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Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2023

Winners and Losers from the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

It was a crushing performance by Sergio Perez in Baku on a day with not much good news, but who were the Winners and Losers from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

Start Baku 2023
To news overview © XPBimages

Sergio Perez is the Formula 1 master of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Not only he has now become the only driver to win in Baku more than once ('two-and-a-half times' as he pointed out with the sprint win), it was an expected win.

Such was Red Bull's pace advantage over the field, it was accepted that pole-man Charles Leclerc would be quickly dispensed with and a straight fight between Perez and Max Verstappen.

Yes, the Mexican was lucky with the timing of the Safety Car, everyone gets a bit here and there after all, but he also pulled out nearly three seconds over the World Champion.

This was Perez's day - and now just six points behind Verstappen, the question is can he really challenge for the championship?

Winner - Sergio Perez

On a sprint weekend, there are 34 points up for grabs for a win in both races plus the fastest lap bonus point. Perez walked away with 33 of them - only losing fastest lap point to George Russell late on.

Before the Safety Car, he was reeling an out-of-sorts Verstappen in, closing to within the DRS zone, but could not attack as the #1 peeled into the pits.

Given Perez's track record here, it's certainly possible he would he passed Verstappen had the need arisen.

This is surely his chance to win the World Championship and so he must put every effort he can now into maximising every single weekend and seeing where it takes him.

He's shown he has all the tools in the arsenal to take it to Verstappen - now Perez must prepare for the season of his life if he is to achieve the goal he's always craved.

What did Perez say?

"I think without all the issues that we had in qualifying in Melbourne, we should be leading the championship. So, definitely there is everything to believe that we can do well."

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Loser - Nyck de Vries

If Perez had an excellent weekend, then Nyck de Vries had a disaster, but the reasons behind it are more complex than it appears on the surface.

First of all, Baku is a tricky circuit even for the drivers who have raced every year since it joined the calendar in 2016.

Couple that with the fact that this was a sprint weekend and the car set-up could not be touched after the sole practice session, de Vries was effectively on a hiding to nowhere, especially given the tricky AlphaTauri - although Yuki Tsunoda did grab a point for 10th.

The race in Miami is also a circuit he hasn't driven on and so it would only be fair to judge him when the calendar arrives back in Europe and he returns to more familiar circuits, such as the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya or the Red Bull Ring.

Until then though, he must do better or his F1 dream will prove to be a rather short one.

What did de Vries say?

"The accident today was fully my mistake. It was very silly and unnecessary and that responsibility is on me. I am disappointed with myself but that’s the way it is."

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Winner - Charles Leclerc

Prior to this race, Charles Leclerc had not driven in a Grand Prix for six weeks after his first lap elimination in Australia.

And crucially for him, this weekend was one where Ferrari finally executed a slick weekend with no operational mistakes. In other words, for the first time this season, he showed us what Ferrari actually has to play with.

Over the single lap of qualifying, what was expected was confirmed with the SF-23 comfortably taking both pole positions but losing out to that mighty straight-line speed of the RB19.

Carlos Sainz was dealt with without too much trouble - and third place was about the best the Monegasque was going to get except if Red Bull went all Baku 2018.

Now he's got a bit of momentum, Leclerc needs to not lose it. Another podium next week in Miami is the bare minimum he should be after.

What did Leclerc say?

"The really good lap [in qualifying] managed to put us in front, but then over 51 laps, it was just not possible. They have so much more pace than we do in in race pace. Everybody's working flat out to try and understand what we can do in the races, especially to just get more performance."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Loser - Alpine

On a weekend Alpine brought some decent upgrades to the A523, 14th and 15th and one car almost destroyed twice was far from optimal.

Their FP1 was ruined when Pierre Gasly suffered a hydraulic issue which caused a fire, before he crashed in qualifying.

Esteban Ocon had a pair of pit-lane starts and his strategy of goal-hanging for a late Safety Car failed with no such luck. It was almost befitting their weekend.

He was also involved in the bizarre incident when he did finally make that pitstop on the final lap which saw FIA representatives hauled before the stewards.

They need to start putting points on the board - with just eight to their name after four races and one sprint. Given McLaren's boost with their own floor upgrade, Alpine need to start delivering.

All in all, a weekend to forget, lick the wounds and come back stronger in Miami.

What did Ocon say?

"I am arriving at 300kph, braking in the last moment, crossing the line and I had to brake and avoid the people. It could have been a major, major incident and it is something we don't want to see. It scared me, I am in control of the car, but I would not have liked to be the one in the pit lane."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Winner - McLaren

Lando Norris explained before the weekend that the much-vaunted floor upgrades would put McLaren where they should have been at the start of the season with the MCL60.

He was proven right as he took ninth and an under the weather Oscar Piastri just outside the points in 11th.

Given any driver not in one of the big four cars spent most of the weekend saying it was impossible to do anything given their advantage, ninth was the best on offer for McLaren - and they took it.

There are just signs of a recovery from the Woking team - and so they must continue to build and cement that fifth place in the Constructors' and begin to chip away at the gap to the fourth-best team, which this weekend was Mercedes.

What did Norris say?

"It was as good a result as I was going to get and the best we could achieve today. P9 really doesn’t sound like a lot but it was the best we can do at the moment."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Loser - Alfa Romeo

In a word? Ouch.

One DNF, and the other car coming home lapped and last on a weekend where the car struggled for balance.

This is becoming the norm for Alfa Romeo, just making up the numbers, and it is something they need to arrest as soon as possible.

They were lucky to get ninth place in Australia thanks to the late chaos there, and so their only points without that would be Valtteri Bottas's eighth place in Bahrain.

There were fears prior to the season that the team had peaked with the ground effect car early in last season - and that idea has some traction.

Bottas - a driver who could occasionally best Lewis Hamilton let us not forget - has looked a shell of himself this season, being out-performed by Zhou Guanyu, a decent pedaller, one Bottas should be dispatching.

At least if the car has no pace, make the thing reliable. Zhou retirement put paid to that.

What did Bottas say?

"We need to understand what happened and, most importantly, how to get back to being competitive. My race was hard from the start: I had a contact in turn two, I was on the outside and I was hit from the left and from behind, which left me with some damage. It was quite a long race after that: we tried to find a way back in, as anything can happen here, but eventually there weren’t any chances for us to rebuild our race."

Also interesting:

Balve Bains is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to dissect the key talking points from the last week in F1.

F1 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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