Red Bull’s Sergio Perez dominates in Azerbaijan
Sergio Perez breathed fresh life into this season’s world championship by beating Max Verstappen to victory in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Perez took advantage of an early safety car to stop for new tyres and leapfrog Verstappen in the other Red Bull.
The Mexican controlled the remainder of the race to take the chequered flag 2.1 seconds clear of Verstappen.
Charles Leclerc, who started on pole position, finished third for Ferrari with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso fourth. Lewis Hamilton finished sixth, two places ahead of Mercedes team-mate George Russell.
Perez’s win moves him to within six points of Verstappen in the drivers’ standings.
“The safety car was unlucky and I had to push again,” said Verstappen. “I tried to stay close but the tyres were overheating and I was struggling with the balance to be consistent. At the end, it was a good team result.
“We know it is a very long season. Baku is different to the next race in Miami and Miami is different to other tracks. It cannot be perfect all the time.”
Leclerc started from the front but despite executing a perfect getaway to beat Verstappen to the opening corner, his lead lasted just three laps.
With the Drag Reduction System open in the back of Verstappen’s Red Bull, the Dutchman blasted by his Ferrari rival at 215mph on the main straight to take the lead.
Perez, third on the grid, followed his Red Bull team-mate through two laps later with the double world champion leading a one-two for the grid’s all-conquering team.
From there, Verstappen would have expected to claim his third win of the season, but the race fell away from him on lap 10 when Nyck de Vries crashed out at the fourth corner.
Verstappen immediately pulled in for new tyres but just moments later the safety car was deployed with De Vries’ broken AlphaTauri needing to be cleared.
With the field running at a controlled speed, Perez was able to stop for rubber and retain the lead. Verstappen fell from first to third, with Leclerc also benefitting from a free pit-stop.
An earlier change of tyres also cost Hamilton. The British driver dropped from fifth to 10th once the order had shuffled out.
When the safety car came in, Verstappen wasted no time in moving up to second after he dived underneath Leclerc’s Ferrari at Turn 3.
Alonso was also on the move, sneaking past Carlos Sainz, to take fourth with Hamilton making places, too. Tenth swiftly became eighth for the Mercedes man before he fought his way past team-mate Russell at the start of lap 15.
“Well that was a s*** re-start,” said Russell on the radio. “Sorry, guys.”
On lap 20, Hamilton was then up to sixth after Lance Stroll ran wide at the penultimate corner to allow the seven-time world champion a slingshot past.
Up front and Verstappen was failing to make any headway on his team-mate. And despite a brush with the barriers at Turn 15, Perez followed up his sprint triumph on Saturday with his second win of the campaign.
Hamilton pressed Sainz to the flag – at one stage calling on his Mercedes team to provide him with “more power” – but he was unable to find a way past the Ferrari driver.
Stroll finished seventh for Aston Martin while Russell, called a d***head by Verstappen following their first-lap collision in Saturday’s shortened race, came home in eighth and also posted the fastest lap. Lando Norris claimed two points after he crossed the line in ninth place.