Perez Takes 3rd in Azerbaijani Thriller
30 April 2018 | Ravenol Marketing
RAVENOL’s Technical Partners, the Sahara Force India Formula One Team, have taken their first podium of the 2018 season after driver Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez came home in 3rd. Checo is now the only Formula One driver to have achieved two podiums at the Baku Street Circuit.
Unfortunately team mate Esteban Ocon was knocked out of the race following a collision with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap. Also caught up in 2nd corner scuffles were McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin. Whilst Alonso and Raikkonen both made it back to the pits, Esteban and Sirotkin’s cars were left by the side of the wall, requiring a safety car. The safety car came back in on Lap 5, but the stewards deemed Checo had made an overtake before the safety car line and gave him a 5 second penalty!
And that was by no means the end of the drama on what turned out to be an exciting afternoon full of overtaking, near misses and spectacular incidents. After a long battle between the two Renault drivers and the two Red Bull drivers, Nico Hulkenberg collected the wall and Carlos Sainz started to slip back, leaving Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo to battle it out between themselves. Then on Lap 40, after much leapfrogging, Ricciardo made a move on Verstappen which was duly blocked, just as the pair braked for a tight 90° left corner. The result was both Red Bulls crashed out, promoting Checo from 7th to 5th, and requiring another safety car.
Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel dived into the pits trying to undercut Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who at this point was leading the race, but the Finn somehow managed to come out on top. Checo also came into the pits to change tyres and serve the time penalty. Coming back out in 5th on fresh tyres, it was looking as if Force India’s Mexican driver would have time to get even higher up the order, but then Haas driver Romain Grosjean made an extraordinary mistake keeping his tyres warm and went into the barrier, keeping the safety car out for even longer.
It finally came in on Lap 47, but even with three laps to go that left plenty of time for on the streets of Baku. Vettel finally made a move on Bottas, but locked up and went wide, allowing Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen through. Then with two laps remaining, Bottas’s left rear tyre spectacularly blew out, putting him out of the race and handing the lead to his team mate Hamilton. With Vettel still struggling with flat spotted tyres, Checo made a move under DRS and overtook him into 3rd. Vettel fought back and was in the DRS zone in the last lap, but Checo held on, driving spectacularly to hold off the German and cross the line in 3rd place behind Hamilton and Raikkonen.
“I’m extremely happy. Our race was a rollercoaster,” Checo said during the drivers’ interviews. “We started with an incident on the first lap when I was hit from behind by a Williams [Sirotkin]. That pushed me into Kimi [Raikkonen] and broke my front wing so I had to pit. I was at the back and then I was given a five seconds penalty. I was able to make my way through the field and when the Safety Car came out we managed to keep our position. The team did a great pit stop and I was able to serve my penalty and still come out in front of Grosjean
“I passed Seb [Vettel] but then he recovered and put pressure on me. I had to give it everything in the last two laps: my pace was unbelievable and I think they were the best two laps of my life. This podium means a lot to me, I am very pleased and proud for myself, my family, my team and Mexico.”