Formula 1 decided to change up the weekend in Azerbaijan with Sprint Races and Friday Qualifying sessions in order to spice up the festivities. It resulted in an angry Max Verstappen, a victorious Sergio Perez and an extremely uneventful Sunday.
Regardless, here are the five biggest takeaways from the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
After the third race of the F1 season, we crowned Max Verstappen as the 2023 champion. He had sailed through the early stretch with two victories and a field-cutting 2nd place finish. There was no car on Earth faster than the Red Bull and it was apparent that Max was on his way to a three-peat as champion.
Little did we know, his teammate was his biggest threat to a title. Sergio Perez came away from Baku with a victory on both Saturday and Sunday and now stands as the sole challenger to the throne. Jos Verstappen has to be furious.
After getting lucky with a mid-race Safety Car, Sergio saw himself leading the race with Max stuck behind him. In past races, we've seen Max catch his teammate and be let past, team orders as they say. This weekend, not only did Sergio keep his lead, he extended it. At no point did Verstappen come close to Perez and now the chase is on? Rumors that Max wants a new partner in 2024 are already swirling. Please give us the drama, this season desperately needs some.
Speaking of Max Verstappen drama, after the Sprint race, the defending champion had some choice words for Mercedes driver George Russell. Angry about a turn one incident where they both were heading into a corner and made contact, he confronted George after they got out of the cars at the races conclusion and called him some nasty words.
Doubling down on the stance, later Max was still complaining about GR63 and referred to him as Princess George. These two have been racing each other since they were children and clearly there is no love lost. It will be appointment viewing whenever they are near each other on a racetrack this season as Max seemingly vowed for revenge.
What the heck was going on here?
Alpine driver Esteban Ocon had not made a pit stop all race long. His team hoped that a safety car would come out late in the race and they could steal some spots up the field by doing so. That safety car never came and Ocon was forced to give up his position in the points and pit on the last lap of the race. This strategy was clear from the get-go and has been done a few times in the past by teams hoping to steal points. What is unclear is why pit lane was in the shape that it was when Ocon made his pitstop.
There were hordes of mechanics from Red Bull cheering on their winning drivers as well as a slew of media and photographers who were walking around like it was Sunday at the Grove. Ocon came barreling through and somehow, thankfully, did not hit any bystanders. Excellent driving by him, idiotic decision by those in charge. It should be noted that the speed limit in the pit lane is close to 50 mph. This could have been catastrophic and is EASILY avoidable. The FIA have already announced they will be making changes to how the end of race proceedings are handled. You don't say.
Fernando Alonso is having a great debut season with Aston Martin. He's driving a competitive car and is fighting for podium position every weekend. He comes with a past where he has not always gotten along with his teammate. F1 is an extremely competitive market and teammate strife is more the norm than you'd think.
Yet during the race at Azerbaijan, Alonso was extremely friendly to his younger partner in crime, Lance Stroll. Not only saying that Stroll was welcome to attack Alonso's position after Stroll said he was not going to challenge the senior driver, but also offering advice during the race about how to optimally handle the car. Alonso is not only turning into a contender for podiums every week, but also a mentor for his teammate. It's the best of both worlds for Aston Martin.
As much as I love making fun of McLaren, their start to the 2023 season was grim for even me. Yet at Baku, both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri were fighting for the points and looked much like the threatening midfield combatant that 2022 suggested they would become. Are the problems over for McLaren? No, not entirely, but this weekend in Azerbaijan was a giant step in the right direction.
It's unclear whether they can contend with the Top 4 in the Constructors race, but it would be a disappointment if they couldn't come away with a Top 5 finish.
Finally! A race that starts at a normal hour for us Americans!
We're heading to Florida for the second ever Miami Grand Prix. The weather has taken a toll on the circuit in recent weeks so it will be interesting to see the condition of the track, and if we get some showers at any point during the weekend.
Whatever happens, let's hope it involves a grumpy Max Verstappen.
Head on over to FanDuel Sportsbook to make your predictions for the Miami Grand Prix as well as who you think is going to finish the season at the top of the leaderboard.