Checo wins in streets of Baku for the second time as Red Bull dominates
Sergio Perez's superb drive at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix reduces the gap between him and world champion Max Verstappen to six points; polesitter Charles Leclerc finishes third and secures the first podium of Ferrari in 2023.
After both Red Bulls effortlessly passed pole-sitter Charles Leclerc's Ferrari - who finished third - in the early stages, a sudden Safety Car caused by Nyck de Vries crashing allowed Perez to jump ahead of Verstappen as both made pit stops.
When Nyck de Vries collided with the inside wall of Turn 6 and came to a stop on the track, Verstappen pitted in response, but the appearance of a lap 11 safety car as marshals attempted to clear de Vries' stopped AlphaTauri meant that his side of the garage had slightly mistimed the call, with the safety car appearing as Verstappen was departing the pitlane.
This allowed Perez and Leclerc to take cheaper pitstops under the safety car, allowing them to leave from the pitlane ahead of Verstappen after collecting their new hard tyres.
This victory revives Perez's desire to stop Verstappen from winning the drivers' championship for a third consecutive year. The dominating RB19 currently appears to be in a league of its own in 2023, and the pair has split the season's first four races with two victories each.
Mexican driver, who also won the Sprint race on Saturday is now only 6 points behind Verstappen heading into Miami Grand Prix the following weekend.
Leclerc wasn't expected to be able to compete with the Red Bulls on Sunday, despite securing a surprise pole position on Friday and Saturday for the Sprint. However, he performed superbly to keep Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin behind him and secure his first podium finish of the year.
Ocon, who started from the pit lane on Sunday after breaking parc ferme on Saturday by changing his setup, was engaged in an almost fatal crash in the pit lane during the final laps.
Alpine oddly delayed bringing Ocon in for a required tyre change until the penultimate lap of the race, but race officials were unaware and permitted photographers to assemble at the beginning of the pit lane where they were waiting for the top three.
Regardless of the close call, substantial questions will be raised about how such a life-threatening situation was allowed to exist.