5 Winners and 5 Losers from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Who lit up the Land of Fire?
Sergio Perez reminded the world that he’s a contender for the world championship as he followed up a F1 Sprint triumph with victory in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. But it wasn’t so rosy for everyone else. Here are our picks for this week’s edition of Winners and Losers...
Winner: Sergio Perez
“I can win the world championship.” Sergio Perez was bullish after he clinched victory on Sunday in Baku, the Mexican confirming his prowess on the city streets of Azerbaijan, a day after he secured maximum points in the F1 Sprint.
He still has a mountain to climb if he is to have any chance of landing the trophy that matters at the end of the season, but in Baku he took advantage of some good fortune with the Safety Car on Sunday and then made it count by holding off team mate Max Verstappen for the win.
By doing so he became the first driver to win in Azerbaijan more than once. It was his fifth Baku podium – more than any other driver – and fifth successive win on a street circuit. He’s now just six points adrift of Verstappen in the championship.
Loser: Nyck De Vries
This was a weekend to forget for Nyck De Vries. The Dutchman started last in the F1 Sprint – and could only recover to 14th. In the race, he “screwed up” and crashed, bringing out the Safety Car.
The AlphaTauri driver has failed to score in any race this season – and this was the first time he failed to see the chequered flag in four races in 2023. Meanwhile his team mate has scored in each of the last two Grands Prix.
Winner: Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc sets himself high targets, so he was understandably disappointed to have relinquished the lead – having started from pole – and dropped to third at the flag.
But this was his first podium of the season, contributing to a 22-point haul from this weekend (including his second place in the Sprint) – to more than treble the tally he’s achieved in the opening three races of the year.
Losers: Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo lacked the pace to compete for points in either the F1 Sprint or Sunday’s Grand Prix – the Italian team appearing to have taken a step back versus their immediate rivals.
Zhou Guanyu failed to finish – in what was the team’s first retirement of the season – while his team mate Valtteri Bottas’s afternoon was over almost immediately after damage sustained on the first lap left him nursing an ailing car.
Winner: Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso’s ruthlessly consistent 2023 streak continued as he followed up three successive third-place finishes with fourth place in Baku for Aston Martin.
The Spaniard has never previously finished inside the top five at the Azerbaijani race, while his result maintains his team's record of always finishing in the top six here.
The double world champion sits third in the drivers’ championship, only 33 points behind leader Verstappen and 12 clear of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
This has been a horrible weekend for Alpine, whose unreliability on Friday put them on the backfoot and meant the French team failed to validate their significant upgrade.
Esteban Ocon started form the pit lane and ran in the points for much of the race, before his late mandatory pit stop dropped him out of contention. Pierre Gasly was never a contender to make it into the top 10.
As a result, the team brought home no points for the second successive race – they only failed to score in three races in all of 2022.
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
It might appear strange to describe Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, as a winner when he finished sixth – his worst result of the season so far.
However, the Briton got the most out of a Mercedes which is fourth-best in terms of pure performance and is exactly the same as the Silver Arrows he raced in Australia.
Updates are on the way – but with what he’s got, Hamilton has done a fine job to beat his team mate George Russell in Baku and sit fourth in the drivers’ standings.
Loser: Max Verstappen
Second place shouldn’t be sniffed at, but Max Verstappen has high standards and had it not been for the Safety Car, there is a good chance the Dutchman would have made it three wins from four.
But the Safety Car did come out, which cost Verstappen the lead and relegated him to third. He easily breezed by Leclerc to take second, but he was unable to mount a challenge for the lead on his main championship rival and team mate Perez.
It followed up a third-place finish in the Sprint, two spots behind Perez, and that equals a disappointing weekend.
Winner: Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda has been immense in 2023, the Japanese driver getting everything out of an AlphaTauri that is one of the slowest cars – if not the slowest – on the grid.
He lost ground having pitted before the Safety Car was called out for team mate De Vries – allowing his immediate rivals to snatch a cheap pit stop.
But he kept a cool head and drove a mature race to grab the final point on offer. His last five results run 11th, 11th, 11th, 10th and 10th. That is the kind of consistency that will earn him a contract renewal.
It shows how far Williams have come that a weekend without points is considered an unsatisfactory result – but that’s what the British team endured on a track where their straight-line speed advantage offered them a chance of a strong result.
Alex Albon suffered some front wing damage on the opening lap, which hurt his balance and cost him some downforce. That he still finished 12th shows the car’s potential.
Logan Sargeant delivered a strong race, considering he was on the back foot having missed the Sprint, but he was too far back to be a contender for points. Williams remain on one point from four races, which is not a fair reflection of their 2023 quality.