Race Report: Perez dominates Azerbaijan GP

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - APRIL 30: Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on April 30, 2023 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202304300739 // Usage for editorial use only //

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a relatively straightforward affair despite a safety car that bunched the field up, caught Max Verstappen out and handed the victory to his Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez.

The safety car helps some and hurts others, that’s always the case and in for this race, Max took the lead from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc but when Nyck De Vries stopped on track, Red Bull chose to box Max a lap too early to take advantage of the SC period and this gave Sergio a free stop and the lead.

Max fought back to take P2 from Leclerc but lacked the pace and tires to hunt down Perez for the win. It was Sergio’s weekend having won the Sprint race on Saturday and then the grand prix on Sunday. It is his 6th F1 win of his career.

Win

A win for Red Bull with a 1, 2 finish and despite making a too-early call for Max, they made the right call for Sergio and that gave the Mexican the win.

A win for Ferrari and Charles Leclerc for making a podium finish in P3. Sure, he had pole for both the Sprint race and the Grand Prix but there was no doubt that Red Bull had the better long-run pace. Despite that, Ferrari seemed to be easier on their tires in Baku than previous races and they did have good pace on the twisty bits and decent straight-line speed so there is hope. At least in Baku.

A win for Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin with a strong performance in 4th. In fact, he was hunting down Leclerc in the waning laps but ran out of time to get close for a pass.

Not sure if it is a complete win but a better weekend for McLaren. Lando Norris made it up to 9th despite being stuck in a Nico Hulkenberg DRS train. So points for the team is a good thing.

Fail

A fail for Mercedes who just didn’t have the pace. George Russell hit Max in the Sprint race and struggled in the grand prix despite benefitting from the SC period when his teammate didn’t. Lewis did put in a very good run despite lacking pace and managed to get up to P6 while Keeping Lance Stroll behind him. Lewis hounded Carlos Sainz for much of the race but didn’t have the pace to get by even with DRS.

A big fail for Alpine with a fire for Pierre Gasly on Friday, a crash on Saturday and then finishing P14 just ahead of his teammate, Esteban Ocon in P15…where did their pace go?

Not a great day for Haas F1 either with Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg down in P13 and P17 respectively.

Also, not a great result for Williams who looked much better over a single lap for qualifying and even scored P9 in the Sprint race but fell backward in the grand prix with Alex Alton in P12 and Logan Sergeant in P16.

While Yuki Tsunoda had a decent weekend and finished 10th, Nyck De Vries is completely displaying a possible reason Mercedes were willing to let him go from their organization. I expected Nyck to come into Alpha Tauri and take charge but Yuki is clearly the driver in charge there and that’s not saying a lot if you really think about it. They would have been much better getting Alex Albon back to take Gasly’s place.

WTH

A WTH moment for the pitman with all of the photographers and people flooding the pit lane when Ocon had to make a final stop on the last lap! It was a complete debacle that security should have caught. Everything had been working fine for years until now and the FIA are surely to come out with some draconian regulation that will prevent teams from coming to the fence to celebrate a driver winning which is a great moment.

The national anthem was nicely done and stylistically interesting. I could help but think the national anthem for Azerbaijan sounded like a piece of music from a movie soundtrack more than an anthem for a nation. Good on them. What’s next, a national anthem written by minimalist composer Phillip Glass or ambient guru Brian Eno?

Pirelli Race Report:

  • Sergio Perez led a Red Bull one-two at the Baku street circuit for the second consecutive year, followed home by his team mate Max Verstappen. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, on pole for the third consecutive year following Friday’s qualifying, finished third to secure his team’s first podium of the year.
  • The strategies were influenced by a safety car in the early stages of the race. The majority of drivers, including the podium finishers, swapped from medium to hard tyres between laps nine and 11. Nearly every driver took the flag on the hard tyre, setting personal best laps in the closing minutes as the tyres and times got faster, despite the long stints.
  • The reliability of the hard tyre in Baku was underlined by Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. Both started from the pit lane with a new set of hards and then finished the race on the P Zero Red soft, changing tyres with just two laps and one lap to go respectively. The Frenchman completed 50 laps – practically the entire race distance – on the same set of hard tyres.
  • The fastest lap on the hard tyre was set by Verstappen (1m44.232s) while the fastest time on the medium came from Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas (1m46.304s), who also completed the longest stint on this compound at 16 laps. The fastest overall race lap was set by Mercedes driver George Russell on the final lap, after switching to the soft tyre one lap earlier to hunt down an additional championship point.
  • There was just one neutralisation, on lap 11, after De Vries touched the wall and brought out a safety car. Some drivers had previously tried an undercut by stopping early, including Verstappen who switched tyres just seconds before the decision to send out the safety car was made. Most teams used the safety car to make a pit stop with both drivers.
  • Just three drivers selected the hard at the start: De Vries (from last on the grid) as well as Ocon and Hulkenberg. Ocon, Hulkenberg and Russell were the only drivers to run the soft in the race.
  • Bottas made several visits to the pit lane. Starting on medium, he switched to hard on lap six and then stopped again for another set of hards under the safety car. With 16 laps to go he switched to the medium – the only driver to finish the race on that compound.
  • Temperatures were similar to Saturday at around 25 to 28 degrees centigrade ambient, with track temperature peaking at 44 degrees shortly after the start.

Azerbaijan GP Results:

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
111Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT511:32:42.43625
21Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT51+2.137s18
316Charles LeclercFERRARI51+21.217s15
414Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES51+22.024s12
555Carlos SainzFERRARI51+45.491s10
644Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES51+46.145s8
718Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES51+51.617s6
863George RussellMERCEDES51+74.240s5
94Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES51+80.376s2
1022Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT51+83.862s1
1181Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES51+86.501s0
1223Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES51+88.623s0
1320Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI51+89.729s0
1410Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT51+91.332s0
1531Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT51+97.794s0
162Logan SargeantWILLIAMS MERCEDES51+100.943s0
1727Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI50+1 lap0
1877Valtteri BottasALFA ROMEO FERRARI50+1 lap0
NC24Zhou GuanyuALFA ROMEO FERRARI36DNF0
NC21Nyck De VriesALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT9DNF0
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Race
race-report-perez-dominates-azerbaijan-gpUnlike past races in Baku, this was a bit of a yawner. The new race weekend format was also disappointing.
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David

Hi Todd,

Is it me or the cars can’t follow as closely as last year

Fabio

If there was ever a race that proves DRS does not add to the show, surely this was it.
We have a runway length main straight and even with DRS the cars could barely overtake.

Surely it’s time to scrap/ban most aero on cars and get back to actual racing.

We can keep DRS but flip it around so that you can use it only if you are over 1s away from the car in front, that gets you close, then it’s your skill to overtake.

Sorry just my little rant.

Worthless Opinion

I’m not sure exactly what the answer is but your basic point that this race in particular pointed out what a gimmick DRS is and, sadly, how F1 is being built around it, is well taken.

The Captain

I agree with ya’ll here, but sadly if you go to social media and other fan sites it seems a fair majority see this as proof DRS just needs to be stronger and is necessary to the sport.

Fred

Not much of a race weekend for me. In California the race was on way too early in the morning. I watched the delay on ESPNews, but they shrunk the video to show the odds of teams winning the championship of various leagues. Miami will be a lot better for me, but I worry about the weather.

Worthless Opinion

It’s no shock the sprint race was BS, if it wasn’t going to change the starting position for the race why would anyone risk much for it? All this diddling when the problems are so much deeper. If you sort the cars by speed in qualifying, the cars will start in something like their eventual finishing order and you will have a processional race. If pit stops cost too much time to be worth it, the teams will conserve tires and fuel you will have a processional race. I’m not sure how you fix the first thing but the second… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Worthless Opinion
Worthless Opinion

It seems like Ross B did solve it last year, the racing was incredible. But nothing sits still with that many smart engineers around.

Worthless Opinion

Some tracks would be hard to change, others not, and new tracks could embody new ideas. But asking teams to choose a 60mph drive parallel to a 200mph drive is permanently hopeless so in the face of that other ideas start to look better. If it’s too expensive just force them to pit thrice like theyre now forced to pit once. Lando’s race when he had to keep filling his leaky car every 10 laps was the one he showed the best pace in, the lesson’s pretty obvious.

Fabio

‘Good tyres’???? what madness are you talking about? Next thing you’ll be suggesting we reduce the aero and get rid of DRS!