Sergio Perez once again displayed his street circuit prowess to lead a dominant Red Bull one-two at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and close the gap on Max Verstappen to six points in the drivers’ championship.
The Mexican started third but benefitted from the timing of an early safety car to leapfrog his teammate before keeping the world champion at bay for his sixth GP victory and a Baku double, having won the Saturday Sprint.
“It really worked out today for us,” Perez said. “I think we had better deg on the first stint then the safety car came and bunched everyone up and it was a long race on the hard tyres.
“I think it was very close between us. We both hit the wall a few times and the way Max pushed me was really hard but we kept it under control.
“I had a wee bit of luck my front-right tyre didn’t blow up but we survived.”
Verstappen can count himself unlucky having passed Charles Leclerc for the lead on Lap 4 before being caught out by the retirement of Nyck de Vries.
When the order was reset behind the safety car, the Dutchman was third and once again made light work of Leclerc, but he was unable to match Perez and had to settle for second.
Nearly 20 seconds behind, pole-sitter Leclerc held off Fernando Alonso to clinch the final podium spot, with the Spaniard taking an impressive fourth for Aston Martin ahead of Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton finished sixth for Mercedes, recovering from 10th after the safety car period, with Lance Stroll seventh and George Russell eighth.
Rounding out the points were Lando Norris in ninth and Yuki Tsunoda in 10th.
Max’s miserable weekend
It was an unusually scrappy weekend for the world champion and championship leader, who was beaten twice in as many days by his teammate.
Perez’s prowess around the Baku City Circuit was once again on display as he resisted the pressure applied by Verstappen, before slowly eking out a comfortable advantage.
In his pursuit, the Dutchman’s frustration was evident as he complained on team radio and clipped the wall several times in a desperate bid to make up time.
His best efforts were in vain but he remains the championship leader heading to the Miami GP, although his advantage has been cut.
“Of course the safety car I was a bit unlucky,” Verstappen said. “I struggled with the balance.
“We know it’s a very long season. Baku is very different to Miami and Miami is different to the other circuits.
“We are always learning and you can’t always be perfect.”
Hamilton rolls back the years
Another driver caught out by the retirement of De Vries was Hamilton. The seven-time world champion pitted from fifth at the end of Lap 9, only to find himself 10th when the safety car picked up the pack.
However, Hamilton passed Nico Hulkenberg and Ocon in the first two corners at the restart before pulling off one of the moves of the day on Russell for seventh.
He then took advantage of Stroll’s mistake to snatch sixth from the Canadian on Lap 37, where he finished after being unable to get close enough to make a move on Sainz for fifth.