Perez won the F1 Sprint in Azerbaijan ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen

Perez won the F1 Sprint in Azerbaijan ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen

Peréz won the Sprint F1 in Zerba ahead of Leclerc and by Verstappen

Mexican driver Sergio Pérez of the Red Bull team won the sprint at the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 29, 2023.

Baku – Mexican driver Sergio Pérez won sprint in the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and reduced the lead of championship leader and teammate Max Verstappen to thirteen points. The 33-year-old Red Bull pilot beat Ferrari's Charles Leclerc by more than four seconds in the 17-lap race in Baku. Verstappen, who finished the race after colliding with George Russell with a damaged car, crossed the finish line in third.

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Sprint F1 in Ázerb&aacute Peréz won the race ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen

Peréz won Sprint F1 in Azerbaijan ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen

Peréz won the Sprint F1 in Ázerbaijan ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen

“It was good. These races are treacherous and there's a lot of pressure on us. We wanted to get as many points as possible, but we also knew that the main race wasn't until tomorrow,” Pérez, who will start Sunday's race, told the television cameras as third. “It's not an ideal position, but I'll give it my all and try to win,” he added.

Starting from the second row, Pérez got ahead of Leclerc in the eighth lap. Verstappen also attacked the Monaco rider later, but failed. The reigning world champion and overall leader paid for the damage he sustained after contact with Russell at the start of the race. He dropped to fourth after him, but then took advantage of the safety car exit after Júki Cunoda's accident and returned to third on the restart. He emphatically declared a duel with the Mercedes pilot even at the finish line.

“I don't understand why someone has to take a risk like that in the first lap. To drive into my side and make a hole in it. We all had cold tires and it's easy to brake,” Verstappen was angry. “His explanation that his wheels locked, or let me look at the footage from the car, is really beautiful. It doesn't make sense. We fought for third place in the end and we have good points, but it is what it is,” said the two-time champion of the world.

Fourth Russell defended himself against Verstappen's criticism. “As a driver, I'm here to fight and win. I'm not going to hold back just because Verstappen is fighting for the world title,” the Briton told Sky Sports. “I was surprised he was still on the outside of the track. None of the contact was intentional. I tried my best to keep it clean. I was surprised how he fought for that position even though I was on the inside,” he said Russell.

The sprint in Baku was run for the first time as a separate race that did not affect the starting order in Sunday's Grand Prix. Qualifying for the main race took place already on Friday and was won by Leclerc.

“It confirmed a bit what we thought. Red Bull is still ahead of us in terms of race pace. But we mustn't forget how far behind we were two races back,” said Leclerc. “We have moved forward. We are still not where we want to be, but if we can no longer win, we will try to get at least the maximum number of points,” he added.

The Grand Prix of Azerbaijan will start on Sunday at 13:00 CET .

Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Formula 1 World Car Championship race:

Sprint: 1. Pérez (Mex./Red Bull) 33:17.667, 2. Leclerc (Mon./Ferrari) -4.463, 3. Verstappen (Netherlands/Red Bull) -5.065, 4. Russell (Brit./Mercedes) -8.532, 5 .Sainz (Sp./Ferrari) -10.388, 6. Alonso (Sp./Aston Martin) -11.663, 7. Hamilton (Brit./Mercedes) -16.503, 8. Stroll (Can./Aston Martin) -18.417, 9 Albon (Thailand/Williams) -21.757, 10. Piastri (Austria/McLaren) -22.851. Pérez 62, 3. Alonso 48, 4. Hamilton 40, 5. Sainz 24, 6. Russell 23, 7. Stroll 21, 8. Leclerc 13, 9. Norris (Brit./McLaren) 8, 10. Hülkenberg (Ger. /Haas) 6.

Constructors' Cup: 1. Red Bull 137, 2. Aston Martin 69, 3. Mercedes 63, 4. Ferrari 37, 5. McLaren 12, 6 Alpine 8, 7. Haas 7, 8. Alfa Romeo 6, 9. AlphaTauri and Williams 1 each.