The streets of Baku are are typically good for some wild action, but the weekend’s featured races were actually rather calm compared to other years. The non-featured races were a whole different story though, especially the F2 sprint.
In qualifying, American Brad Benavides crashed bringing out a red flag leading to him starting at the back of the field in both the sprint and featured race, two races he ended up not finishing either. The big incident of the weekend though came at the end of the sprint when a massive crash in turn one took out six cars.
Total chaos on our final restart 😱
Thankfully, all our drivers walked away from this one!#AzerbaijanGP #F2 pic.twitter.com/ki9AA5qxqV
— Formula 2 (@Formula2) April 29, 2023
The driver of the weekend in F2 is unquestionably Oliver Bearman, who had the fastest lap in practice, qualified in pole position, won the sprint, and stood atop the podium in the featured race. American Jak Crawford snuck onto the podium in the sprint finishing third and came away with another point finishing tenth in the featured race. Championship leader coming into the weekend Ayumu Iwasa really struggled, qualifying 17th, retiring during the sprint, and finishing twelfth on Sunday finishing the weekend with zero points, allowing Theo Pourchaire to take over as the Championship leader after four weekends.
The F1 weekend was the first double qualifying weekend with there only being a single practice on Friday followed by the featured race qualifying. Then Saturday had the sprint qualifying followed by the sprint race, then the traditional Sunday featured race.
Pierre Gasly had a Friday to forget as smoke came pouring out of his car in practice and he found the wall later on in Q1that also saw Carlos Sainz and Zhou Guanyu spin and Nyck de Vries hit the wall. The surprise in Q2 was Sainz off the track again and George Russell in the Mercedes that had so many upgrades in the month break missed Q3. Ultimately it was Charles Leclerc getting a Baku hat trick, grabbing his third consecutive pole in Azerbaijan.
Leclerc continued his qualifying dominance in the sprint qualifying, grabbing pole there as well. The sprint race saw Leclerc hold on for a bit before Sergio Perez was able to get by and dominate the race, finishing nearly 4.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc, with Max Vertappen also making the podium.
Unlike a year ago when Perez beat Leclerc to the first turn, Leclerc held onto the lead early on Sunday, but eventually lost his spot to Verstappen and not long after Perez, as the Red Bulls looked were easily the fastest cars on the track yet again. On lap 10, de Vries went down the escape road that led to a safety car, but before the safety car was determined, Verstappen entered the pit lane, costing his multiple positions. Perez took over the lead of the race and got his pit in during the safety car and didn’t look back completing the double finishing two seconds ahead of his teammate. Leclerc held onto third despite being more than 21 seconds behind Perez, but it did give Ferrari their first podium on a Sunday this season.
With two laps to go George Russel pit for soft tires and managed to secure the fastest lap on the final lap of the day, earning himself an extra point.
With the double, Perez has closed the gap to Verstappen who now only holds a six point lead at the top of the driver standings, while Fernando Alonso is 27 points behind Perez. Red Bull has more than double their nearest competitor in the constructor standings, as it appears they will be running away with that championship this season.
Another street party for Checo Perez 🥳#AzerbaijanGP @redbullracing pic.twitter.com/1oJLUJz8ES— Formula 1 (@F1) April 30, 2023
Meanwhile, in Austria the F1 Academy got underway, with Abbi Pulling grabbing herself a double podium, but it was Marta Garcia who stole the weekend. While Amna Al Qubaisi won the middle race of the weekend, Garcia found herself on top of the podium twice, including the first ever F1 Academy race. Garcia came away with 58 points this weekend, while Al Qubaisi securing 36 points, and her younger sister Hamda finishing the weekend with 26 points, one more than Pulling.
About Saturday… 🤩#F1Academy pic.twitter.com/Bk3comAtdI
— F1 Academy (@f1academy) April 30, 2023