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F1: Sergio Perez Wins Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Closes Gap On Max Verstappen In Driver Standings

Red Bull's status as the leading team isn't in doubt, but now it's 2-2 on wins between Pérez and his teammate Max Verstappen and the Dutchman's lead is down to six points.

Serio Perez celebrates his Azerbaijan GP win on Sunday.
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After a dominant win, with a dose of luck, Sergio Pérez seems increasingly like a Formula One title contender. (More Motorsport News)

Red Bull's status as the leading team isn't in doubt, but now it's 2-2 on wins between Pérez and his teammate Max Verstappen and the Dutchman's lead is down to six points.

“Well done guys, we dominated this weekend,” Pérez told his team over the radio. “We are in the fight, guys.”

Pérez took advantage of a fortunately timed safety car to beat 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. The two didn't fight for position after that, but Pérez said they “pushed to the maximum” as he fought to keep the lead. Both Pérez and Verstappen clipped the track wall at different times.

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. It was a powerful illustration of Red Bull's unbeatable race setup after Leclerc had signaled a minor resurgence for Ferrari by taking pole position for both the sprint and main race.

Pérez benefited when an accident by Nyck de Vries brought out the safety car after the 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. The Dutch driver said he wanted Red Bull to review “if there was anything we could have done different” on the call to pit, since de Vries had already stopped before Verstappen came in.

After that, the two Red Bull drivers pulled away from the pack in a straightforward win. Red Bull has won all four Grands Prix 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.

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.

Verstappen accepted it just hadn't been his day and was a calmer figure than on Saturday, when he confronted George Russell over a first-lap collision in the sprint.

“Checo (Pérez) and I, we're having a good time,” Verstappen said. “You need to acknowledge and also appreciate when somebody has done a great job.” Pérez added there is a “very high level of respect” between the two as they fight for the championship lead.

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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