Perez wins red-flagged Azerbaijan Grand Prix

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN – JUNE 06: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda crashes during the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 06, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Sergio Perez has won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, after two tire failures cast a shadow over the event. Max Verstappen was a victim of the failure, causing a red flag.

It was race time for the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. After a chaotic qualifying session, safety cars and crashes were to be expected. As 2019 showed though, the race could be safety car free. Charles Leclerc took pole on Saturday, from Lewis Hamilton, with Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly on the second row.

The lights went out, and Leclerc led away from Hamilton and Verstappen. Carlos Sainz locked up, and Lance Stroll tagged Mick Schumacher, but all made it through. On lap 3, Hamilton took the lead from Leclerc, as drivers took evasive action from debris at turn 15. George Russell pitted at the end of lap 1, with Ocon retiring with gearbox failure on lap 4.

On lap 7, Verstappen took second from Leclerc and then set his sights on the lead. Sergio Perez went up to the podium on lap 8, as Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso pitted for strategic options. At the end of lap 9, the first of the heavy hitters pits. Leclerc, for hard tires.

On lap 12, Hamilton pitted, but the stop was a disaster, losing a few seconds. Meanwhile, Sainz ran off at turn 8, ruining his race. Leader Verstappen pitted a lap later, with a 1.9 second stop giving him the race lead. Perez pitted the next lap, and, despite a bad stop, he came out net second, ahead of Hamilton.

What came after was an enticing strategy race, with the fastest laps being exchanged by drivers. Red Bull was the fastest car, but Hamilton was trying hard. Sebastian Vettel pitted on lap 18, giving Verstappen clear track and the lead.

The other Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas, was nowhere. He was tenth, battling Lando Norris. Nikita Mazepin ran off at turn 4 but got going again. The middle of the race was tame, with drivers conserving tires and just waiting to see what would happen later in the race. Bottas was still down in 10th and was unhappy with his race so far.

Then a massive crash for Lance Stroll as his left rear tire blew down the main straight. It was a safety car, but thankfully Stroll was ok and got out of the car. The pit lane was closed due to debris, meaning nobody could roll the strategy dice.

When the pit lane opened, a few midfield cars went into the pits. Schumacher had problems though, with a badly fitted tire, and he lost a lot of time fixing that.

The race went green, and Verstappen kept his lead. The big beneficiary was Vettel, who took fifth from Leclerc and set his sights on Gasly ahead. He took Gasly the next lap, and the 4-time champ was staring at the back of Hamilton. Hamilton, in turn, was just behind Perez, with Verstappen a few seconds ahead in the lead. Vettel was well on the pace, and just behind Hamilton as the race entered its closing stages.

Then massive drama. Leader Verstappen, out of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Another left rear tire failure and could change the world championship. The race was red-flagged due to the debris. Under the red flag, all drivers changed tires, ready for a three-lap dash to the finish, with a standing start.

The race restarted, and Hamilton went straight on at turn 1. The race went to Perez, with Vettel second and Gasly third. Leclerc tried to take the podium but didn’t end up doing so. He came fourth, with Lando Norris fifth.

The title lead would remain Verstappen’s, with Red Bull extending their constructor’s title lead. It was Aston Martin’s and Vettel’s first podium since last year, with Gasly on the podium yet again.

The top 10 are as follows:

1S. PerezRed Bull+0.000
2S. VettelAston Martin+1.385
3P. GaslyAlpha Tauri+2.762
4C. LeclercFerrari+3.828
5L. NorrisMcLaren+4.754
6F. AlonsoAlpine+6.382
7Y. TsunodaAlpha Tauri+6.624
8C. SainzFerrari+7.709
9D. RicciardoMcLaren+8.874
10K. RaikkonenAlfa Romeo+9.576
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