Can Sergio Perez actually win the Formula One World Championship?
After a composed and calm win in Baku, where he held off a rampaging teammate Max Verstappen, many onlookers may have changed their opinion from the start of the season. Checo has been written off so many times during his career and has been forced to play understudy to the two-time world champion in recent seasons, but finally now, it appears he is ready to step up to the plate as the Dutchman’s only title challenger.
The Red Bull is still by far and away the quickest car on track. Despite Charles Leclerc’s pole position and decent start to the race, as we saw yesterday in the Sprint, he just couldn’t keep the Red Bull of Perez behind him.
Leclerc got a strong start but was quickly surpassed by Max Verstappen as the Red Bull’s ridiculous straight line speed took full effect. As it looked like being a relatively straightforward afternoon for Christian Horner after the chaos of the sprint yesterday, Nick Devries hit the wall and caused a yellow flag.
It didn’t make life easy for Verstappen who mistimed his spot and fell behind his teammate Sergio Perez. The Red Bulls were still the best cars on the track by a mile, but an intriguing contest emerged between the teammates. Verstappen has made it clear in the past he is not the best teammate unless he is on top spot and it appears now his Mexican teammate has what it takes to push him all the way.
Checo has now closed the gap on his teammate to just eight points and although Verstappen remains heavy favourite to win his third title in a row, Perez may make it a little more difficult than he found it last year. It’s good for the sport that Red Bull, so far clear of the rest of the pack, are allowing their drivers to race fairly as Max pushed late on, setting the fastest lap in an attempt to hunt down his teammate.
However, he couldn’t get past in the end of what was an uneventful Grand Prix. This track, with its famous castle, is usually so good at producing drama and yet this time around there was an obvious lack of overtaking in Baku. Guenther Steiner on the Haas pit wall cited the ‘stable tyres’ as a potential reason why teams were finding it so difficult to create drama and hopefully the Miami Grand Prix next time out will provide more entertainment.
Leclerc rounded off the podium with a third place finish while Fernando Alonso came fourth, ahead of Carlos Sainz in fifth and Lewis Hamilton in sixth. George Russell suffered a disappointing restart from that early safety car and had to settle for eighth after a frustrating weekend.
There was further drama at the end of the race as Esteban Ocon had to put on the final lap, yet the pit lane was full of people ready to capture the Red Bull win. Fortunately they all got out of the way in time but it was awfully close to a complete disaster. That is another flaw of organisation for Formula One and an absolutely shambolic ending took a bit of the shine off Red Bull’s 25th one-two in the sport.
This time it was Perez in first, and the Mexican is the only man that is keeping this title race alive. Surely Red Bull’s only issues this season will come who stands on top of the podium each week.