Azerbaijan GP: Perez passes Leclerc to win

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Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race was won by Sergio Perez, who overtook polesitter Charles Leclerc by 4.4 seconds. The race was paused for a safety car period after Yuki Tsunoda hit the wall at Turn 14 on the opening lap. Perez slotted in behind Leclerc at the start and ran with him through the opening lap.

In addition to damaging Nyck de Vries’ front wing, the Japanese driver ripped the right-rear tyre off the rim. While Tsunoda crawled back to the pitlane, a virtual safety car emerged to collect debris. Although AlphaTauri put on a new set of tyres to try and salvage something from the sprint, the car was noticeably crabbing on the straights and the team was investigated for releasing the car in an unsafe condition.

When the debris was cleared from the track on the sixth lap, the race restarted under a full-blown safety car. On the restart, Leclerc let go to stay ahead of Perez, leading the next two laps with the Mexican keeping an eye on him.

After DRS was enabled, Perez became a greater force in Leclerc’s mirrors and, on the 2.2-kilometre Neftchilar Avenue straight after lap seven, reeled in the Ferrari and took the lead.

While the Monegasque stuck with him and had a brief look down the inside into Turn 3, he wasn’t given the opportunity to return the favor. As Perez gained straightline speed, he slowly edged away from Leclerc and eventually broke free of DRS range as Leclerc focused on controlling his tyres in order to keep up with Verstappen.

Once again, Ferrari closed in on Perez and got within DRS range of the Red Bull driver, but Perez turned up the heat and pulled away from Leclerc at almost a second a lap, widening the gap to 4.4 seconds by the finish. Verstappen was hampered by damage sustained in a first-lap skirmish with George Russell, which allowed Leclerc to hold second.

Through the opening array of corners, the Mercedes driver was side-by-side with Verstappen, eventually passing him at Turn 3. Verstappen complained that Russell touched him during the first lap. During his momentary drop to fourth, his Red Bull sustained a small gash on its left sidepod.

Verstappen, however, reclaimed third place after the restart following the safety car. In the end, Verstappen was unable to make inroads into Leclerc, dropping outside of DRS activation for most of the sprint.

After falling behind before the restart, Russell overtook Carlos Sainz, who had battled earlier on with Lewis Hamilton. Lance Stroll won out in the battle with Alex Albon to claim the final point, while Fernando Alonso followed through in the same move to get ahead of Hamilton.

From a long way behind, Stroll passed Williams at Turn 1 and held off Albon at Turn 3. Piastri finished in the top 10 after passing teammate Lando Norris, who pitted to turn his race into a glorified test.



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