Sergio Perez celebrates his victory in the sprint race.
Dan Mullan/Formula 1/Getty Images
Sergio Perez won the first sprint race of the season at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, overtaking pole-sitter Charles Leclerc almost halfway through the 17-lap race, and continuing Red Bull’s dominance in every aspect of the sport this year.
Behind them, Perez’s teammate Max Verstappen came to blows with Mercedes’ George Russell in the first three corners of the race as Russell overtook Verstappen before the Red Bull’s pace told later on and the Dutchman reclaimed his podium spot.
The two drivers continued their skirmish off the track as TV cameras showed a heated exchange between them afterwards.
“No, it’s not clarified,” Verstappen said afterwards, according to F1, when asked about his talk with Russell. “I just don’t understand why you need to take some much risk on Lap 1.”
Verstappen added that the contact had damaged his car but, despite this damage, he was still able overtake the Brit on the sixth lap and hold onto third place.
Cameras captured Max Verstappen and George Russell’s heated exchange.
“I don’t really know if it was a chat,” Russell said, according to F1. “I was quite surprised, I thought he was coming over to say ‘good battle’, to be honest.
“I’m here to fight, I’m here to win. I’m not just going to wave him by because he’s Max Verstappen in a Red Bull. (There’s) nothing really more to say. I thought the move was on and that’s about it, really.”
There was more drama on the second lap when Yuki Tsunoda clipped the wall, spilling debris onto the track and prompting the arrival of first a virtual and then a full safety car.
Once racing resumed on the sixth lap, Perez enabled his DRS and cruised past Leclerc in a further display of just how much extra pace the Red Bull carries. From there, he simply opened up his lead and claimed victory, along with eight championship points.