Sergio Pérez took his second grand prix win of the season at the head of a Red Bull 1-2 in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with the Mexican driving a controlled race to the flag after taking the lead from team-mate Max Verstappen during an early Safety Car period. The final podium place was taken by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Polesitter Leclerc led the field off the line at the race start with front-row starter Verstappen and Pérez, who started third, tucking in behind. Further back the major movers at the start were Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll who passed the McLaren of Lando Norris to take P7 and Mercedes’ George Russell who climbed from P11 on the grid to P9 behind Norris, as eighth-place starter Yuki Tsunoda dropped back.
When DRS came into play, Verstappen closed in on Leclerc and on lap four he powered past the Ferrari driver on the approach to Turn 1 to take the lead. Leclerc, lacking the pace of the Red Bulls, quickly fell into Pérez’s clutches and on lap six the Mexican replicated his team-mate’s move to take P2.
Behind the top three, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fourth, two seconds behind Leclerc and bottling up Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and the Astons of Fernando Alonso and Stroll. Norris was in P8 ahead of Russell with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in the last points position.
At the front, Verstappen and Pérez began to draw away from the pack and on lap nine Verstappen led his team-mate by a second, while the Mexican was two seconds clear of Leclerc.
Things changed on lap 10, though. AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries stopped on track and Red Bull immediately called Verstappen to the pits for Hard tyres. The call was too early, however, and while the situation was assessed yellow flags continued to be displayed for crucial seconds. When the Safety Car was released it was Pérez who felt its full benefit. He took on hard tyres at the head of a slew of drivers making a similar switch and Verstappen slightly disadvantaged having stopped before the caution, the Mexican emerged in the lead ahead of Leclerc and with Verstappen now in third place. Sainz held fourth ahead of Alonso, while Russell had jumped to sixth ahead of Stroll who had been double-stacked with his team-mate. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, who had started from the pit lane on hard tyres, stayed on track and climbed to P8 and P9 ahead of Hamilton.
The SC left the track at the end of lap 14 and Pérez held his lead. Verstappen immediately put pressure on Leclerc and in Turn 3 he dived down the inside and stole P2 from the Ferrari man. Behind the top three, Alonso ambushed Sainz to take P4, while Stroll muscled his way past Russell to take P6.
At the front, the Red Bull pair again drew away from the field and over the following laps they built a five-second gap over Leclerc. Pérez was able to keep his team-mate at bay, however, and on lap 17 he was well over a second clear of the Dutchman. He maintained that gap to half distance and then began to draw further away in the closing stages, stretching to three seconds clear with 10 laps remaining.
With the front runners all targeting a one-stop race, attention turned to the lower points positions where Ocon and Hülkenberg were circling in eighth and ninth respectively, hoping for a Safety Car as they both needed to make regulation pit stops.
Hulkenberg eventually began to suffer severe tyre degradation and dropped back, while Ocon was forced to pit on the final lap.
It meant that behind the top three Alonso finished fourth ahead of Sainz, Hamilton and Stroll. Russell finished in P8 ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and the final point went to AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Race
1 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 51 1:32’42.436
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 51 1:32’44.573 2.137
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 51 1:33’03.653 21.217
4 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 51 1:33’04.460 22.024
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 51 1:33’27.927 45.491
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 51 1:33’28.581 46.145
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 51 1:33’34.053 51.617
8 George Russell Mercedes 51 1:33’56.676 1’14.240
9 Lando Norris McLaren 51 1:34’02.812 1’20.376
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 51 1:34’06.298 1’23.862
11 Oscar Piastri McLaren 51 1:34’08.937 1’26.501
12 Alexander Albon Williams 51 1:34’11.059 1’28.623
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 51 1:34’12.165 1’29.729
14 Pierre Gasly Alpine 51 1:34’13.768 1’31.332
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine 51 1:34’20.230 1’37.794
16 Logan Sargeant Williams 51 1:34’23.379 1’40.943
17 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 50 – 1 lap
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 50 – 1 lap
Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 36 – Retirement
Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri – Accident