Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Sergio Perez took his first win for Red Bull but a hydraulic issue very nearly made the day a total write off for the team.
Starting P6 Perez had a strong start to his afternoon in Baku, making up two places on the opening lap and then was one of the top runners who went longest on his opening stint and put the overcut into play effectively. Despite having a slightly slow stop, the Mexican managed to jump Hamilton, who had to spend an extra couple of seconds stationary during his own stop to allow a car to pass, to make it a Red Bull 1-2.
“I’m so, so happy for today,” said Perez. “You know the race normally Baku is pretty crazy, first of all I have to say I’m very sorry for Max because he did a tremendous race and he really deserved the win. It would have been incredible to get that 1-2 for the team but at the end it is a fantastic day for us.”
The two held those positions into the closing laps of the race until Verstappen’s tyre failed, ending his race spectacularly on the start/finish straight and then after a half hour red flag delay, Perez lined up in first for a two lap shootout. Hamilton initially got a better start than Perez but the Mercedes driver had a problem and went straight on at the first corner leaving the way open for the Mexican’s first victory for Red Bull.
“[Hamilton] had strong pace throughout the race. I think we had a bit of a slow stop as well so the overcut came a bit closer to him and he just pushed me from then onwards. I had the pressure from him since pretty much the beginning and then at the restart I had a poor start, so he was alongside me but I was like ‘I’m not going to miss it’.
“I broke as late as I possibly could, and he did the same, but it didn’t work for him. At least it’s a good day for the team. This is definitely a strong boost of confidence for myself and for the team.”
It wasn’t all as easy as that though, as right after taking the chequered flag, Perez was ordered by the team to stop his car, so had the race been any longer it might have been a worse day for the team. “We were close to retiring the car,” Perez added. “But luckily we managed to finish the race. And it really was quite difficult all the way till the end.”
Christian Horner told Sky F1 afterwards what that issue on the Mexican’s car was: “He was nursing a hydraulic issue that we were really concerned that the car wouldn’t get to the end of the race which was why he stopped after the chequered flag.” Adding that at the restart the team were “just praying that hydraulic pressure, that we were all glued to the last few laps, just stayed there. And then fantastic to see him cross the line.”