Max Verstappen was leading the race on Lap 47 when his left-rear tyre blew up prompting the red flags, which promoted the second-placed Sergio Perez to claim the win at Baku.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez won the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in what was a chaotic finish to the race. The sixth round of the season saw longtime leader Max Verstappen crash out with just three laps to go after a blown rear left tyre, which prompted the red flags. Joining Perez on the podium were other unlikely contenders including Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel securing P2 after ages, while Pierre Gasly claimed the final spot for AlphaTauri. Defending champion Lewis Hamilton finished 16th in the race.
Verstappen was placed third on the grid, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was in pole position. As the lights turned green, Leclerc led the race followed by Hamilton and Verstappen, while Perez moved up past Gasly on the opening lap. By the end of Lap 2, Hamilton was in the lead with Leclerc dropping to P2 ahead of Verstappen. The Ferrari was now within the DRS range of the Red Bull that allowed Max to take P2 from Leclerc on Lap 7.
The fourth-placed Perez was now gaining on Leclerc to take P3, but the Ferrari driver head to the pits on Lap 10 switching to hard tyres. Race leader Hamilton pitted two tours later and that’s when a slow pitstop allowed Verstappen to take the lead. Hamilton’s pitstop blunder also allowed Perez, who entered the pits on Lap 14, to rejoin ahead of Hamilton and move up to P2. Red Bull seemed certain for a 1-2 finish.
The pitstop shuffle saw Gasly move up to third while Leclerc was placed fourth. Vettel extended his first stint until Lap 18, rejoining in seventh place ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, Lando Norris and Valtteri Bottas.
The race saw its first flags when Lance Stroll had a huge crash due to a blown tyre. The driver ran a long stint of 31 laps and was running fourth before the crash. That did set the tone for the rest of the race. The proceedings restarted on Lap 36 behind the safety car and Red Bull managed to maintain their lead. Vettel passed Leclerc to take fifth and had to wait for another lap before passing Gasly to take P4.
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By Lap 47, Verstappen was cruising to victory with a sizeable margin when his rear-left tyre blew pushing him into the wall on the start-finish straight. The crash put him out of contention in a race where he did not put a single wrong foot.
This prompted the red flag once again allowing the track to be cleared while all cars were able to change tyres. After a break, the race had a standing start for the final two laps with Perez in the lead. Hamilton, however, beat Perez to take the lead only for a few moments as the Mercedes locked up and went straight on Turn 1.
Hamilton rejoined at the back of the grid in an equally horrid day for the defending world champion. Meanwhile, Perez crossed the chequered flag first, only to be joined by Vettel and Gasly. Finishing fourth was Leclerc followed by Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso for Alpine, in his best finish so far this season. AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda picked up P7, ahead of Carlos Sainz of Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren. Kimi Raikkonen bagged the final point in the race finishimg 10th, ahead of his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.
Mercedes had a forgettable weekend with Bottas claiming 12th while Hamilton finished in 16th place. Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin in the Haas cars bagged 13th and 14th respectively while Williams cars of Nicholas Latifi and George Williams were the final finishers in the race. Apart from Stroll and Verstappen, the Alpine’s Esteban Ocon retired with an engine issue early on in the race.