Perez wins F1 sprint in Baku, Verstappen faces Russell


Baku, Azerbaijan — Max Verstappen faced George Russell in the pitlane after colliding with teammate Sergio Perez as he won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race on Saturday.

Red Bull continue to be the team to win in F1 with Perez first in the sprint and Verstappen third, but Verstappen is back after Russell punctured his car’s sidepod in a crash. Frustrated after thwarting any chance of second place from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen approached Mercedes driver Russell in the pitlane and after the first lap collision seemed to suggest that he would be equally uncompromising when racing Russell in the future.

Verstappen told Russell: “People don’t have enough grip. We need to make some space.”

As Russell walked away, Verstappen added:

Verstappen lost 3rd place in the accident, but regained the position after the safety car restart. Russell told British broadcaster Sky Sports that he believed Verstappen had the right to pressure him as he was on the inside of the corner and was surprised when the Red Bull driver tried to hold him on the outside.

Leclerc started from pole position as he did on Sunday’s Grand Prix, but was overtaken by Perez just before the halfway point of a 17-lap sprint on the long straight along the coast. The Mexican driver took the win and now sits 13 behind leaders Verstappen, two points down from him.

As Verstappen came close on the final lap, Leclerc held onto second place, giving Ferrari its first top-three finish for 2023 following a dismal start to the season. Leclerc more than doubled his points tally for the season to 13 after two retirements and a seventh-place finish in his first three races.

“What is certain is that it shows how bad the first three races were,” he said. “It’s worth getting more points than the current championship.”

Red Bull have won all three Grands Prix, with Verstappen winning the opening round in Bahrain, followed by Perez in Australia before winning in Saudi Arabia.

The safety car was called after Yuki Tsunoda slid into the wall leaving behind a tire and debris from his AlphaTauri.

American driver Logan Sargent was withdrawn from the sprint by Williams after the team failed to repair the crash damage in time. He qualified 15th in the sprint after crashing into a barrier in the first session of the shootout.

For the first time, a shortened ‘shootout’ qualifying session for the sprint race was held in addition to the standard qualifying session on Friday for the Grand Prix on Sunday. Leclerc took pole position in both races despite hitting the wall late in Saturday’s ‘shootout’.

It was the first time an F1 sprint did not set a grid for the main race. F1 has dropped it to encourage drivers to take more risks for sprint points, which many drivers welcome.

Verstappen criticized the format, saying he found it “boring” in the second qualifying session and disliked the “busy” schedule.

“It’s not proper racing. It’s like gambling,” he said.