On another planet. Between Sergio Pérez, winner of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, and his teammate Max Verstappen, championship leader, who came second, the Red Bulls gave their opponents no chance on the streets of Baku. “Everything worked today for us!” Pérez reacted after the finish of the 4th round of the season. He had already won in Baku in 2021 and becomes the first driver to win twice on this circuit, adding his victory in the sprint race on Saturday.
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 30, 2023
On the shores of the Caspian Sea, where more shows were expected in the narrow and tricky streets of the Azerbaijani capital, poleman Leclerc did not resist the onslaught of the Red Bulls for long. Second on the grid, Verstappen took the advantage over the Monegasque at the start of the 4th lap, Pérez at the start of the 6th. The intervention of the safety car could have reshuffled the cards, especially as Verstappen, called into the pits too early to change his tires, found himself behind Pérez and Leclerc.
“They play in another category when it comes to racing”
“The safety car was somewhat unwelcome,” admitted the Dutchman. But when the race restarted, Leclerc was again dominated by “Mad Max”. The Scuderia driver will never see the powerful single-seaters of the Austrian team again, which only widened the gap with the rest of the grid. This is the third double in four GPs for Red Bull.
On arrival, more than 20 seconds separate Verstappen from Leclerc. “They play in another category when it comes to racing,” reacted, disillusioned, the Monegasque on arrival. “They have so much more pace than us, everyone is working hard to figure out what we can do in the race to close the gap.” Big winner of the weekend, Pérez leaves Azerbaijan with 36 of the 37 points offered this weekend. Only the point of the fastest lap, recovered by the Briton George Russell (Mercedes), escapes him.
Alonso ejected from the podium
Already the day before, the Mexican had won the sprint, taking the eight points for victory. Thanks to his two weekend victories, the 33-year-old has closed the gap with Verstappen in the championship and is now only six lengths behind the reigning double world champion. Behind, the Spaniard Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), retains 3rd place overall. He finished off the podium for the first time since the season, in 4th place.
The fourth round of the season marked the return on Saturday of a sprint race, a format activated in 2021 and which will be found at five other GPs this season. But, contrary to what has been done until now, F1 has revised its format to ensure the show. Thus, the sprint, which normally determined the grid for the contested GP the next day, no longer has any impact for the day on Sunday. He also has his own disputed qualifying session earlier on Saturday in which Leclerc signed the pole.
Fright for Ocon
In order to determine the starting grid of the GP, the pilots had disputed Friday a first qualifying session where, there already, the Monegasque, had shone. King of the pole on the Azerbaijani track, Leclerc has – once again – failed to confirm his current rank. The Monegasque did not lose everything, however, as he signed his first podium of the season for Ferrari in Azerbaijan – and the first for the Scuderia under the era of Frédéric Vasseur, who arrived in January at the head of the Italian team.
Behind, Frenchmen Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon finished 14th and 15th respectively. Ocon, who went through the pits for the first time in the race during the last lap (a minimum stop is compulsory during the GP, under penalty of being disqualified), was also scared when he discovered at the last moment photographers in the pit lane.