F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix analysis: No fluke as Verstappen beaten FAIR AND SQUARE
Sergio Perez drove a masterful race to win the Azerbaijan GP in Baku on Sunday and he deserves all of the credit.
Yes, the Mexican might have appeared lucky with the timing of that safety car, but Red Bull boxed world champion Max Verstappen when they did only because Sergio was pushing him and had got within his DRS range, which led to his side of the garage inducing the error.
After the first pitstops, it was a dash to the finish on the Hard compound tyre with both drivers pushing each other to the end. It was one of those races where 'Checo' beat Max in equal machinery, no questions asked!
Behind the Red Bulls, Ferrari had a good afternoon as they matched Mercedes and Aston Martin in race pace for the first time in 2023, which is an encouraging sign for the Italian outfit.
Aston Martin's impressive teamwork led them to place both drivers in competitive positions until Lance Stroll made a mistake, which saw him lose out to Lewis Hamilton.
Let's dive into the data to assess the race pace of the top teams, and how the afternoon panned out for each of them.
Stint 1(Medium Tyre)
The top eight in the field were pushing all the time for the first 8-12 laps in which they ran the Mediums. This led to them degrading their tyres earlier than expected, especially the rears.
Verstappen and Hamilton lost out on the safety car timing because Perez and Alonso were pushing them respectively.
The Red Bulls were 0.7 seconds faster on average on the Medium tyre compared to the other top teams.
Leclerc was the faster driver initially, but once he was passed by Perez his pace was similar to that of team-mate Carlos Sainz. Both are still a good 0.7 seconds slower than the Red Bulls.
The Mercedes and Aston Martins were quite close in terms of pace during the Medium tyre stint, but Fernando Alonso was pacing himself to attack Hamilton around Lap 10 and easily closed the gap which showed that overall the Astons had better tyre deg than the Silver Arrows.
Stint 2(Hard Tyre)
The second stint was again a dash for the top eight in the field. This can be observed from the continuously decreasing lap time from lap 10 through to 51.
Leclerc hit tyre deg/graining issues in the last 5 laps, which gave Alonso the incentive to push hard in vain for a podium. Meanwhile Stroll eased off as George Russell decided to pit. But for the rest of them, it was a dash to the finish line.
The Red Bulls were around 0.3-0.4 seconds faster on average than the other teams, with both Perez and Max pushing each other and having similar race pace on the Hard. Additionally, Red Bull had the best tyre degradation on the Hard tyre.
Alonso and Leclerc were closely matched. Alonso had latent pace and was expecting the Ferrari to hit tyre deg issues earlier, but Leclerc held on just enough to secure the podium spot.
Sainz, Hamilton, Stroll and Russell all had similar race pace but didn’t have enough of an advantage to overtake each other without driver-induced mistakes.
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