Sergio Perez won an extraordinarily spectacular Azerbaijani GP for Red Bull after teammate Max Verstappen lost some victory in a high-speed crash five laps from the end, and Lewis Hamilton botched the next restart to ruin his own. chances of success.
After Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll already suffered an accident when his left rear tire suddenly gave out at around 200 mph on Baku’s long main straight, Verstappen’s afternoon suffered an equally chilling conclusion on lap 46.
Verstappen was heading for a key victory and taking his title lead over Hamilton to 15 points when his own left rear tire suddenly gave out and the Red Bull slammed into the outside wall in the pit straight.
Hitting the failed tire as he exited his wrecked car, Verstappen pulled away painfully and looked on the verge of losing the lead over Hamilton, who was now running second behind Perez.
But there was one last extraordinary final twist to come.
After the race was signaled with a red flag and the cars returned to the pit lane while the track could be cleared, the event finally resumed in the late afternoon in Baku with a second standing start. for the last two rounds.
Hamilton, whose Mercedes brakes smoked as they lined up on the grid, got a better jaunt than Perez and looked ready to switch from Red Bull to the first corner.
But, inexplicably for a driver who makes so few mistakes, Hamilton raced straight and fell to 16th place and out of the points. With so little time to recover, the world champion finished 15th – ending a record 54 races in points dating back to 2018.
“Just on the restart I think when Checo walked up to me I cut a switch and that basically disabled the brakes, and I went straight on,” Hamilton told Sky F1. “Very difficult to take, but above all I am very sorry for the men and women on the team who have worked so hard for these points.”
None of the title contenders scored any points, so Verstappen retains his four-point advantage in the championship.
Totally unexpected one-two-three after Baku drama
As Perez wrapped up the final laps for his second career victory after a strong performance throughout the race, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel capped his own remarkable day to claim the second and first podium for his new team.
The German, fifth two weeks ago in Monaco, started 11th on the grid.
Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri, a consistent leader all weekend, took third place for the third podium of his young career.
Charles Leclerc had started on pole but the Ferrari did not have the race pace to challenge and had quickly been reworked by Hamilton and the two Red Bulls. He eventually secured fourth place, just ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris who had recovered well from a grid penalty and a poor start.
Fernando Alonso started 10th in the restart, but the crafty Spaniard was on the move for both laps to the flag and secured sixth place for the best result of his return to F1 with Alpine.
While Valtteri Bottas endured a dismal afternoon and finished 12th, Mercedes exceptionally finished without any points from the weekend and slipped further behind Red Bull in the standings after Perez’s victory.
Azerbaijani GP: Top 10
1) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
2) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
3) Pierre Gasly, Alpha Tauri
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) Lando Norris, McLaren
6) Fernando Alonso, alpine
7) Yuki Tsunoda, Alpha Tauri
8) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
9) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
10) Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
Complete race result
Verstappen loses a deserved triumph
Two weeks after a compound race to a first victory and title lead at Monaco, a place where he had never won a podium before, Verstappen was set to erase his own uneven record in Baku.
Although he stayed behind Leclerc and Hamilton at the start, he looked quick on his soft tires and, after following rival Mercedes past the Ferrari, positioned himself for the first pit stops.
Hamilton, who was starting to have trouble with his tires, was initially called in by Mercedes, but the team lost crucial ground in the pits when they had to hold the car to wait for an oncoming car.
Red Bull responded by pitting Verstappen a lap later and he comfortably jumped his rival for the title. Perez, who ran longer than either, also came out of his stop in front of Hamilton to form a Red Bull brace.
Increasing his lead after the safety car called for Stroll’s frightening crash, Verstappen’s afternoon was then suddenly punched out – literally – as he descended the 2km straight to start what would have had to be his 47th turn.
Hamilton misses an unexpected open goal
“We have to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint,” Hamilton said on the Mercedes team radio as the field waited to leave the pits for the late restart.
“We must be measured on our aggressiveness.”
Those words came back to haunt Hamilton somewhat when the world champion braked in the clearance zone of the first corner, although it seems an inexplicable blow of a switch in his Mercedes cockpit proved his downfall rather than something too aggressive.
It was all the more frustrating for the seven-time champion after Mercedes collectively did wonders to place first in qualifying after struggling throughout practice for one-lap pace and tire grip. .
Excluding race withdrawals – the last of which was accumulated during the Austrian GP in July 2018 – Hamilton had last completed a race out of points in Spain 2013, his fifth race for Mercedes.
What’s next for the incredible 2021 season?
As part of a revamped calendar, F1 is taking a week’s break before embarking on its first hat-trick of the season. The GP of France at Paul Ricard from June 18 to 20 is followed by consecutive events at the Red Bull Ring of Austria.
All races are live only on Sky Sports F1.