Pérez eventually overtook Leclerc on the main straight on Lap 6, the latter having no answer for the Red Bull car’s pace. 

Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas were the first two in the pits on Lap 7, both coming in to switch to the hard compound tyres. Back on the track, it was Lewis Hamilton who was the first among the top five to pit, coming in on Lap 10. The seven-time World Champion re-joined the track in P13.

AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries brought out the Yellow Flag on Lap 11 after having a moment at Turn 6. Verstappen re-joined in P7 as the Safety Car was deployed with De Vries’ car stuck on the track; he eventually became the first retiree of the race.

With the Safety Car deployed, the pit lane saw a host of action as multiple drivers came in for their stops, including Pérez, Sainz, Leclerc and Fernando Alonso. As they re-joined, the order was: Pérez, Leclerc, Verstappen, Sainz and Alonso. 

The Safety Car came in on Lap 13, with Pérez leading Leclerc and Verstappen. However, as Leclerc attacked Pérez, it was the reigning World Champion who took P2 from the Ferrari driver.

Lance Stroll made up a place on George Russell, while Stroll’s teammate Alonso put in an incredible move to take P4 from Sainz. Hamilton, meanwhile, overtook his teammate on the main straight on Lap 15, taking P7. He then overtook Stroll for P6 on Lap 20, getting past the Aston Martin driver on the main straight after he went wide on Turn 16 to lose time. Up ahead, Pérez maintained a 1.2-second lead from Verstappen, with Leclerc almost eight seconds behind the Dutchman. 

By the halfway mark, it was the two Red Bull drivers up front, with Pérez leading Verstappen, with the duo having dropped Leclerc by almost 12 seconds. Further down the grid, Hülkenberg, Norris, Tsunoda and Oscar Piastri were engaged in a tight scrap for the final points position, with all four drivers being within a second of each other.

The second retirement of the race came when Zhou Guanyu retired on Lap 38 due to a technical issue.

As the race crossed Lap 40, Verstappen was 3.5 seconds behind Pérez, while Alonso was catching Leclerc for P3.

While the front of the grid wasn’t seeing much movement among the positions, it was Alpine’s Pierre Gasly who was making moves from the bottom of the pack, having moved up to P16 by Lap 44, after having gone down to the last position.

Norris managed to overtake Hülkenberg at Turn 7 for the final points place after being stuck behind the Haas driver for a long time. Russell came in for a pit stop on the penultimate lap to try to take the fastest lap point.

Pérez eventually took the win, finishing 2.2 seconds ahead of Verstappen, with Leclerc managing to hold on to P3 and Alonso finishing a strong fourth. Russell eventually managed to take home the fastest lap point, while Leclerc’s podium meant Ferrari scored their first podium of 2023.  

Pérez’s win put him six points behind Championship leader Verstappen, who still is on top of the Drivers’ Standings with 93 points. Fernando Alonso is third with 60 points, while Red Bull continue to lead the Constructors’ Standings with a 93-point lead over Aston Martin in second place with a total of 180 points. Mercedes are a further 11 points behind Aston Martin with 76 points.

Sergio Pérez takes fortunate Azerbaijan Grand Prix win
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Aditya Chaudhuri

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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