Sergio Perez’s upheld his profitable track record in Baku, the Racing Point charger bringing home a sixth-place finish to his team after a “demanding” but spirited Sunday drive.

Perez was prompt to blast off the grid when the lights went out, edging Max Verstappen for fourth into Turn 1.

The Mexican struggled however to keep the Red Bull driver behind, eventually yielding to the Dutchman’s pressure.

After a switch from softs to medium tyres, Perez fell into the clutches of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz but opposed a fierce resistance to the McLaren duo all the way to the checkered flag.

“It’s been a fantastic day,” said Perez.

“It was looking great at the start when I overtook Verstappen, but then very early on we saw where our pace was and it was more about beating those McLarens that were very strong today.

“It was a very demanding race from my side because I spent basically the whole race on the limit fighting those temperatures.

“I struggled quite a lot on the first stint but luckily we got good points for the team and it’s been a fantastic day for us.”

Perez’s top-six finish was nicely complemented with …

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Ferrari came into the 2019 on a high, boosted by a strong showing in pre-season testing in Spain. That was before the first race of the season in Australia, which proved to be something of a reality check for Sebastian Vettel.

Three races later and a crushing run of race performances from Mercedes has left Vettel acknowledging that any hopes Ferrari might have an edge over their rivals have now been well and truly dashed.

“We are not the favourites going to Barcelona,” he told the media immediately after the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday. “Obviously the last four races on average we were not quite there.

“There’s still plenty of work for us to do, obviously we were not quite where we want to be. At this point I think we just need to maximise what we can.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari in the FIA Press Conference. 28.04.2019.

“The team is in good spirits. We have another couple of upgrades to get on the car,” he said. “[But] we need to chase them down.

“We are looking forward hopefully to a smooth weekend [for the Spanish Grand Prix],” he added. “Our first four weekends haven’t been that smooth, but it will be crucial to catch them and turn the things around.”

As for Sunday’s race, Vettel agreed that his initial run on soft tyres had left him struggling.

“The first stint was really poor, I struggled to initially get the tyres to work,” he conceded. “I really struggled to find a rhythm.

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Valtteri Bottas put in a textbook performance to clinch his second race victory of the season in the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Finn looked composed and comfortable throughout a surprisingly incident-free race on Baku City Circuit, his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton having to settle for second after an initial furious wheel-to-wheel battle between the pair at the start.

Despite being considered to have the much faster car this weekend, Ferrari seemed unable to match the Silver Arrows for race pace. Sebastian Vettel ultimately finished in third ahead of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, who pulled off a nice bit of damage limitation after his crash in qualifying the previous day.

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 lead at the start of the race.

With three cars required to start the race from pit lane – Robert Kubica, Kimi Raikkonen and Pierre Gasly all sent to the naughty step for various rules infractions over the course of the weekend – it was a somewhat depleted grid of just 17 cars that lined up in the afternoon sunshine of Baku, headed by the two Mercedes cars of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

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Nico Rosberg says Ferrari was ill-advised to put Charles Leclerc on medium tyres in Q2, a decision that led to the Monegasque’s costly crash according to the 2016 world champion.

Leclerc looked like a sure candidate for pole in Baku after running ahead of the field since the start of the race weekend on Friday.

But half-way into the second segment of qualifying, the Scuderia charger lost it at the treacherous Turn 8, the corner that had claimed Williams’ Robert Kubica just minutes earlier.

Leclerc clouted the wall on the outside and stepped out of his car considerably dejected with himself.

“They just completely threw it away again in qualifying. It’s unreal how they manage to do it every single time,” said Rosberg in a Vlog on Youtube.

“Leclerc was on for a definite pole position, he was really on it all weekend.”

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