Sergio Perez took a highly dramatic first Formula 1 victory for Red Bull in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after his team-mate Max Verstappen crashed with a puncture while leading and then Lewis Hamilton went off at the subsequent restart.
Hamilton managed to grab the lead from Perez when the race resumed with a standing start for a two-lap sprint following a delay of nearly half an hour after Verstappen’s heavy crash.
But Hamilton plunged down the escape road at the first corner moments after grabbing a lead that would have put him back atop the world championship table and ended up finishing 15th.
Sebastian Vettel emerged from the chaos with an incredible second place for Aston Martin from 11th on the grid, with Pierre Gasly completing the podium for AlphaTauri.
Red Bull had been on course for its first one-two finish for almost five years thanks to a commanding performance by Verstappen and Perez until the sudden left-rear tyre deflation coming onto the start/finish straight sent the leader into a heavy accident four laps from the finish.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 6, 2021
It was the second such accident in the race, with Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin suffering a near-identical tyre failure and crash just after half-distance.
The blow for Verstappen meant Hamilton looked certain to reclaim the championship lead even had he only finished second behind Perez, but instead Hamilton’s error means Red Bull remains in front in the title race.
Ferrari’s polesitter Charles Leclerc ended up fourth in the race, having only managed to lead until lap three before Hamilton cruised past him approaching the first corner.
The Ferrari hung on with the Mercedes at first but was overtaken in quick succession by the two Red Bulls across laps seven and eight – with Perez having pulled off a brilliantly aggressive first lap to progress from sixth on the grid to fourth.
Once up to second, Verstappen lurked behind Hamilton then stayed out one lap longer before pitting. A very strong in-lap from the Red Bull coupled with the Mercedes being held in its pit briefly as Pierre Gasly came past allowed Verstappen to rejoin 4s clear of his championship rival.
Perez ran one lap further and rejoined narrowly in front of Hamilton, setting up what appeared to be a Red Bull one-two ahead of the Mercedes, with only the occasional Hamilton pressure on Perez hinting at a possible change.
Even a long safety car period for Stroll’s crash didn’t cause a shake up. The Aston Martin had risen to fourth place after Stroll’s qualifying crash thanks to a very long first stint on hard tyres, but that stint was never completed thanks to the tyre problem that sent him heavily into the wall after 31 laps. Stroll’s car ended up in the pitlane entrance, meaning a closed pit initially and no opportunity for strategy gambles.
Stroll hits the barriers on the main straight
The Canadian is ok and out of the car
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 6, 2021
But Stroll’s team-mate Vettel provided huge consolation for Aston Martin with a brilliant drive. He made it past both Gasly and Leclerc (the Ferrari having fallen behind the AlphaTauri in the early pitstops) at the safety car restart following the sister car’s crash and then moved up to third with Verstappen’s exit.
Hamilton’s shock mistake at the restart half an hour later then handed Vettel second and Gasly third ahead of Leclerc, as Perez celebrated his second-ever F1 win.
Lando Norris made good progress at the last restart to emerge with fifth for McLaren ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Alpine and the second AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda. Carlos Sainz Jr picked up eighth place for Ferrari, recovering from a moment down the escape road that dropped him outside of the top 10 shortly after he made his pitstop.
Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen completed the scorers, as Mercedes’ misery was completed by a terrible result for Valtteri Bottas.
Off the pace all weekend, he fell as low as 14th having lost four places on the restart lap following the Stroll safety car and finished only 12th.
|Pos||Name||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|1||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull-Honda||51||5||2h13m36.41s||1m44.687s||3||25|
|2||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||51||0||+1.385s||1m44.89s||3||18|
|8||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||51||0||+7.709s||1m45.7s||3||4|
|10||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||51||0||+9.576s||1m45.601s||3||1|
|11||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||51||0||+10.254s||1m45.575s||4||0|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||45||29||DNF||1m44.481s||1||0|
|Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||29||0||DNF||1m46.207s||0||0|