Sergio Perez overcame polesitter Charles Leclerc to maintain Red Bull’s unbeaten 2023 Formula 1 run in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint, with Max Verstappen only third after picking up damage in a contentious early dice with George Russell.
Russell got a better start than second-row partner Verstappen and the Mercedes and Red Bull made light contact several times through the opening corners before Russell got fully ahead – something an angry Verstappen felt was entirely down to the tap he’d received from the Mercedes and which prompted him to confront Russell right after the race in parc ferme.
SPRINT LAP 1/17
Russell makes it past Verstappen at Turn 3! 🙌
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 29, 2023
But Russell couldn’t stay in front for long. At the restart from an early safety car period for debris from Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri – which had hit the wall, lost a tyre, limped back to the pits, then been sent back out still with damaged suspension – Verstappen put a clean pass on Russell and reclaimed third.
That’s where he stayed, as up front Perez used Red Bull’s DRS superiority to breeze past Leclerc’s Ferrari soon after the restart and then edge away to take his second race victory of 2023 after winning the Saudi Arabian GP.
Verstappen struggled to make a significant challenge on Charles Leclerc’s second place with clear damage to his RB19 – a hole in his sidepod could be seen in parc ferme.
In the same moment that Russell lost third to Verstappen, the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton was overtaken for fifth by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and then pushed down to seventh by the opportunistic Fernando Alonso too.
Alonso’s Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll overtook qualifying hero Alex Albon’s Williams to secure the final point in eighth.
Albon and Oscar Piastri’s McLaren completed the top 10. Piastri’s team-mate Lando Norris was 10th early on but was one of a handful of drivers to use soft tyres in a mostly medium field. It didn’t pay off and he fell to 17th after falling off the pace and then pitting to get rid of them.
Sprint Qualifying Results
|Nyck de Vries