Max Verstappen has said he will take a second place finish from a tricky weekend at the 2023 Azerbaijan GP after he lost out to teammate Sergio Perez in the hunt for the win.
Verstappen’s chances of victory in Baku began to go downhill after a safety car for the AlphaTauri of Nyck De Vries, when the Dutchman came in just before for his pitstop while Perez remained out and took the lead of the race.
From there, Perez benefitted from the shorter pitstop during the safety car to retain the lead on fresh tyres, and the Mexican held off the reiging champion to come over the line for his second victory of 2023.
Speaking to media after the race, Verstappen mentioned his dissatisfaction with the new Sprint race format once again, and said he would try to take lessons from what had been a “messy” weekend in Baku.
“I think the weekend in general a bit messy,” Verstappen said, “but I think that can be expected with this format that the race today.
“I think the first thing probably I could have been a little bit more aggressive with the way I was using my ties. I think I was just too careful. And yeah, that’s why, you know, Checo was still quite close to me.
“And then of course, we made the call to pit. I mean, I saw that there was a car stopped. I thought he maybe just locked up. In hindsight. I mean, I can’t see that. But yeah, it’s something to review.
“I mean, clearly you could see there was one wheel damaged. And it looked like he was not gonna, try make it back to the pits even if he had reversed, so something to look at because of course that then did hurt my race after that.
“Then after the safety car I tried to put the pressure on Checo to try and get into that DRS. I think one time, I was pretty close to getting it, but just hanging in there really close trying that shall probably damage my tyres a bit too much early on for such a long stint.
“So that at one point, I just settled and tried to do a little bit my own thing to not damage the tyres completely to the end. “
Weekend to learn from
The result means that each of the Red Bull drivers have two wins a piece so far in 2023, with Verstappen six points ahead at the top of the drivers’ championship table.
The Dutchman said he struggled to find the right balance of the car across the weekend, with minimal changes allowed under the new Sprint Shootout format.
However, he said things improved across the course of the weekend, and he would take away the lessons as he looks forward to the Miami GP next weekend.
“But it was just very difficult to have a good balance entry to mid-corner,” Verstappen said. “And a lot of the lap time here is about entry to mid-corner to get that right. And I was just struggling with oversteer and understeer.
“So the whole race, I was just trying a lot of things on my steering wheel to try and get a bit of a better feeling balanced in the car.
“And I actually think that I found a good compromise towards the end of the race because I think my last 10 laps were a lot stronger. And I felt a lot happier with the car, how everything was behaving.”
“So I think all I can be quite pleased with second, I mean, because you always want to win, right. But I think sometimes you need these kinds of weekends to learn and have a better understanding of the car, where the car needs to go faster.
“And sometimes on the street circuit like this, it really comes out like sometimes these kinds of things might get a bit masked on a normal track because of downforce and just the general behaviour of a car. So maybe this was a good day, you know, to go forward.”