BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Sergio Pérez took advantage of a fortunately timed safety car to beat his teammate Max Verstappen to the victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, adding it to the sprint he secured the day before, as Red Bull kept up its winning start to 2023.
Pérez took the lead when he managed to save time pitting during a safety car period after Verstappen had come in a lap earlier.
“Well done guys, we dominated this weekend,” Pérez told his team over the radio. “We are in the fight, guys.”
Verstappen started second behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc but swept past him on the long start-finish straight at the end of lap 3, the first lap on which drivers were allowed to use the DRS overtake assist system on the rear wing.
It was a copy of the pass Pérez made on Leclerc on his way to winning the sprint race Saturday. After Verstappen took the lead Sunday, Pérez needed only two more laps for his own similar pass on Leclerc to seize second, as Red Bull underlined its status as F1’s dominant team.
Pérez benefited when an accident by Nyck de Vries brought out the safety car after his AlphaTauri slid off the track with a broken suspension, just after Verstappen had pitted from the lead. The safety car meant Pérez and Leclerc lost less time on their stops and came out ahead of Verstappen.
After that, the two Red Bull drivers pulled away from the pack and cruised to a straightforward win. Red Bull has won all four Grand Prix races this season and the sprint in Baku on Saturday. Leclerc was third to continue his recovery after a poor start to the year and said the Red Bulls had been “in another league” for race pace.
With the win Pérez cut Verstappen’s standings lead to six points. They each have two victories this season but Pérez lost ground at the last race in Australia when he was fifth after sliding off the track in qualifying.
Pérez is the only driver to win in Baku more than once and has four podium finishes in his last five races there. The Mexican driver joked he had won “two and a half” times in Azerbaijan including Saturday’s sprint.
“It is what it is,” Verstappen said of his result, describing the safety car timing as “unlucky.”
Fernando Alonso finished in fourth place, showing strong pace for Aston Martin after issues in qualifying on Friday, ahead of Carlos Sainz, Jr. for Ferrari and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who recovered after losing out in the safety car period like Verstappen.
The second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll took seventh ahead of Hamilton’s teammate George Russell, with McLaren’s Lando Norris and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda ninth and 10th, respectively.
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The Associated Press