Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Perez passes Leclerc for sprint race win, Verstappen third in damaged car

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez Perez took victory in the sprint race for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after overtaking Charles Leclerc mid-way through the race and pulling away from the Ferrari driver.

The Red Bull driver used DRS to pass Leclerc for the lead along the pit straight and then gradually opened up the gap to win by four seconds. Leclerc held off Max Verstappen for second place after the Red Bull driver suffered damaged from opening lap contact with George Russell.

Leclerc lined up on pole position for the first sprint race of the season and when the lights went out the Ferrari leapt out into the lead of the race with Perez settling into second place behind. Verstappen came under pressure from George Russell behind with the Mercedes driver pulling ahead of the Red Bull on the run to turn three.

Back in the pack, Yuki Tsunoda struck the barrier at the kink of turn 13, losing the tyre from his wheel. As the AlphaTauri recovered to the pits with damage, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed with the remains of Tsunoda’s tyre on the circuit on the entrance of turn 16. Tsunoda pitted and rejoined with his car still clearly damaged from his collision with the wall, earning an investigation from the stewards after the race for being released in an unsafe condition.

With drivers complaining of debris on the track, the Virtual Safety Car was upgraded to a full Safety Car. The race restarted at the end of lap five, with Leclerc leading the field away from Perez, Russell and Verstappen. Russell was easily passed by Verstappen at the restart, the Red Bull diving to the inside into the first corner to move back into third.

At the end of the first green flag lap, DRS was enabled for the first time in the race. Perez quickly began to put Leclerc under pressure out front and managed to slip by the Ferrari into the lead at the start of lap eight, before soon pulling clear of DRS range of the chasing Ferrari.

Leclerc kept Perez’s lead to around a second until the leader began picking up the pace with around five laps remaining, building up his advantage to over three seconds. Verstappen pursued the Ferrari ahead of him, but despite sitting within a second of Leclerc he never got close enough to attempt a pass.

Perez continued to eke out his advantage and ticked off the remaining laps to secure the victory by just over four seconds at the chequered flag. Leclerc finished six tenths of a second ahead of Verstappen in second place, with Russell a further three seconds behind in fourth.

Carlos Sainz Jnr finished in fifth, ahead of Alonso, Hamilton and Lance Stroll claiming the final point in eighth place. Alexander Albon just missed out on points in ninth with Oscar Piastri completing the top ten.

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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    26 comments on “Perez passes Leclerc for sprint race win, Verstappen third in damaged car”

    1. It’s clearly what red bull have to do to motivate him or fire him up, and fair enough it works. But all that crying about the first few corners and talking about overtaking with no contact was absolutely embarrassing to listen to. He just cannot accept anyone daring to challenge him. Especially a Mercedes.

      Russell was obviously going to be aggressive off the line, if Verstappen had just let him through he would have ended up 2nd, maybe 1st.

      1. @oweng No Contact? Really? Was I watching a different race?

        There was a big hole in Verstappen’s sidepod!

        1. I was referring to Verstappen’s comment when he overtook Russell later saying how he knows how to overtake with no contact. Like I say, embarrassing.

          1. Yes, wouldn’t call it embarassing but he has no right talking about knowing how he can overtake when he has a car that so far this year has been dominant, it’s harder to do that when you don’t have car advantage, especially straight line.

      2. I would love to see him watching the 2021 Saudi Arabia GP today to see him trying to say that him pushing the other car out 6 or 7 times in the same race was fair game.

        1. That’s a good one, would be interested to see what he says reviewing those, for the record he had to if he wanted to have any hope of winning that title, he had to take risks against a faster car, and so did russell, although there’s not much on the line in this case.

    2. BLS (@brightlampshade)
      29th April 2023, 15:30

      I assume Max was only so riled as it cemented him finishing behind his team mate. It just felt such an out of place reaction which even continued post race.

      1. All drivers have a moan when there’s been contact or they’ve lost a place in a battle like that. But his reaction was ridiculously over the top and also pretty hypocritical considering what he usually considers is fair racing.

    3. He wasn’t saying there was no contact

    4. Please get rid of this sprint stuff. It not only is boring to watch but it also robs us of a proper F1 weekend.

      And what what Russel doing there. He overtook max because he drove his car in the side of Max’s car leaving a huge hole in it. Very poor racing

      1. Davethechicken
        29th April 2023, 18:07

        It’s called a motor race.

        1. Yes!

          It’s called a motor race, ok?


          We went car racing!

    5. Once king of the hill you get some new perspective, huh, Max?
      Racing incident, just as loads of those you starred.

    6. Tsunoda mistakenly thought someone was beside him, like Grosjean/race engineer thought Ericsson hit him.
      Race control was unnecessarily slow to switch from VSC to SC.

    7. Normal QF+RD only is enough.
      Sprint race is rediculous because high chance many driver can get into crash during sprint race. That can ruined their race day.

    8. Liberty may have thought sprint will create all the action of an entire race in one third the time.

      But what it does is simply create the action of the first lap followed by 15 laps of boredom with no Strategic variance and conservation of components with an eye on the main race.

      You really want sprints to have more action? Give the drivers go-karts or stock cars. They will take more risks knowing that damage won’t hurt their chances in the main race.

      1. it’s funny how they think everybody will go all out on a sprint when they themselves applied all this restrictions on budget, engines, gearboxes, tyres, everything. Who would take risks to lose it all for the almost nothing of reward a sprint offers?

        Sprints will only work as a concept the day they lift all of these and the driver can be confident that he might even wreck the car but will still be ready to race the main event the next day.

    9. Just watched the highlights now.

      Props to Hamilton for preventing a restart pile-up with Sainz and Russell nearly tripping over each other.

      And… that’s pretty much all that happened.

      These street tracks will never produce anything other than either chaos or boring DRS passes.

    10. The consequences off the coming togther between Max and GR is not relevant. What’s relevant is if there was and the degree of fault and what is the in rules.

      If you murder a child vs 80 year old woman the punishment is same. There is no “ahh but he had to go the hospital so therefore punishment must severe.

      However there was petulance, entitlement, silliness, obsessivness and a solid i’am always the victim mentality coming from our boy ” Max allways mad 2 max”.

      I’ve written before why I don’t rate him as a great driver, because in a level field he will never extract his talent 2 max. He will allways find a way to effit up. He should have yielded ike smarter people do. The fact that he had more to lose should have dictated he’s actions.

      There is a narrative the Max has matured, that notion has zero merit because the absence evidence is just that, absence! A nd yet in a won it all position he manages to effit whit his team-mate. He had everything to win in brasil getting the extra love from Mexico but choose the most stupid choice!

      We live in the era of The emperors new clothes. He pushed Ocon. He breakchecks with impunity. He’s team cheats and gets away with it. If you disagree you get boycotted.
      Cross the white line! Not a problem. If there’s free points SPA give them to Max.

      If I had to pay for Max it would in a soapopera on a small island with Alonso, Maldonado, Piquet Sr and Massa. I’d call it battle of effheads and first price is a dinner with Donaldo Trumpertino in Rikers Island.

      The emperor is naked

      1. Yes, was really disappointing in brazil, and if it was because of the monaco thing, as it’s been speculated, then he kept too silent for all season for it to suddenly become a problem in the end, should’ve said it before, or should’ve made the reason public in the end.

    11. Azerbaijan has produced some of the most exciting racing on the calendar since its inception. The issue with the sprint is they ridiculously changed the rules where there are very little stakes. Wouldn’t it be nice if Max were starting third tomorrow needing to hunt down his teammate, separated by Leclerc?

      1. Yes, I suppose it would.

    12. Broken/not working link on the first line of the article.

    13. I can’t be the only one who enjoys an annoyed Max? Separate from the rights and wrongs of anything (Max’s moral code seems to be on a sliding, slightly inverted weird scale where whenever it’s rotated he’s still at the top).

      For all of F1 ‘selling’ itself. Max having a tantrum is easily the sports greatest pull. He kind of sounds annoyed even when he’s being nice. Nobody would doubt he doesn’t have talent, if Nikita behaved like Max we’d dislike him more than we already do.

      Maybe it’s just me, but Max throwing his toys out of the pram is quite amusing, even more so that George thought he was going to complement him on a ‘good battle’.

      1. Definitely you’re not the only one, I saw plenty of comments against him on the thread, however I like the russell-verstappen battles, there’s been another really good one last year in spain, they’re not giving an inch, great fighters, and would be interesting if they were team mates or the cars were close enough to have fair battles; so far obviously the red bull has been superior in all their battles.

    14. The lack of practice time and type of track (narrow with walls) means this race highlighted why the sprint format is and will remain flawed.

      The lack of action after the jostling lap 1 due to the consequences of a stuff up on the main event just underlines this.

      Drivers missing q3 and the sprint itself is just bonkers. The cost to teams and drivers is not worth it.

      And now we also know the running order and what the outcome is on Sunday – barring artificial intervention of race control of course.

      I was ambivalent before but now I am opposed to the sprint format. If you want two different types of races, run a different series.

    Comments are closed.