Christian Horner hailed Sergio Perez‘s 2023 Azerbaijan GP weekend as incredible, despite conceding Perez was lucky to take the lead after Red Bull‘s strategy worked in his favour and against Max Verstappen.
Verstappen quickly dispatched polesitter Charles Leclerc and looked set to cruise to victory before Nyck De Vries had to retire and a safety car was called, but not before Verstappen had pitted under yellow flags.
That allowed Perez to jump his teammate, but it wasn’t plain sailing from there as Verstappen stayed within 1.5 seconds for a good chunk of the race before Perez could stretch the gap in the closing stages.
“It’s an incredible weekend, winning the sprint race yesterday and obviously he got a little bit lucky with the timing of the safety car,” Horner told reporters after the race.
“But having got the lead, he built close to a four-second lead at one point and controlled the race.
“There’s very little between them up until probably about lap 28, then Checo pulls out a bit of a gap and then Max starts to close it down over the last five laps.
“So a great team performance, the unfortunate thing was the safety car, with 20/20 hindsight we’d have left them another lap.”
Horner lays down challenge for Perez
With the victory, Perez becomes the first driver ever to win multiple Azerbaijan GPs after he also won in 2021 when he capitalised on both Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton losing the lead in the final laps.
All 5 of Perez‘s grand prix victories for Red Bull have come on street tracks, including his win at the Saudi Arabian GP earlier in 2023, and he now trails Max Verstappen by just three points in the drivers’ championship.
And Horner was asked by reporters what’s the secret to Perez‘s street circuit mastery.
“I don’t know, you’d have to ask him,” Horner replied coyly. “That’s why he’s the king of the streets. He’s excelled on street circuits, so we just need to get him going on the proper circuits.
“Absolutely, yes, he got lucky through the safety car but he then had to get on and deliver. You’ve got Max Verstappen behind you, he’s not taking it easy.
“They were pushing each other hard, I think they were comparing times that they touched the wall under the podium there, but we let them push all the way through, that was always the plan going into the race.”