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Azerbaijan Grand Prix Race Review: Sergio Perez wins Red Bull Baku battle

For a race with a history of high drama, this year's Azerbaijan Grand Prix won't live long in the memory, but it did provide the setting for a superb performance from Sergio Perez.

The Mexican veteran won both the sprint race and the Grand Prix to cut his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen's championship lead to six points.

King of the streets keeps grip on his crown

Sunday's success means Perez has now taken the last five of his six F1 victories at street circuits and he becomes the first driver to record more than one win in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in its six years on the Formula 1 calendar.

Perez has won two of the first four races of the season, but while his path to victory in Saudi Arabia was eased by Verstappen starting down in 15th, the Mexican had to be much sharper to earn his Baku win.

A touch of fortune was again involved. Verstappen pitted from the lead on the same lap as Nyck de Vries stopped his AlphaTauri on the circuit, bringing out the safety car.

That meant Perez and others were able to make their pit-stops while the field was circulating at much lower than racing speed, so they didn't lose as much ground in the pits.

When the safety car peeled off, Perez led away from Charles Leclerc, with Verstappen third.

But while the Dutchman was immediately able to pass Leclerc's Ferrari for second, he could never put Perez under any kind of pressure.

The Mexican had been very close to Verstappen's pace all weekend, qualifying ahead of him in the sprint, and Perez had already closed to within DRS range of the world champion when Verstappen pitted, so it is not out of the question that he may have won anyway.

All-in-all, this has to be right up there with Perez's best career performances, particularly when factoring in the sprint race win, but it would still be a huge surprise if he is able to lay down a serious championship challenge to his Red Bull partner Verstappen.

Perez is a 6/1 chance to claim his maiden title this season, with Verstappen is 1/8 to win his third this season.

And, with two more street circuits coming up in the next three rounds, Perez will look to keep the pressure up.

The Mexican is 3/1 to win again in Miami next week, while a fortnight after that sees F1's annual visit to the streets of Monaco, where Perez won last year.

Mixed emotions for Leclerc

After a nightmare start to the season, Ferrari's Leclerc will be pleased to have steadied the ship with podium finishes in both the sprint race and Grand Prix in Azerbaijan.

However, the Monegasque started both races from pole position, so he could be forgiven for being a little disappointed with those results.

Realistically, given Ferrari's lack of straight-line speed and issues with tyre longevity, staying ahead was always going to be extremely tough.

Qualifying is a clear strength of the car though, and Leclerc will already be looking forward to his home race in Monte Carlo, where overtaking is virtually impossible and he will be aiming to end a run of dreadful luck to win for the first time.

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A step back for Mercedes

Having rapidly improved their car through the first three races of the season, Mercedes might be disappointed with their return from Baku.

Lewis Hamilton claimed the team's first podium with second place in Australia, where team-mate George Russell had led in the early laps.

But the Silver Arrows had no answer to Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin's pace in Baku and they will be hoping their issues were specific to the circuit.

Like Verstappen, Hamilton was hampered by pitting just before the safety car, but he would have still struggled to do any better than his finishing position of sixth.

Russell, meanwhile, never looked comfortable all weekend and his eighth place is his lowest finish of the season.

Poor qualifying costing Aston Martin

For the first time this season, Fernando Alonso finished outside the podium places in fourth place.

Aston Martin have rocketed up the pecking order and sit second in the constructors' championship having finished seventh last year.

But they could be doing even better as Alonso, not for the first time this year, looked like he may have had the pace to end up higher than his finishing position.

The green cars have excellent race pace, but they aren't so sharp over a single lap and that is an area they will look to improve with some tracks coming up that are very hard to overtake on.

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