Pot, kettle, Verstappen: Up and down in Azerbaijan


A weekend of slightly reserved madness ensued in Baku with parc fermé fights, pitlane invasions and the wrong Red Bull winning – only in Formula 1

Max Verstappen Red Bull 2023 Azerbaijan GP

Verstappen seemingly untroubled by his recent previous actions – or his ego

Grand Prix Photo

Formula 1 managed to douse its own flame in the Land of Fire with a dull sprint race followed up by a processional Azerbaijan Grand Prix – but as per usual the world championship did grab headlines with flare points off-track.

Max Verstappen did his best to generate interest by trashing sprint races and then having a tête-à-tête with George Russell afterwards, for which we can only applaud him – even if what he said appeared to make no sense half the time.

Charles Leclerc and then Sergio Perez did give us some hope that that the flying Dutchman can be delayed enough to induce something of a title fight, but are we all fantasising?

Here’s what was going up and down in Baku.


Goin’ down

VERsion of events

Max Verstappen talks to George Russell after 2023 Azerbaijan GP sprint

Verstappen recommends a brilliant Baku kebab shop find to his mate Russell

Getty Images

Verstappen did add a bit of spice after a dull sprint race by squaring up to George Russell in parc fermé, but his hilariously hypocritical reaction to their mild contact was difficult to comprehend.

The Dutchman accusing Russell of being out of line due to driving like he has “nothing to lose” simply beggars’ belief, considering this is exactly what Verstappen did throughout 2021 to Hamilton and before in search of a first title.

Yet again the skin comes across incredibly thin.


FIAsco (yet again)

FIA personnel, photographers and circuit works were allowed into the pitlane when Esteban Ocon came in for his last-chance pitstop – thank goodness disaster was averted.

After the Melbourne track invasion recently, not a good for all involved yet again.


Sticky patch

Esteban Ocon Alpine2023 Azerbaijan GP

A weekend to forget for Enstone

Grand Prix Photo

Absolute shocker for Alpine all round really. Gasly’s A523 doing an impression of a dark satanic mill in FP1, followed up by a crash the GP qualifying, before a double non-score – following that Australian GP all-Gallic smash-up too

Miami can’t come soon enough for Enstone.


Formula fruit cake

2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 2023 Azerbaijan GP

This was the prototype for the new F1 Sprint trophy

Red Bull

Marko’s birthday cake – so awful it’s good? Probably not, actually, all cakes considered.


Enough sprint?

Just get rid of it – the sense of pointlessness (apart from actual championship points) was difficult to shake.


Goin’ up

Up Schiff

Naomi Schiff Sky Sports 2023 Azerbaijan GP

Schiff has added dynamism to the Sky line-up

Grand Prix Photo

Naomi Schiff has proved to be a brilliant addition to the Sky Sports F1 team, along with strategy analyst Bernie Collins.

Both insightful and articulate in expressing that – top stuff.


Perez pulling no punches

6 Sergio Perez Red Bull 2023 Azerbaijan GP

How long can Perez stay in the fight?

Grand Prix Photo

Despite being a Milton Keynes punchbag for last two years, Perez now does seem to be fighting back. Can he sustain it?


Leclerc the throwback

4 Charles Leclerc 2023 Azerbaijan GP

Leclerc really pushing the boundaries in Baku

Getty Images

Leclerc dragging his damaged Ferrari back had shades of Gilles Villeneuve. The Monegasque seems to forever toe a tight line between heroic and calamitous in his driving.


Woking gains

Lando Norris McLaren 2023 Azerbaijan GP

McLaren levered itself back into the top ten


McLaren did indeed appear to pull back a lot of pace with its new upgrades in Baku with ninth for Norris, after dragging the previous iteration of its MCL60 slowster to a double-points finish in Melbourne. Can it keep climbing?