Sergio Perez won Saturday’s (April 29) Formula 1 Sprint race in Azerbaijan from third on the grid, upsetting two-fold polesitter Charles Leclerc in the process.
Perez, who has a history of success on the streets of the Azerbaijani capital, took the lead from Leclerc at the start of lap 8 of the 17-lap race, and never looked back while his teammate Max Verstappen was unable to challenge Leclerc for second place after picking up damage on the opening lap.
“It’s been a lot of pressure put on us, on our team’s engineers, mechanics, drivers,” Perez told Sky Sports’ Naomi Schiff. “So to get away with maximum points today was the main objective. But obviously we know that tomorrow is the main race … I think there is good learning today and, yeah, P3 is not ideal for tomorrow’s race but I will give it a go and fight for the win.”
The day began with the first iteration of F1’s new Sprint Shootout qualifying session. A zero-sugar version of standard qualifying in many respects, the shakedown saw Leclerc take his second pole on the streets of Baku in as many days, securing himself a first-place start in both Saturday’s Sprint and Sunday’s (April 30) Grand Prix.
The Sprint Shootout first saw American rookie Logan Sargeant smack the wall with his Williams machine, leading to a red flag which ended the first session and dealt his car damage which would force Williams to withdraw his entry from the Sprint race in order to have the car repaired before Sunday.
Leclerc likewise found the barrier, albeit in much more dramatic circumstances when he planted his Ferrari in the barriers of turn 5 during his final run of the Shootout. Fortunately for Ferrari, Monegasque had already set a time fast enough to take pole for the Sprint race and that position was not topped for the rest of the session.
While Leclerc and Perez dashed into the distance on lap 1, Verstappen immediately found himself side-by-side with Mercedes’ George Russell and the two did battle from turn 1 through to turn 3, where Russell forced the issue and made contact with Verstappen’s left side before the Dutchman then grazed the wall with his right-rear tire.
The contact with Russell left a sizeable hole in the left-hand sidepod of Verstappen’s RB19 which hindered his performance and handling for the rest of the event. Verstappen and Russell spoke after the race with Verstappen warning Russell:…
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