Red Bull’s Sergio Perez secured his first win for the Milton Keynes outfit after his teammate Max Verstappen crashed out late on in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, secured Pole Position on Saturday afternoon when Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda crashed out in Q3.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was the only driver to start on the Hard compound tyre, after he crashed out on Saturday’s Q1 session.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, started the race leading the championship for the first time in his F1 career with 105 points, four points ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton (101pts).
It was a uniformed getaway from the field, as Hamilton covered off Verstappen’s advance, from second, into the first corner. No one suffered any visits to the barriers in the narrow sections of the opening sectors and completed the first lap, led by Leclerc.
With help from the strong tow on the two-kilometre long pit straight, Hamilton managed to rob the race lead from Leclerc as they crossed the drag reduction system line on the second lap.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was the first retirement of the race as his car suffered mechanical issues on lap four. Fortunately, the Frenchman was able to drive his car into the pitlane to his mechanics.
Leclerc came under pressure by both Red Bull drivers Verstappen, as the Dutch driver overtook the Monegasque inside the DRS zone down the pit straight on lap six. This was echoed by the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez who also overtook Leclerc with help from the DRS on the following lap.
Out of the two title contenders of Hamilton and Verstappen, the Briton was the first driver to pit on lap 11 as the Mercedes swapped his soft compound tyres for hards. However, Hamilton suffered a slow stop (4.6-seconds). Verstappen pitted on the following lap and managed to complete a blistering 1.9-second stop, and stole the lead in the process
Despite his best attempts, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, couldn’t get past McLaren’s Lando Norris on the long straight and went wide on lap 24 (turn 16) as he tried to chase down the Briton. This left the Mercedes Finnish driver in P10 – the same position he started at the beginning of the race.
Stroll crashed out on the long straight next to the pit entry line, on lap 31, which prompted race control to close the pit lane. With the amount of debris and a stranded Aston Martin, the safety car was deployed. Tyre failure looked to be the issue, unclear if it was caused by debris or a sole puncture.
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As the pitlane reopened for business, on lap 34, only four cars out of 18 pitted; Fernando Alonso (Alpine), Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), George Russell (Williams) and Mick Schumacher (Haas). Alonso and Schumacher opted for the soft compound while Russell and Giovinazzi were fitted with another set of hards. However, the Haas had to be pushed back to the garage as his front left tyre wasn’t fastened on properly.
Leclerc locked up into turn two on the safety car restart and nearly rear-eneded Aston Martin’s Sebastain Vettel. Luckily the Ferrari driver managed to miss the gearbox of the green AMR21. By the end of the restart lap, Vettel used the powerful slipstream and managed to steal fourth place away from Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly into turn one.
Verstappen had led for the majority of the race but on lap 47 he suffered a tyre failure and crashed into the wall. Perez inherited the race lead as a result with Hamilton in second and Vettel in third. It’s unclear if it was a result of tyre wear or an issue with the Pirelli tyres. However, the failed rear-left tyre was the same that failed on Stroll’s car.
The race was red flagged, on lap 49, due to the Verstappen’s crash.
Amid the red flag break, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi was put under investigation by race control for not using the pit lane when he was instructed to. However, it was found there had been miscommunication between Latifi and his pit wall, as his team ordered him to stay out but not pit. But the Canadian should have drove through the pit lane.
As a result, Latifi was issued a 10 second stop/go penalty for failing to drive through the pit lane.
Start of Red Flag: 14:36 (BST)
End of Red Flag: 15:10 (BST)
Red flag duration: 34 minutes
Race restart: Standing start on the grid.
On the restart, Hamilton briefly regained the lead of the race from Perez but his front left tyre locked up into the first corner and the seven-time world champion tumbled down the order. Vettel, as a result, inherited second place from third on the restart.
Despite Leclerc’s successful overtake, at the beginning of the final lap, to steal third from Pierre Gasly. the French Alpha Tauri driver regained third on the inside line as they fought into turn two, immediately after Leclercs overtake.
As Perez past the waved chequered flag, to win the race, his RB16B gave up on the parade lap and the Mexican was forced to stop the car on the Pit Exit line.
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
- Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) – Driver of the Day
- Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)
Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 1:44.481 (lap 44)