Sergio Perez took the first F1 Sprint Race victory of 2023 at the Azerbaijan GP as he fended off the challenge from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc started the race at the front of the grid, after dominating the weekend’s second qualifying session as he did the first, but despite throwing everything into his defence, he was unable to stop the Red Bull of Perez.
Perez passed the Monegasque on Lap 8 on the run into Turn 1, after an early safety car was brought out to handle the broken AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda, which perhaps should have remained in the pits after an initial accident on the opening lap.
The straight line pace gap between the cars was such that Perez was able to hold off Leclerc with DRS down the 2 km pit straight in Baku, with the Mexican ultimately pulling out a gap of around 2.5s at the chequered flag.
The other Red Bull of Max Verstappen was third, just unable to overtake Leclerc on the line after chasing down the Ferrari down the home straight.
Verstappen tangles with Russell
Verstappen had an early tussle with the Mercedes of George Russell, which left the reigning champion aggrieved and down in fourth at the early safety car period.
Verstappen complained numerous times on the radio that Russell had gone too hard in causing some contact while overtaking, but the Dutchman got a swift revenge after a smooth move up the inside of Russell into Turn 1 after the restart.
Russell had no answer to the Red Bull and crossed the line in fourth, ahead of the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, with the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso in sixth and Lewis Hamilton in seventh.
Lance Stroll took the final points scoring spot in eighth under the new Sprint Race rules, beating out the Williams of Alex Albon.