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Max runner up in Baku: 'It cannot be perfect all the time'

Published on 30 April 2023 by Mike Motilall

Oracle Red Bull Racing reigned supreme in the Azerbaijani Grand Prix, with Sergio Perez ahead, leading a one-two finish. Max Verstappen had to settle for second place, after he lost the lead when the safety car was deployed during a very unfortunate moment for him. Charles Leclerc ended up on the podium for Ferrari, at less than a second behind Ferrari was Alonso.    

“The safety was a bit unlucky”, says Max after the race. “Afterwards I had to push again to stay very close of Sergio to get into the DRS. I think the tyres were overheating a bit, as I was of course trying to follow. But I was also struggling with the balance to be consistent. So I was playing around with the tools a bit and once I got that sorted, the last ten laps were quite good again. But it was just a little bit too late. A lot of things were learned again throughout the race and at the end of the day we had a good team result.”

Looking ahead, Max says in conclusion: “We know it’s a long season and a lot of things have been learned again. Baku again is quite different than Miami. Miami is going to be very different to the other tracks we go to. You keep learning, it cannot be perfect all the time.”

The start of the race is with the exception of a small collision at the back of the field, without any incidents and the top six remains unchanged. Lance Stroll and George Russell gain two spots and are now seventh and ninth. Verstappen puts the pressure from the word go on Leclerc who started from pole. On the fourth lap and with the aid of DRS he took the lead over and made small work of the Ferrari-driver. At the start of the sixth lap, Perez also overtakes the Monegasque, after which both Red Bulls start leading the race as they are followed by both Ferraris with Carlos Sainz being fourth fastest.

Lewis Hamilton is the first one in the top ten who makes a pit stop on lap ten. He swaps the medium compound tyres for the hards. While Perez slots in behind of Max, the Dutchman informs his team that his car is sliding. He pits in order to also change to the hard compound tyre. At the same time, the safety car appears on track due to Nyck de Vries hitting the wall and coming to a standstill. Due to the ill timed stop from Max, because of the neutralization of the race, the two-time world champion drops back all the way to third. Perez is then leading the pack followed by Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) is fifth, ahead of Russell and Stroll.  

Max has his wits about during the re-start of the race and manages to nicely overtake Leclerc for second place. Meanwhile Alonso makes little work of Sainz’ position and takes over P4 while Hamilton overtakes Mercedes-team mate Russell. On lap twenty, Stroll has an oversteer moment after which Hamilton takes over his sixth place. Max starts hunting down his Mexican team mate, who is ahead by a little over a second. The Red Bull Racing-duo is by then pulling away by almost a second a lap from the rest of the field.

On lap 29, Max is trailing his team mate by almost two seconds, followed by new fastest laps that the Red Bull Racing-drivers take turn in driving. With some ten laps to go, Verstappen is some three seconds away from Perez who’s in the lead. In the closing stages, Alonso also gets in the fight for the final point for the fastest lap. But Russell, who is able to do a free pitstop, takes that cake on the final lap due to a set of new soft tyres.  

This means a one-two finish for the Oracle Red Bull Racing-duo during the Azerbaijani Grand Prix. With the aid of the safety car, Perez is the first one to take the chequered flag, ahead of his team mate Max Verstappen. Leclerc rounds out the podium, with in his wake Alonso. Sainz is fifth fastest, closely followed by Hamilton.

Results Grand Prix Azerbaijan:

1Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT511:32:42.43625
2Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT51+2.137s18
3Charles LeclercLECFerrari51+21.217s15
4Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes51+22.024s12
5Carlos SainzSAIFerrari51+45.491s10
6Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes51+46.145s8
7Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes51+51.617s6
8George RussellRUSMercedes51+74.240s5
9Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes51+80.376s2
10Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT51+83.862s1
11Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes51+86.501s0
12Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes51+88.623s0
13Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari51+89.729s0
14Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault51+91.332s0
15Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault51+97.794s0
16Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes51+100.943s0
17Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari50+1 lap0
18Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari50+1 lap0
0Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari36DNF0
0Nyck De VriesDEVAlphaTauri Honda RBPT9DNF0