By Matt Morlidge
Red Bull say Azerbaijan GP race winner Sergio Perez almost did not take the chequered flag at all due to a hydraulic issue on his car – with the Mexican himself admitting his big Baku victory was “exhausting”.
Perez stormed from sixth on the grid to a second Formula 1 win and first as a Red Bull driver on Sunday, but prompted questions about a potential problem after stopping his car on the pit exit, immediately after the finish.
Questions Red Bull boss Christian Horner provided answers for post-race.
“He was nursing a hydraulic issue,” Horner told Sky F1. “We were really concerned his car wouldn’t get to the end of the race which is why he stopped just after the chequered flag.”
Red Bull had already seen Max Verstappen retire from the race following a tyre puncture and huge crash as the Dutchman was leading the race with five laps remaining.
His loss was Perez’s gain, as he inherited first place before successively navigating the final two laps following the standing restart – aided by Lewis Hamilton making a mistake and locking up into the first corner.
“He’s a wily driver and he’s a canny racer, he races really, really well,” added Horner of Perez, who had not been on the podium this season before breaking his Red Bull duck in style in Baku.
“We went from the despair of… we’ve lost Max, we’re going to lose the championship lead, Lewis could pass him at the restart.
“It just shows the rollercoaster you go through in this sport.
“It ends up not being quite so bad, we’ve actually maintained the same lead in the Drivers’ Championship leaving here and extending the Constructors.”
Perez did not just keep his composure during those frantic final two laps – but also through the race as he was constantly under pressure from the Mercedes of Hamilton after overcutting the world champion in the pits.
Reflecting on keeping Hamilton at bay “lap after lap”, Perez told Sky F1’s Rachel Brookes: “I couldn’t breathe.
“I couldn’t get to a rhythm to manage my tyres at all, I had to be flat out, flat out, lap after the other.
“Also looking after the fuel, it was a pretty exhausting race.”
Perez added: “I did a tremendous first lap, overtaking (Pierre) Gasly and (Carlos) Sainz, from then on I just went with the leaders and the race came to us step by step.
“I think we have a very good car and I’m understanding it more. I think certainly we’ve done very good steps.”
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