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Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2023

Stoddie Straight: Perez's vital 'edge' over Verstappen amid 'boring' Sprint format

RacingNews365's expert columnist, former Formula 1 team principal Paul Stoddart, tackles the revised Sprint format, street circuit specialist Perez, and the big changes at his old team.

Sergio Perez Azerbaijan GP Race Red Bull
Column
To news overview © XPBimages

In his post-race column for RacingNews365.com, former Formula 1 team principal Paul Stoddart talks about the 'edge' Sergio Perez has over Max Verstappen, the 'predictable' racing witnessed in the new Sprint setup, and 'talented' Mekies taking the AlphaTauri reins from Franz Tost.

Perez unchallenged in demo of street circuit specialism

I think Checo’s proved that he's worthy of challenging Max, there's no doubt about that. He was on a mission at the weekend, and he proved it in both the Sprint and in the Grand Prix. I think it's probably fair to say that Max was having an off weekend, it didn't feel like he was in the right space, not helped with the issue he had with George Russell getting into the side of him in the Sprint.

That's an added factor with the two-race format; if someone is having an off weekend or a team is having an off week then it can continue from one race to the next. In any other weekend, I think we would have seen Max pass Checo, and he had an awful lot of laps to do it, but it didn't even really look close. Perez took off from the Safety Car and basically wasn't challenged, or really even close to being challenged for the rest of the race.

Obviously, Max’s pit stop didn't help his situation either, and it's a hard call to say whether they should have kept him out or not, but and I think that assumption is the mother of all evil. Everybody assumed that de Vries was just going to slip it into reverse, back onto the track and there just be waved yellow flags, which would have hurt Perez more than it would Verstappen.

When Verstappen was having its pitstop, if it had just been double-waved yellows for de Vries, we would have seen a situation where Perez would have slowed down and would have lost valuable time, but it didn't happen that way. F1 is ‘if’ spelled backwards, and I think it's hard to criticise Red Bull because that was a really instant decision.

Checo’s definitely a proven street specialist, and around the street circuits I think he's probably got a slight edge on Max. As for the rest of the year, there’s a long way to go with 19 races and five more Sprints, with a lot of points up for grabs. I think Max will walk it, but let's hope Checo gives him a good fight for the money!

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Exciting Baku let down by 'predictable' Sprint format

I thought the race was probably affected by the new Sprint format, and it sort of set the scene for the whole weekend, because the cars after Friday were in parc ferme, and I think that led to a bit of a boring race, and a fairly predictable one.

For the race on Sunday, you pretty much knew that it was going to be between Verstappen and Perez for the win. There was no doubt that those two, barring any accidents, were going to be at the front. Ferrari have fantastic one-lap pace, but it was pretty evident in the Sprint that they were going to get overtaken fairly quickly, and it was the same thing on Sunday.

I'm just not sure I'm in favour of this new format. If you think of somewhere like Baku, then you think of exciting races, but there wasn't an awful lot happening in that race, and it was far too predictable.

I think the longer-term aim is to get us to 30 races, because Formula 1’s now so globally popular. They want more races, and the TV audience will be there no matter what happens, regardless of having two races in a weekend.

I'm not sure it's good for the sport because, and it's been proven in other racing formulas, you do tend to get much of the same action when you have two races on the same track on the same weekend. But I've seen this conversation going back years and years when Bernie Ecclestone wanted more races, and the idea of having two races over a weekend was discussed at length and ultimately rejected by the teams, but they’ve edged more towards it now. You've gone from a Sprint race that had three points, two points and one point to a Sprint race that now goes eight points down to one point.

I just see this as a move towards full double-header races that we're going to be seeing in the next year or two, and that can be exciting, but you've got to find a way to differentiate between race one and race two. If you’re there over the weekend and you've had your practice and you've had your qualifying, why would you expect a race to produce a much different outcome from the one you had the day before? I'm not sure that that's overall good for Formula 1.

Mekies a good choice as Tost replacement

I spoke to Franz Tost in Melbourne, and he indicated that this was going to be his last year, so it’s no surprise to hear the news that he’ll be stepping back. I hear he's staying on as a consultant, so that's a bit of good news. He was the second-longest serving team principal with 18 years, only Christian Horner has one year more.

I think Franz has done a good job over the years. People criticise but, given the tools that he was given, and the fact that it was run as a Red Bull academy, particularly in terms of drivers, I think he's done a fantastic job, and some pretty serious drivers have come through there!

Laurent Mekies is a good choice and I think he’ll do well. I've always got on well with him, and I always thought he was very talented. When he firstly moved to the FIA, I sort of thought he was being trained to be Charlie Whiting's deputy, but he moved to Ferrari before, sadly, Charlie passed away.

He's done a good job at Ferrari, but I think the appointment of Fred Vasseur as Team Principal meant that he'd been overlooked, for want of a better word, and if he wants to be in the top job, it wasn't going to be at Ferrari for a while. I think he’ll do a good job, but time will tell.

I think I'd be more worried about where Red Bull is going under the new management, per se, as to what they want to do with AlphaTauri. Are they going to use it the way it's been used for the last 18 years? Are they going to sell it? What are they going to do? That's the question. I think that's not answered yet.

			© xpb.cc
	© xpb.cc

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