Perez Stuns in Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sprint Race

April 29, 2023Ramon Jones
Formula 1

Sergio Perez takes the win in the Azerbaijan Sprint Race. The Sprint shootout and race are part of the new Sprint Race weekend format that the FIA adopted starting this weekend. The Azerbaijan Sprint race was full of action. Most of the drivers opted to start on medium tires for the 17 lap race. The exceptions were Lando Norris (McLaren) and Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) who started on the softs which proved to be a mistake come race time.

During the race championship leader Max Verstappen (Red Bull) had an on track incident that cause some side pod damage to his car. Verstappen was verbal over the radio that the incident be investigated after losing a position. Ultimately, Verstappen was able to pass Russell and regain third place where he would finish in the race. After the race they two had the following to say:

Max Verstappen Comments

After Verstappen and Russell exchanged words post race Verstappen stated the following to the media, “No, it’s not clarified,” said Verstappen when asked if the talk with Russell cleared things up. “I just don’t understand why you need to take some much risk on Lap 1. Understeering into my sidepod, created a hole.

“We all have cold tires, it’s all easy to lock up, but in his beautiful way of explaining, ‘Oh mate, locked up, look at the onboard’, it doesn’t make sense. It’s fine, we still got into P3, got some good points, but it is what it is.” Clarifying where his sidepod damage came from, Verstappen said: “Not the wall, just Turn 2, I think, where he tapped me. There is a hole in the sidepod. It doesn’t look that great, but it is what it is now, and we will focus on tomorrow.”

George Russell Comments

Russell stated that he feels he, “probably exceeded where we deserved to finish”, and explained that he was taken aback by Verstappen’s behavior when they stepped out of the car.

“I don’t really know if it was a chat,” Russell commented. “I was quite surprised, I thought he was coming over to say ‘good battle’, to be honest. From my side, I was on the inside, the position was already lost from him, and I was really quite surprised he was still trying to hold in round the outside. Ever since we were eight years old in go karting, if you are on the inside on the apex, it’s your corner, and if you try and hold it round the outside, you are taking the risk.”

“I’m here to fight, I’m here to win. I’m not just going to wave him by because he’s Max Verstappen in a Red Bull. [There’s] nothing really more to say. I thought the move was on and that’s about it, really.”

Verstappen Speed trap magazine
Max verstappen and George Russell after the race. Photo by Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Mercedes Team principal Toto Wolff also chimed in

Wolff said to, “If I’m George, I’m doing exactly the same; if I’m Max, I’m upset. I think [Russell] defended well. I think it’s dangerous to overtake round the outside, because you could either end up in the run-off or end up in the wall, or you could have somebody on the inside who is weak and gives you all the place in the world.”

“But, you know, on the inside it’s quite an angle you need to achieve, and if you try to turn around there tightly, you’re going to lose out on the next straight.”

Wolff added: “If it’s your team mate winning and you finish third, and you don’t have performance in the car because you have a big hole, absolutely you’re upset, and each of them vents that differently. As long as you’re authentic, that’s good. And Max is quite outspoken – probably [he] forgets about it one hour later – that’s OK.”

It’s clear the two disagree on how the events unfolded. The FIA stewards took no action on the incident.

Back to the front

Sergio Perez spent most of the race in P2 before finding a bit of pace late in the race and passing Leclerc who was then pressured by a quick lapping Verstappen behind. Leclerc was able to hold Verstappen off to salvage a P2 finished after starting on pole. Perez checked out at the front finishing 4.5s ahead.

“It was good,” said Sprint race winner Perez to “With these tricky sessions, it’s been a lot of pressure put on us and our teams – engineers, mechanics, drivers. So, to get away with maximum points was the main objective, but obviously we know that tomorrow is the main race. We were able to learn a bit [for the Grand Prix], but obviously tomorrow we are going to be on much higher fuel loads [and] track conditions are going to be different. I think there is good learning today. P3 is not ideal for tomorrow’s race, but I will give it a go and fight for the win.”

Perez azerbaijan
Sergio Perez leading the Azerbaijan Sprint Race. Photo by Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images

Incidents Elsewhere

Yuki Tsunoda had a major failure that resulted in him limping his Alpha Tauri back to the pits. He suffered from a bit of understeer which put his car into the wall at Turn 13. Tsunoda would ultimately retire because the damage ended up being terminal. The team will be scrambling to get the car repaired for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The incident triggered a safety car.

On the restart Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) took advantage of the restart and pulled away. However, Perez stay in tow and when DRS we enabled again he took advantage and passed Leclerc on Lap 8. Perez had clean air in front and started to pull ahead which developed a battle for second between Leclerc and Verstappen. Leclerc was able to hold off Verstappen taking a hard fought P2. Russell and Sainz completed the fourth and fifth respectively. Fernando Alonso (Aston martin), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) secured the final points on offer. Two car in the points was a great showing for Aston martin as they try to maintain their constructors standing point lead over Mercedes.

Logan Sargeant (Williams) did not start the sprint after crashing out of the sprint shootout.

Full Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sprint Race Results are Below

1 Sergio Perez Red BullLAP 17
2 Charles LeclercFerrari+4.463
3 Max VerstappenRed Bull+5.065
4 George RussellMercedes+8.532
5 Carlos SainzFerrari+10.388
6 Fernando AlonsoAston Martin+11.613
7 Lewis HamiltonMercedes+16.503
8 Lance StrollAston Martin+18.417
9 Alexander AlbonWilliams+21.757
10 Oscar PiastriMcLaren+22.851
11 Kevin MagnussenHaas+27.990
12 Guanyu ZhouAlfa Romeo+34.602
13 Pierre GaslyAlpine+36.918
14 Nyck De VriesAlpha Tauri+41.626
15 Nico HulkenbergHaas+48.587
16 Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo+49.917
17 Lando NorrisMcLaren+51.104
18 Esteban OconAlpine+60.621
19 Yuki TsunodaAlpha TauriDNF

You can find more details on the main Azerbaijan race here Azerbaijan Grand Prix.