Red Bull's Sergio Perez wins Azerbaijan Grand Prix after Max Verstappen's tyre blows out
At Baku, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix gave us an absolute thriller right down to the final two laps as Max Verstappen who led the race until then, suffered a 300 kph tyre blow out and his championship rival Lewis Hamilton went from P1 to dead last at the restart.
Pole-position man Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc surrendered the lead to Hamilton’s Mercedes and Verstappen’s Red Bull down the super-long straight as early as Lap 2 and 7 respectively. Behind them, Mexican Sergio Perez used the tow of the Alpha Tauri ahead of him and flew past Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly to move to P4.
He then went on to steal P3 from Leclerc with a DRS overtake. For fans of ‘Checo’ as he’s known, at this stage, it seemed like a good result was on the cards. Contrastingly, in the Constructors Championship battle, Mercedes were left fighting with only Hamilton in the point scoring places as Valtteri Bottas was having a horrid outing again.
When the pit stop window opened on lap 12 a long 4.6 seconds stop saw the then race-leader Hamilton emerge in P4 behind both Red Bulls who had had slick stops and Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin who was driving to an extra long strategy.
But just when it looked like Red Bull Racing were heading for their first onetwo in a long time, Max Verstappen’s left rear tyre blew and his RB16B came to a crashing standstill on the main straight. Thankfully Max was fine, but any hopes of extending his points lead over Hamilton was out of the window and the race was red flagged.
At the race restart, Perez swerved left intentionally in the hope of cutting off a fast-starting Hamilton. The Mercedes was ahead but Perez’s aggression led to Hamilton accidentally switching off his rear brakes by hitting a button on the steering codenamed ‘magic’. And magic it was, as the Mexican’s only remaining threat for the win locked up and failed to make Turn 1!
Vettel and Gasly rounded off the podium places. Red Bull Honda team principal Christian Horner got on the radio and said, “Well done Sergio! Thank you for finishing that off for us!”
This weekend is Round 7 at the Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France. The first of a triple weekend of races. Will there be more magic?
Round 7 at France on Sunday, June 20. At 6.30 pm. Live on Disney+ Hotstar.
(The writer, an F1 enthusiast, covers the 2021 FIA Formula One Championship exclusively for Indulge.)