Sergio Perez coasts to Sprint Race win in Azerbaijan, Leclerc takes first Ferrari podium of season

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Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez led home Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen in a quiet first sprint race, which saw little in the way of action during 17 laps.

The Mexican becomes the first repeat winner in the history of the Baku race, as he went largely unchallenged following an early move on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

George Russell had a lonely race and brought his car home in fourth place for Mercedes, with Carlos Sainz helping Ferrari to a double top five finish.

Fernando Alonso took advantage of a rare Lewis Hamilton wide moment to come home in sixth, ahead of the Brit who remained in the seventh position for much of the race.

Lance Stroll made it a double points finish with eighth for Aston Martin – a solid recovery from the DRS issues that have plagued the team all weekend.

The Race:

A tight lap one saw Charles Leclerc power ahead with a good start, while George Russell and Max Verstappen came to blows with contact at turn two.

By the end of the lap, Yuki Tsunoda managed to find his way into the wall, forcing a Virtual Safety Car to come out, which eventually turned into a full Safety Car.

The race restarted on lap six prompting Max Verstappen to send his Red Bull down the inside of Russell and retake a spot on the podium. Fernando Alonso then managed to squeeze past Lewis Hamilton who had been run wide by Carlos Sainz at turn one.

Lap eight signalled a change for the lead, as Sergio Perez breezed past Charles Leclerc. That helped to bring Verstappen into the fight for the lead, with the three lead cars separated by just over a second halfway through the race.

As the race progressed, Perez pulled out of DRS range, leaving Leclerc to defend from his teammate.

Further back, five cars fought for 13th place, with Zhou Guanyu coming out on top from Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.

Lance Stroll moved up into eighth place by moving ahead of the Williams of Alex Albon, to snatch the last points paying position on lap 12.

Nico Hulkenberg struggled with the graining stage on his medium tyres, dropping to the back of the pack by the final laps of the race. But soft tyres runners Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon suffered even more, as they pit to avoid being swallowed up by more of the field.

As the cars rounded the final lap, Perez had pulled a five second gap over his rivals, helping him to ease to an important win, and another eight points in his championship quest.

Leclerc’s drop off signalled a worry for Ferrari, as tyre wear could be a problem for them in tomorrow’s race. A wounded Max Verstappen failed to launch any attack on the Monegasque as the race went on, but will be happy to take good points from the sprint.