AZERBAIJAN GP – Sergio Perez wins amongst bedlam in Baku, as title rivals Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fail to score

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Sergio Perez has taken victory in a dramatic conclusion to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen suffered a tyre failure causing the final red flag with three laps to go. The Mexican took the lead of the race when Verstappen speared off into the wall while leading.

The Dutchman was coming along the straight while leading with five laps to go when his car suddenly spun into the wall going through the final corner when he suffered a puncher. Verstappen was looking on course for victory which would have cemented his further grip on the lead in the championship, when the failure happened, his crash led to debris being thrown all over the track leading to the final red flag.

Red Bull had looked on course for a one-two finish with Verstappen looking to have a comfortable lead from Sir Lewis Hamilton, the seven-times champion trying to close the gap on Perez. But on the restart from second on the grid locked up and went straight on at the first corner and dropped to sixteenth.

For Hamilton, it sets another record in what has been a record-breaking twelve months, fifty four races where he has finished in the points stretching back to Spielberg in 2018 when he last retired from a race.

A race in which Hamilton could have retaken the lead from Verstappen thrown away by an uncharacterised error. Verstappen had dominated the race until his crash, and it mirrored a crash by Vettel’s teammate Lance Stroll, who caused the safety car on lap twenty-nine.

Verstappen’s tyre suddenly appeared to let go on the straight and there has been suggestions that there was no warning from the data. Another extraordinary twist saw Hamilton make a mistake on the restart, which means both title rivals leave Baku with zero points.

Stroll’s incident appeared to unfold in a similar way when he was running along the main straight on lap twenty nine, when he slid off at pit entry, Gasly lucky to avoid crashing into the back of the Aston Martin after getting a tow.

The battle was no less intriguing as Hamilton had to be held longer by Mercedes at the first stop as other cars entered the pits, which gave Verstappen the undercut on the next lap to re-join in second behind Perez and ahead of Hamilton.

The two tyre failures in the race and ones in qualifying are bound to re-open a debate about the integrity of Pirelli’s tyres – not for the first time since the Italian company came into F1 in 2011.

Verstappen said, “It’s not a nice impact to have. All fine with me – the car not so much. We had a very strong race, matching lap times I had to do behind. We were fully in control – it’s very disappointing with what happened.”

Hamilton explaining his error said “I clipped a switch that places the brakes off so I just went straight on at turn one on the restart. I’m very sorry to the guys and girls in the team.”

Before the race, the seven time champion said “Gotta remember this is a marathon not a sprint, so you’ve got to be measured in how aggressive you go.”

Sebastian Vettel was second having his best race since joining Aston Martin at the start of the year, after fending off the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. The tyre failure will see questions about Pirelli decision to go two steps softer than in 2019, but Vettel’s podium was a surprise given he has struggled to get to grips with the Aston Martin.

The four-time champion, ran long in his first stint, keeping his pace strong, to lead the race for five laps after the leaders stopped. Before on the restart managing to leapfrog pass Leclerc and Gasly before Verstappen crashed. Vettel appearing to rediscover his form from earlier in his career.

Gasly’s podium backs up his strong weekend finishing third ahead of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari driver had been quick all weekend, but the race backed up his claims that the team did not have the race pace to challenge Red Bull for victory.

Leclerc had took a short-lived lead in the race before being passed by Hamilton at the end of the first lap, however, he was unable to pull away from Verstappen. When he came into make his pit stop, Mercedes had to hold him longer as Gasly cane in before he could rejoin.

Perez stopped a lap later than Verstappen and his pace during the two laps he stayed on track was enough to vault him ahead of the Mercedes. The Mexican getting the undercut as Hamilton was unable to get close to the Red Bull to attempt a pass after clearing Leclerc’s Ferrari.

The Monacan was able to stay with the Red Bull early on but once Hamilton managed to get the past, he was soon pulling out a sizeable margin over the Ferrari. But it was a decent recovery for Leclerc.

McLaren’s Lando Norris was fifth after recovering from a poor start and a grid penalty, the Englishman finishing ahead of Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda. Norris again proving that he continues to make step forwards in his third season in the sport, while Alonso managed to grab four places on the restart to get his best result since Budapest 2017.

Daniel Ricciardo was ninth ahead of the two Alfa Romeo’s, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing six tenths ahead of teammate Antonio Giovinazzi. Despite their turn around on Saturday, Mercedes was unable to turn the pace in qualifying into points. Valtteri Bottas finishing in twelfth while Hamilton’s error saw him last of the runners in sixteenth.

Mercedes can take some consolation, their main title rival crashing out means the driver’s championship remains four points between Hamilton and Verstappen. Paul Ricard and Spielberg should be circuits that are more favourable to the German manufacturer.

Hamilton has not finished outside the points, excluding retirements since Barcelona 2013. But he appeared to jinx it his own race, under the red flag saying to his team “We’ve got to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve got to be measured on how aggressive we are.”

Mick Schumacher finished the race in fourteenth ahead of Nikita Mazepin, the two Haas drivers being close together just four hundredths apart, ahead of Hamilton.

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