Perez Holds Off Verstappen to Win F1 Azerbaijan GP

An early safety car helped but Perez already was on pace to take the lead.

byNico DeMattia|
Photo | Getty Images
Photo | Getty Images.

The 2023 Formula 1 Azerbaijan grand prix was certainly a race. I saw it, they were racing. The cars went vroom vroom and everything. Unfortunately, it was an uneventful one. The Azerbaijan GP perfectly encapsulated the issue with F1 this season for everyone that isn't a Red Bull fan. Watching a 1-2 Red Bull finish every week isn't exactly thrilling, especially when they have double-digit leads before the halfway point. However, if there was something interesting to take away from the race in Baku, it's that Red Bull's Max Verstappen finally couldn't catch someone—his own teammate, Sergio Perez.

Despite Ferrari's Charles Leclerc starting in pole position, Verstappen quickly jumped ahead and took the lead within the first five laps. Neither could stop Perez, though, whose pace was quick enough to give him the lead just a few laps later. However, AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries expedited the process by spinning out and causing a yellow flag. During the yellow flag, Verstappen and Leclerc went into the pits but Perez stayed out, handing him the lead he was already on pace to take.

Photo | Getty Images

After the race, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner called the safety car "unlucky" for Verstappen but that really sells Perez short. While the Safety car did make Perez's life easier, Verstappen had almost 40 laps to overtake his teammate and he just never had the pace.

Verstappen did complain about some engine braking issues, which supposedly slowed him down. They didn't slow him down enough to prevent him from pulling a 12 second lead over the third place Leclerc, just enough to stop him from catching his teammate, of course.

Regardless of luck or engine braking issues, the fact is that Perez was nearly perfect in Baku. He was consistently faster than Verstappen, and everyone else, and had the pace to take the lead even before the safety car. After his win today, Perez is only six points behind Verstappen in the driver's standings.

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