Sergio Perez took advantage of the lone safety car period to score his second win of 2023 in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Perez was running second to Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen when Nyck De Vries’ car stalled on track. As De Vries’ Alpha Tauri sat on the track, Red Bull called Verstappen into the pits in anticipation of a safety car.
The safety car came, but not until after Verstappen had pitted. Perez inherited the lead after Verstappen’s pit stop and kept the lead as he was able to pit shortly after Verstappen with the benefit of losing a lot less time under the safety car.
Verstappen ended up dropping to third during the pit stop cycle but quickly moved his way past polesitter Charles Leclerc after the restart. He finished a comfortable second behind Perez as Leclerc was way back in third.
Perez has now won both F1 street course races this season after his win in Saudi Arabia earlier in the year. While Verstappen will undoubtedly enter next week’s Miami Grand Prix as the favorite, Perez shouldn’t be far behind.
Perez won Saturday’s sprint race as Verstappen had damage from an early race collision with Mercedes’ George Russell.
Fernando Alonso finished fourth and missed out on his fourth consecutive third-place finish to start the season. Carlos Sainz was fifth as he held off Lewis Hamilton for the final 15 laps of the race. George Russell got the fastest lap of the race on the final lap after he pitted from a safe eighth to take fresh soft tires and steal the bonus point.
Esteban Ocon pits on final lap with people all over pit lane
Save for the safety car handing the race from Verstappen to Perez, Sunday’s race was very straightforward and a bit of a procession. It wasn’t the most entertaining Formula 1 race you’ll ever see.
But the final lap provided the most bizarre scene of the race and it had nothing to do with the race for the win.
Esteban Ocon started the race on pit lane after his team had made adjustments to his car under parc fermé conditions. Ocon started on the hard tires and tried to wait as long as he could to make his mandatory pit stop for a different tire compound as he was running in ninth in the final laps.
As Perez was cruising to victory, Red Bull mechanics walked over to the wall between the pit lane and the straightaway. And photographers also flooded onto pit road in anticipation of Perez’s win.
Apparently no one realized that Ocon still needed to pit and he hit pit lane on the final lap with hordes of people on pit road. Just look at what happened.
This is what it looked like from Ocon's perspective.
It’s extremely fortunate that no one was hit by Ocon’s car on pit road. And it’s worth wondering if Red Bull will face any sanctions for its mechanics crossing pit road before Ocon’s pit stop while there will assuredly be reviews of the race procedures that allowed the photographers onto pit road.
1. Sergio Perez
2. Max Verstappen
3. Charles Leclerc
4. Fernando Alonso
5. Carlos Sainz
6. Lewis Hamilton
7. Lance Stroll
8. George Russell
9. Lando Norris
10. Yuki Tsunoda
11. Oscar Piastri
12. Alex Albon
13. Kevin Magnussen
14. Pierre Gasly
15. Esteban Ocon
16. Logan Sergeant
17. Nico Hulkenberg
18. Valtteri Bottas
19. Zhou Guanyu
20. Nyck De Vries