F1 – Azerbaijan GP – Sprint race
Salam, MiniFans! We’re back in Baku and we’re also back to sprint weekends, but this time, with a twist. Each race got its own qualifying session, which means the results of this sprint will not decide the grid for tomorrow, leaving it as its own standalone event in the weekend. Leclerc surprised everyone by snatching both pole positions, but Red Bull is breathing down his neck, the promise of a fight clear in their pace.
A very clean start, despite a small caress between Russell and Verstappen that could have ended badly after a bad start from the Red Bull and that left him with some floor damage, kicked off the sprint in Baku. Leclerc and Pérez took advantage of the battle behind them to take off into the distance. However, the peace didn’t last long, as Tsunoda hit the wall and his right rear tyre’s rubber decided to live its own life, falling off and rolling down the straight. As the cars were still together, a yellow flag was the first choice, but eventually a virtual safety car and a full one came out, in order to clean the track of debris.
During the safety period, AlphaTauri managed to send Tsunoda back out, but received an investigation due to an unsafe release, as it was clear the car was not up to racing standards and he retired. When the safety car turned its lights off, all responsibility was set on Leclerc’s shoulders, who managed to catch Pérez by surprise, as he accelerated way before where they expected him to, and the race finally got underway.
Verstappen got his revenge on Russell, while both Sainz and Alonso got past Hamilton in the same spot. However, as soon as the DRS was allowed to be used, Leclerc didn’t stand a chance against Pérez, who overtook him in the first chance he got, unlike Verstappen. The world champion was having more problems than his teammate, due to both Leclerc managing not to fall out of Pérez’s DRS zone and him being more than one second away from the Ferrari.
Further back, it soon became clear that the soft tyre McLaren had taken a risk with wasn’t working for Norris, and he was asked to box once he had been overtaken by both Haas. He wasn’t the only one in trouble thanks to the red rimmed tyres, as neither Bottas nor Ocon were doing too well either.
The last handful of laps were quite calm, with the gaps stabilizing between the cars and not many risks undertaken by either the teams or the drivers. Verstappen was the only one to give it a go at gaining a position with very little time to finish line, closing the space to Leclerc to try and score a 1-2 for Red Bull, but failing in his efforts despite managing to get into Leclerc’s DRS zone.
As expected, some chaos ensued in the 17 laps that comprised Baku’s sprint race, with a safety car needed to clean up debris from a crash into the walls of the track, but nothing out of the ordinary for a street circuit that’s already been witness to multiple red flags during the weekend. It was Pérez who came out on top instead of Verstappen, which could be classed as a surprise, but needless to say, the current championship leader will have taken some notes for tomorrow.
MiniDrivers – F1 Sprint
2023 Azerbaijan GP