Sergio Perez doubled up on the streets of Baku by adding to his Sprint race triumph with victory in the 2023 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, leading Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc home to boost his title push.
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Verstappen and Perez overhauled pole-sitter Leclerc in the early stages. They proceeded to trade the fastest lap times at the head of the field, with the defining moment of the race coming when a Safety Car was deployed on 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 teammate and rejoined the action in the lead.
Verstappen fell to third, meaning he had to overtake Leclerc again. While that was a formality when the race resumed, he could not make inroads on Perez during the run to the chequered 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 ended – 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. Still, 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. At the same time, 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 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 teammate, 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.
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director, Pirelli:
From start to finish, this was an intense race. As we fully expected, nearly all the drivers chose an opening stint on the P Zero Yellow medium before moving onto the P Zero White hard: only the drivers who started from the pit lane – Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg – or those at the back of the grid-like AlphaTauri’s Nyck De Vries, chose to start with a long stint on the hard tyre before going onto soft in the hope of a safety car during the closing stages. With very little long-run data to fall back on, mainly collected during yesterday’s Sprint, there were a few more unknowns than usual heading into today’s grand prix. We’re pleased that the hard tyre showed good reliability, with some runs of 300 kilometres on it, allowing drivers to push as hard as they liked. Proof of this came from the spectacular exchange of fastest laps among the top four, all from different teams, which also underlines this compound’s versatility. The fact that the best time among them (1m44.232s from Verstappen) was 1.8 seconds faster than last year’s fastest race lap is significant. The medium, which everyone had a bit more information on compared to the hard, showed performance in line with expectations but suffered from less graining, probably thanks also to the extra grip offered by the new asphalt.
How the race was won:
Sergio Perez led a Red Bull one-two at the Baku street circuit for the second consecutive year, followed home by his teammate Max Verstappen. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, on pole for the third consecutive year following Friday’s qualifying, finished third to secure his team’s first podium.
The strategies were influenced by a safety car in the race’s early stages. Most drivers, including the podium finishers, swapped from medium to hard tyres between laps nine and 11. Nearly every driver took the flag on the hard tyre, setting personal best laps in the closing minutes as the tyres and times got faster, despite the long stints.
The reliability of the hard tyre in Baku was underlined by Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. Both started from the pit lane with a new set of hards and then finished the race on the P Zero Red soft, changing tyres with just two laps and one lap to go, respectively. The Frenchman completed 50 laps – practically the entire race distance – on the same set of hard tyres.
The fastest lap on the hard tyre was set by Verstappen (1m44.232s), while the fastest time on the medium came from Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas (1m46.304s), who also completed the longest stint on this compound at 16 laps. The fastest overall race lap was set by Mercedes driver George Russell on the final lap, after switching to the soft tyre one lap earlier to hunt down an additional championship point.
There was just one neutralisation on lap 11 after De Vries touched the wall and brought out a safety car. Some drivers had previously tried an undercut by stopping early, including Verstappen, who switched tyres just seconds before the decision to send out the safety car. Most teams used the safety car to make a pit stop with both drivers.
Just three drivers selected the hard at the start: De Vries (from last on the grid) and Ocon and Hulkenberg. Ocon, Hulkenberg and Russell were the only drivers to run the soft in the race.
Bottas made several visits to the pit lane. Starting on medium, he switched to hard on lap six and then stopped again for another set of hards under the safety car. With 16 laps to go, he switched to the medium – the only driver to finish the race on that compound.
Temperatures were similar to Saturday at around 25 to 28 degrees centigrade ambient, with track temperature peaking at 44 degrees shortly after the start.
Next weekend Formula 1 will be in Miami from May 5-7. This will be the first back-to-back race on the calendar, with a particular challenge coming from the eight-hour time difference between Azerbaijan and Florida. Miami will be the first of three American races in 2023, with F1 visiting Austin in October and Las Vegas in November.
2023 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Race Results
|1.||11||Sergio Perez||Mexico||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:32:42.436||25||87|
|2.||1||Max Verstappen||Netherlands||Red Bull Racing Honda||+2.137s||18||93|
|3.||16||Charles Leclerc||Monaco||Scuderia Ferrari||+21.217s||15||28|
|4.||14||Fernando Alonso||Spain||Alpine F1 Team||+22.024s||12||60|
|5.||55||Carlos Sainz||Spain||Scuderia Ferrari||+45.491s||10||34|
|6.||44||Lewis Hamilton||Great Britain||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||+46.145s||8||48|
|7.||18||Lance Stroll||Canada||Aston Martin F1 Team||+51.617s||6||27|
|8.||63||George Russell||Great Britain||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||+74.240s||5||28|
|9.||4||Lando Norris||Great Britain||Mclaren Racing||+80.376s||2||10|
|10.||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Japan||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+83.862s||1||2|
|11.||81||Oscar Piastri||Australia||McLaren Racing||+86.501s||0||4|
|12.||45||Alexander Albon||Thailand||Williams Racing||+88.623s||0||1|
|13.||20||Kevin Magnussen||Denmark||Haas F1 Team||+89.729s||0||1|
|14.||10||Pierre Gasly||France||Alpine F1 Team||+91.332s||0||2|
|15.||31||Esteban Ocon||France||Alpine F1 Team||+97.794s||0||4|
|16.||2||Logan Sargeant||USA||Williams Racing||+100.943s||0||0|
|17.||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Germany||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||0||6|
|18||77||Valtteri Bottas||Finland||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+1 lap||0||4|
|9.||24||Zhou Guanyu||China||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||DNF||0||2|
|15.||21||Nyck De Vries||Netherlands||Scuderia AlphaTauri||DNF||0||0|
2023 Constructor Standings
|1.||Red Bull Racing||224|
|2.||Aston Martin F1 Team||102|
|3.||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team||92|
|6.||Alpine F1 Team||14|
|7.||Haas F1 Team||8|
|8.||Alfa Romeo Racing||6|