AZERBAIJAN: Sergio Perez of Red Bull Racing emerged victorious in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, winning the cat-and-mouse game with his teammate Max Verstappen.
The Mexican driver gained a psychological advantage over Verstappen with the help of a timely safety car.
However, it was not an easy win for Sergio Perez, as Verstappen kept up the pressure and challenged him until the checkered flag.
The intra-team battle between Sergio Perez and Verstappen dominated Sunday’s race, with Charles Leclerc joining them on the podium with a third-place finish.
At the start of the race, all drivers except Nyck de Vries lined up on the grid with medium Pirelli tyres.
Verstappen quickly overtook pole-sitter Charles Leclerc with DRS enabled on lap 3, passing the Monegasque on the main straight with the Ferrari clueless against Red Bull’s straight-line speed.
Ten laps into the 51-lap race, Verstappen was leading just over a second ahead of Perez.
However, Sergio Perez pushed Verstappen into the wall, but both were lucky to get away without damaging their cars.
Verstappen, however, complained of engine braking issues and pitted while leading the race.
Nyck de Vries hit the barriers and broke his suspension, bringing out the safety car. Perez, along with Leclerc, Sainz, Alonso, Russell, and Stroll, pitted from the lead.
After the top ten pitted, Verstappen was up to third, while Hamilton, who pitted for fresh tyres the lap before De Vries’ crash, was down in 10th.
Sergio Perez resumed the race in the lead, with Verstappen taking second place off Leclerc.
However, 30 laps into the race, Verstappen suddenly dropped over two seconds behind Perez.
After a tense 37 laps of being challenged by Verstappen, Perez secured the victory ahead of his teammate, closing the gap in the Drivers’ Championship to single digits.
Leclerc joined them on the podium, marking Ferrari’s first podium result of the season.
Alonso finished fourth, with Sainz and Hamilton in fifth and sixth place, respectively. Stroll finished seventh ahead of Russell, while Norris and Tsunoda completed the points.
Ocon pitted on the penultimate lap, coming in for his mandatory stop while the race marshals had already come into the pit lane waiting for the Grand Prix’s end.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a thrilling and closely contested race, with Perez outplaying Verstappen.
With the championship race heating up, it will be interesting to see if Perez can continue his momentum in the upcoming races.