Pérez conquers Baku streets in dour race

Spread the love
Photo credit: Red Bull Racing

Sergio Pérez wins an underwhelming Azerbaijan Grand Prix after he took advantage of a safety car early the race. The race started with both Hülkenberg and Ocon starting from pit lane on a set of hard Pirelli’s. in an attempt to benefit from any chaos that usually occurs in Baku.

The start itself was quite clean, as the entire top three made a proper getaway. Further back it was Piastri who got a nudge by Albon, and subsequently hit Bottas. This caused Magnussen to run into the back of the Dane, but despite some lost places by the Fin, all was okay. Verstappen immediately got in Leclerc’s slipstream and as soon as DRS was available he cruised past.

It took Pérez two laps longer to pass the Ferrari-driver, and both Red Bull drivers gave Leclerc a tow, leaving Sainz behind quickly. Gasly was the first driver to stop for hard tyres in lap 6, quickly followed by Bottas and Albon. When Alonso closes in on Hamilton, the seven-time world champion enters pit lane.

Nyck De Vries ends a decent race up to that point with a tap to the inside wall of turn 5, prompting Red Bull to call in Verstappen who was getting under pressure of his teammate. Unfortunately for the reigning world champion, the safety car was called and the others could make their stop with minimal time loss, leaving Verstappen in third behind both Pérez and Leclerc.

The restart of the race took place in lap 13, with Verstappen immediately disposing of Leclerc in turn 3. Stroll passed Russell in turn 1, and Alonso sneaked his way past his compatriot Sainz in turn 4. At the start of the following lap Russell was also passed by his teammate Hamilton, dropping the young Briton to P8.

Magnussen tries to overtake Zhou, but drifts when exiting turn 1, giving the Chinese driver a chance to retake his position. A few laps later it’s Stroll who drifts exiting turn 16, giving Hamilton the perfect opportunity to pass him at the end of the straight.

And there the action stopped. Both Pérez and Verstappen slightly touch the wall in turn 15, just like Hülkenberg, indicating that both drivers are pushing, but eventually Pérez had the upper hand as Verstappen struggled to get the balance right. The Red Bull drivers swap fastest laps, but behind them Alonso can’t get past Leclerc, Hamilton can’t get past Sainz and Ocon leads a DRS-train reminiscent of the good old Trulli-train. It’s clear that the 2023 rule changes have been detrimental to the ability of cars following eachother, an area that saw so much improvement in 2022.

In the closing stages we see Gasly finally getting past Sargeant and Hülk dropping through the field since he hadn’t changed his tyres yet. Zhou parks his car in the garage with a technical issue, bringing the total of non-finishers to two, but other than George Russell grabbing the fastest lap from Verstappen, nothing noticable happens on track anymore.

However, in the pitlane Ocon almost drives into a bunch of photographers, as he waits until the final lap to make his mandatory pit stop and the photographers are already gathering for those shiny parc fermé shots. Everything went right, but the FIA will surely look into this, as this was a little to close for comfort.

So in the end Pérez wins with some two seconds over Verstappen, followed by the tandems of Leclerc and Alonso, and Sainz and Hamilton. Stroll, Russell, Norris and Tsunoda round up the top 10. Verstappen still leads the championship ahead of Checo and Alonso, with the next race in Miami being just one week away.