Perez benefits from safety car and leads Red Bull 1-2 at Baku
Red Bull Racing secured the perfect result at the Baku by taking a 1-2 finish for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen was closely matched throughout the race while closest challenger Charles Leclerc finished 19 seconds behind.
The start was fairly clean with Leclerc easily taking the lead from pole position, followed without challenge by Verstappen and Perez. Sainz, Hamilton and Alonso also maintained their positions even though that required a bit of defending ahead of Turn 2 from Hamilton. Behind them Stroll gained two positions and moved up into 7th. Russell also gained two into 9th. The best start was for Magnussen who moved up from 16th to 13th.
When DRS got enabled on lap 3 both Red Bulls were close enough to use it while Sainz in fourth couldn't. Hamilton, Alonso and Stroll were well positioned to get closer to the Ferrari driver.
The second pass across the finish line with DRS enabled was the right one for Verstappen. He easily made it past Leclerc who was then dropped right into the path of Perez. The Mexican predictably passed Leclerc for second place one lap later in the exact same fashion.
The first pitstops happened around lap 8 with Albon one of the first. Hamilton pitted on lap 10 after seeing the gap to Sainz increase up to 3 seconds while Alonso was within half a second. One lap later Verstappen pitted after seeing Perez close in and reporting lots of sliding.
20 seconds after Verstappen emerged bck on track the safety car was brought out because Nyck Devries ended up stuck on a run-off area. He broke the steering rod of his left front suspension by clipping the wall and had no way to continue. This was obviously good news for those who hadn't pitted yet. Practically everybody did a stop to switch to hard tyres bar Ocon and Hulkenberg who had started on hard tyres anyway.
As the safety stood still to pick up the leader, Perez seemed close to an unsafe release. Russell meanwhile came up alongside Stroll at the pit entry to raise some eyebrows while at Aston Martin they displayed perfect pit work by completing stops for their cars in quick succession.
The race was restarted on lap 15 with Verstappen soon challenging Leclerc and immediately taking second place. Lance Stroll got back at Russell and passed him ahead of Turn 2 while Alonso cleared Sainz for 4th place. Back at the straight Russell lost another position as Hamilton breezed past with DRS wide open. Russell apologised to his team over the radio, saying "well that was a **** restart. Sorry guys".
With the entire top 8 on identical tyres and nearly identical tyre age nothing much happened apart from some challenges that didn't really materialise in overtaking. The only real position change was for Hamilton as he gained a position after Stroll went wide at the corner leading into the main straight, making him an easy target.
As the tyres faded for everyone nobody in points scoring positions chose to pit leaving everybody to focus to end the race safely and probably without trying any overtakes. Hulkenberg was worst off and virtually went backwards after getting a "no" from his team when asking for a pitstop. Curiously he still had to make his single stop, which he eventually only did for the last lap (just like Ocon).
As the end came near, Perez, Verstappen and Alonso exchanged fastest laps until Russell decided one lap from the end to pit and take on a set of softs to try to settle that battle. And so he did, completing the final lap in 1:43.370, nearly a full second faster than second best which was Verstappen's final lap.
|1||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||51||1:32:42.436||25|
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||51||+2.137s||18|
|4||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||51||+22.024s||12|
|7||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||51||+51.617s||6|
|9||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||51||+80.376s||2|
|10||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||51||+83.862s||1|
|11||81||Oscar Piastri||Mclaren Mercedes||51||+86.501s||0|
|12||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||51||+88.623s||0|
|13||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||51||+89.729s||0|
|14||10||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault||51||+91.332s||0|
|15||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||51||+97.794s||0|
|16||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||51||+100.943s||0|
|17||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas Ferrari||50||+1 lap||0|
|18||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||50||+1 lap||0|
|NC||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||36||DNF||0|
|NC||21||Nyck De Vries||Alphatauri Honda Rbpt||9||DNF||0|
Note - Russell scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.