Baku: Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen looked set to take his first first-ever Azerbaijan Grand Prix victory on Sunday before he crashed out from the lead with just five laps to go, giving his teammate Sergio Perez a second career victory. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton locked up on the penultimate lap to finish 16th in a hugely dramatic race in Baku.
“For the first time this season, Charles Leclerc led away from the pole, but he was passed for the lead by Lewis Hamilton with no need for DRS, so strong was the tow, on Lap 2. Verstappen then swept by the Ferrari man on Lap 7,” stated an official Formula 1 release.
Today was a humbling experience. We worked so hard to put ourselves back in the top 10 today after a rocky week here in Baku. We gave it our all today and a small error caused the brakes to switch off. Sorry to the team, we’ll come back stronger for the next race pic.twitter.com/oHy75S07L3
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 6, 2021
Verstappen took the lead after a crucial sequence of pit stops, Hamilton starting that sequence on Lap 12 with a slow switch for hards thanks to traffic in the pit lane. Verstappen pitted a lap later and emerged first, followed by Perez who split the championship rivals.
And the Dutchman seemed to have victory in the bag, mastering a Lap 35 Safety Car restart after Lance Stroll`s terrifying accident, when the Aston Martin driver’s left-rear tyre appeared to give way on the pit straight. That was until Verstappen himself, comfortably in the lead on Lap 47, spun and crashed after an apparent tyre issue of his own.
Unhurt, but shaken, his crash triggered the Safety Car, which turned into a red flag that suspended the race on Lap 48. The race resumed with a standing start 35 minutes later on Lap 50, giving us two laps of flat-out action, the field all having switched tyres during the stoppage.
on my own race… But happy for the team and a huge congrats to @SChecoPerez on the win The car, pit stops and strategy were amazing again, thanks to @redbullracing. Not much more to say at this time other than we’ll keep pushing until the end #AzerbaijanGP pic.twitter.com/Cwxp76LVZO
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) June 6, 2021
Perez would lead Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Leclerc off the line for the re-start. Hamilton got away well, his nose seemingly ahead of Perez`s, but the Briton locked up heavily and went into the Turn 1 run-off. He finished 16th, leaving Perez in the lead, Vettel second and Gasly – having held off a charging Leclerc in the final laps – to take the final podium place.
Vettel started 11th but finished a brilliant second as he pitted 18 laps later than anyone else, and emerged sixth. On the re-start after Stroll`s crash, he took P4 off Leclerc and Gasly, and was promoted to the podium by Verstappen`s retirement.
Leclerc finished fourth as his Lap 10 undercut attempt on Gasly didn`t pay off. While he tried to wrestle P3 off the Frenchman after the final re-start, his efforts were in vain and the Ferrari driver finished fourth. Lando Norris shrugged off a three-place penalty and undercut his rivals having started P9 to take fifth ahead of Fernando Alonso, both movers in that final re-start, while AlphaTauri`s rookie Yuki Tsunoda started seventh and finished there having pitted early on Lap 9.
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