Race Weekend Central

Sergio Perez Takes Luck and Runs With it for Win in Baku

With a little bit of luck, and a commanding drive once in the lead, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez won Sunday’s (April 30) Azerbaijan Grand Prix, outpointing teammate Max Verstappen and adding to his sprint race win on Saturday (April 29). 

Polesitter Charles Leclerc was easily picked off by Verstappen on lap 3, with Perez doing the same three laps later. Then, in was what was to become the most decisive moment of the race, AlphaTauri’s Nyck De Vries spun in Turn 6 on lap 11. Initially, the yellow flag was deployed, and Verstappen took the opportunity to pit. 

Perez, too close behind Verstappen for a double-stack pit stop, stayed out, and as luck had it, a safety car was initiated when De Vries’ car was stranded. This allowed Perez, and others, to pit under the safety car.

Perez emerged in the lead, and Leclerc also came out ahead of an unlucky Verstappen. Verstappen soon was by Leclerc again, and the Red Bull drivers traded fastest laps, with Perez building and maintaining a comfortable lead over his teammate outside of DRS range. 

Meanwhile, Leclerc led Fernando Alonso, who picked up two places on the start, and on lap 24, the order was Perez, Verstappen, Leclerc, Alonso, Carlos Sainz, Lewis Hamilton, Lance Stroll and George Russell, with Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the points-paying positions. 

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Hamilton mounted several challenges to Sainz, but the Spaniard continually held him at bay. Alonso seemed to be saving his tires and brakes for a late charge on Leclerc, but it never materialized, as Leclerc set some late fastest laps to hold off Alonso. 

The remainder of the race was merely a processional, with Perez upping his lead on Verstappen to nearly four seconds at times, with Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda knocking Ocon, who started from the pits, and Hulkenberg from ninth and 10th, respectively.

Russell dove into the pits late for soft tires and set a fastest lap on the final lap to add a bonus point to his 8th-place haul.

Possibly the most excitement of the race came on the final lap when Ocon made his mandatory pit stop, while people were all over the pit lane thinking the race was nearly over and beginning to celebrate, particularly the Red Bull team, many of whom had climbed the fence to salute Perez.

The win brought Perez to within five points of Verstappen in the driver standings, 93 to 88, with Alonso third with 60. 

Up next is the Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix on Sunday, May 7 with coverage on ESPN at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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