Sergio Pérez wins Azerbaijan Sprint 2023

April 30, 2023

Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez continued his strong form in Baku as he won the Sprint event ahead of Sunday’s main race. Pérez, who started P2, overtook Charles Leclerc for the lead and drove a calm and composed race to score eight points. 

Leclerc finished second ahead of Max Verstappen, George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll, in that order, all of whom scored points.

Pérez becomes the first Sprint winner following the new format changes, which now has a separate Sprint Shootout qualifying for the Saturday dash. For the rest of the grid, the teams have gained valuable information for Sunday’s race on tyre life and race strategies among others. 

Leclerc will start Sunday’s main race on pole again, with Verstappen behind him. Given the speed of the Red Bull car, the signs aren’t looking positive for the Ferrari man. 

Leclerc led off the line for the Sprint with Pérez behind him, but it was Mercedes’ George Russell who had his elbows out on the first lap, pushing World Champion Max Verstappen.

Virtual Safety Car was deployed early, on Lap 2, when AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda under-steered into the barriers at Turn 14 and had his tyre roll out onto the track. The VSC was soon turned into a proper Safety Car on Lap 3, which came in on Lap 5. 

Verstappen breezed past Russell on the restart, showing the Brit how to overtake without hitting the other car on track, while the other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton lost two places to Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso. Pérez, meanwhile, got past Leclerc at Turn 1 to take the lead of the race on Lap 8, while Verstappen was catching the Ferrari driver, who was now stuck in a Red Bull sandwich. 

By Lap 10, Pérez had built a gap of one second to Leclerc, while Verstappen was pushing the Monégasque as well. Stroll overtook Alex Albon for the final points place at P8 on Lap 12, making sure both Aston Martin racers got into the points positions.

While the race leader was clear up top, it was a close scrap between Verstappen and Leclerc, as the Ferrari driver clung onto the second place. Ultimately, Leclerc managed to hang onto the second position by the skin of his teeth as Verstappen hounded down the Ferrari talisman. 

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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