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F1 Baku GP: Perez wins; No points for Verstappen or Hamilton

Baku, Azerbaijan, June 6/21 (GRW): In a surprise ending to the Grand Prix of Azerbaijan, neither of the top championship contenders – Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton finished in the points – leaving Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez to win the race over a resurgent Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly – making for an unusual podium result.Baku, Azerbaijan, June 6/21 (GRW): In a surprise ending to the race, neither of the top championship contenders – Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton finished in the points – leaving Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez to win the race over a resurgent Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly – making for an unusual podium result.
The story of this race was foreshadowed when Lance Stroll had a tire failure and crashed out of he race early on. Late in the race when Verstappen had a seemingly unbeatable lead over Perez and Hamilton, he too has a similar tire failure and crashed out of the race. Two left-rear tires gone with no evidence of damage from debris pointed the finger squarely at a problem with the Pirelli tires supplied for this race – but that was no consolation for either driver.
The race was red-flagged leaving two more laps to be run after a long stop and a standing re-start. On the grid, Hamilton’s front brakes were smoking but he got the jump on Perez taking the lead down the short run into the first corner – but he failed to slow enough and he went off into the run-of area handing the lead back to Perez and falling to the back of the field.
Now the order was Perez, Vettel and Gasly – with Charles Leclerc hounding Gasly but to no avail and that was how the two-lap sprint ended producing an unfamiliar trio on the podium.
Given the failures by both championship front runners, the points standings were not altered – Verstappen with 105 to Hamilton at 101. Verstappen set the fastest lap so that should have added one point but he had to finish in the top ten to get that extra point.
Verstappen’s tire failure with four laps to go and the subsequent red flag and standing re-start effectively split the race into two races.
In the first race, Leclerc started from the pole ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen. It took only two laps before Hamilton passed Leclerc for the lead and then Verstappen got past into second place on lap 7 of the 51-lap race. The first (and only?) planned round of tire stops began on lap seven. Hamilton came in on lap 11 and it was a long stop because he was held up waiting for Gasly to come past him and pit. This extra two-second longer stop put Hamilton o the back foot and Verstappen came out from his pit stop on the next lap with a comfortable lead over Hamilton.
When this round of pit stops was for all intents and purposes finished, Vettel stayed out in the lead for another four laps. When he pitted, Verstappen regained the lead by a three-second plus margin over Perez and Hamilton. Things were looking good for the Red Bull drivers.
Meanwhile Lance Stroll was cruising around in fourth place still on his original set of Pirelli tires. That did not work out well for him because, on lap30, his left-rear tire blew and he crashed heavily into the barrier – out of the race. When Verstappen’s left-rear tire also blew out later in the race observers began to realize that this was a failure of the tire not a puncture from debris. It certainly raises questions about the responsibility of the tire maker in these two dramatic crashes (Shades of the tire debacle at Indianapolis a few years ago?)
The race went on, with no sign of any front-running team calling in their drivers for new tires. Verstappen continued to cruise around with a six-second lead over Perez and Hamilton – seemingly in command and on his way to a second Grand Prix win in a row and a substantial boost in his lead over Hamilton in the driver point standings.
But, then Verstappen’s left rear tire failed. He crashed into the wall near to place where Stroll had hit earlier and his race was over.
The race went to double-yellow flags and then to red. After about twenty minutes or so, the cars were re-fired and, now on fresh tires, cruised around the circuit to regroup on the starting grid. Then came the re-start with Perez benefitting from Hamilton’s braking failure into the first turn. This produced the remarkable outcome of having three unfamiliar drivers on the podium of whom only Perez had been on the podium so far this year. Vettel’s second place finish may be a sign of more success to come for him and the Aston-Martin team this year.
• The next F1 Grand Prix will be at Paul Ricard in two week’s time on June 20th.
• Click HERE for the results and points of the Azerbaijan GP
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