What if Max Verstappen's main rival for the Formula 1 title race was no longer Charles Leclerc, but his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez?
The question has arisen since the Mexican won the legendary Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago and also since he recently extended his contract with the Austrian team until 2024.
This is certainly an additional element of motivation for Pérez who, before tackling the next stage of the championship, disputed on Sunday in the streets of Baku, is third in the cumulative classification and only trails by six points behind Leclerc and 15 behind the Dutch.
For the record, Pérez did not appreciate this order to Barcelona, twice, to give up first place to the reigning world champion to offer his partner a chance to win.
After a lively discussion with his boss Christian Horner at the end of this stopover in Spain, the Mexican was reassured and responded with his resounding victory in the streets of Monte-Carlo, in favor of a hasty stop at the refueling pits .
Good and bad memories
However, Pérez can approach the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with optimism. It was there that he climbed to the top step of a Formula 1 podium for the second time in his career in June 2021.
Although, it must be admitted, he took advantage of the misfortune of Verstappen who, then in the lead, was the victim at high speed of the bursting of his left rear tire which will lead to his retirement on the 47th lap. Furious, he was seen getting out of his car and giving a terrible kick to the damaged tire.
This incident will prompt the race management to deploy the red flag to force the drivers to immobilize their single-seaters in the pit area.
Seventeen laps earlier, Lance Stroll had suffered the same scare when a puncture caused him to lose control of his car at almost 300 km/h.
If this swerve was a bad memory for the Quebec driver, he nevertheless remembers that it was in Baku, in his rookie year in F1 five years ago, that he had reached the podium for the first time in his career. career aboard a Williams.
Speaking of podiums, it was also in Baku last year that his team, Aston Martin, scored its best result, when Sebastian Vettel finished second behind Pérez.
This unexpected result is, still to this day, one of the only moments of rejoicing for this team which took over from Racing Point.