Sergio Perez’s engineer makes big claim about him beating Max Verstappen

Sergio Perez dominated the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix with back-to-back wins in the Sprint race and Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez took victory in both the Sprint race and Grand Prix around Baku, cementing his status as a true street circuit specialist but some have argued a poor strategy call helped the Mexican defeat Max Verstappen on the Sunday.

With yellow flags waved after Nyck de Vries crashed his AlphaTauri into the wall, Verstappen took the chance to dive into the pits for a tire change, assuming a Safety Car would be deployed.

However, there was a delay in the Safety Car coming out, allowing Perez to build up a gap that ensured he held the lead after pitting, much to Verstappen’s frustration.

Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft sought out one of the Red Bull team after the race to establish whether that moment ensured Perez would claim victory or whether the Mexican was on course for success regardless.

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According to Red Bull race engineer Hugh Bird’s conversation with Croft, Perez would have defeated Verstappen, whatever the strategy call was.

“It’s a really good question, actually, because he was gaining – before the safety car – on Max Verstappen and we know that he is the tyre whisperer,” Croft told Sky Sports, when asked about Perez’s chances of beating Verstappen. 

“He nurses those rear tyres which is a very good way to try to win on the streets of Baku.”

With only one Safety Car during the race and high tyre degradation for some, Baku was a case of tyre management, something Perez is known for being excellent at. 

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Once the race resumed, Perez managed to build a lead of a couple of seconds over Verstappen, holding P1 until the chequered flag.

“Karun Chandhok and myself had a chat with Hugh Bird on the way back from Baku – Hugh is Sergio Perez’s race engineer – and we said, ‘We lost out on a battle with Max and Sergio’.

“[The reply was], ‘Nah, there wouldn’t have been a battle. He’d have caught him and he’d have got him’. 

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“He was absolutely convinced that Sergio would have managed to get past Max and, in the second stint of a one-stop race, would have gone on to extend that lead.”

Perez’s performance in Baku allowed him to close the gap with Verstappen in the 2023 Drivers’ Championship fight to just six points.

Should Perez be able to secure P1 in Miami, essentially a street circuit, the Mexican would find himself leading the Drivers’ Standings for the first time in his career.