2023 Azerbaijan GP: What bit of history did Sergio Perez write in Baku?

The race’s turning point came when a Safety Car was deployed on either side of the Red Bull drivers’ pit stops.

Sergio Perez in a file photo (image: twitter)
By Nilavro Ghosh | May 2, 2023 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Sergio Perez doubled up in Baku by winning the drama-filled Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to strengthen his championship bid. Early on, Verstappen and Perez passed pole-sitter Leclerc and continued to exchange fastest lap times at the front of the field. The race’s turning point came when a Safety Car was deployed on either side of the Red Bull drivers’ pit stops. Verstappen made his pit stop under yellow flags that were raised when Nyck de Vries stopped on the track, and Perez followed suit under a Safety Car, clearing his teammate and returning to the action in the lead.

The race win meant that Sergio Perez was the first ever driver to win more than one race at the iconic Baku City Circuit. Before him, the Azerbaijan GP had five different winners including Perez himself. Two of the remaining four were Red Bull Racing drivers in Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and the other two were the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas.

The 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Verstappen dropped to third, forcing him to pass Leclerc once more. While that was merely a formality when the race restarted, he was unable to overtake Perez in the final stretch and was forced to settle for second place. The two-time champion’s 2023 podium streak came to an end as Leclerc held off Fernando Alonso’s late charge to take third. However, fourth place still represented another significant point total for the Aston Martin driver.

Read More – Much needed result: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc reacts to first pole 2023 season in Baku

After a close call in the pits early on, Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and George Russell’s Silver Arrow picked up a few points, and Carlos Sainz finished fifth in the other Ferrari while holding off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. While extending their first stints on hard tyres, Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg emerged from the pit lane to hold points-paying positions for the majority of the race. However, their late mandatory pit stops meant they were betting on additional Safety Car drama that never materialised. Lando Norris of McLaren gained ground on Hulkenberg late in the race and gained another position when Ocon pitted. Yuki Tsunoda completed the top 10 to help AlphaTauri salvage a win.

Outside the points

The final finishers were Ocon, Logan Sargeant, Hulkenberg, and Valtteri Bottas, with the latter making three trips to the pit lane due to tyre issues. Oscar Piastri, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen, and Pierre Gasly all narrowly missed out on points as they completed a close midfield pack. Zhou Guanyu, a teammate on the Alfa Romeo team with Bottas, retired late in the race due to an unidentified technical problem, and De Vries was the other driver to retire after his early-race collision with the wall at Turn 5 that resulted in terminal damage.

Perez reduces Verstappen’s championship lead to single digits heading into the next round of the season in Miami, which comes after in a week, with back-to-back victories in Baku, which add to his 2021 Grand Prix victory at the venue. If Russell hadn’t made a last-minute pit stop and bolted on a set of soft tyres to earn the fastest lap bonus point, Perez, who also won Driver of the Day, might have gained more ground in the standings.