After title leader Max Verstappen wrecked while leading due to a tyre issue and Lewis Hamilton went off track trying to take the lead on the standing restart, Sergio Perez won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a two-lap shootout.
Verstappen was four laps away from winning for the second round in a row when his Red Bull drove into the wall due to a puncture in his left rear tyre. The Dutchman got out of his car, examined the tyre, and stomped it in frustration before marching off, disgusted at the race-changing failure.
“Is he all right?” Hamilton, a seven-time champion, was overheard on the radio.
Verstappen was unharmed, but Red Bull was enraged by a second Pirelli tyre failure in the race and requested a pit stop for tyre swaps for safety reasons. Lance Stroll had wrecked earlier in the race due to a tyre issue of his own.
The race was red-flagged and the field was hauled to pit lane before Formula One decided to restart with a standing start for a two-lap sprint to the finish.
🏆 Sergio Perez has done it!
❌ No points for Lewis Hamilton.
👏 Podium for Vettel.
😱 Disaster for Verstappen.
— i sport (@iPaperSport) June 6, 2021
Hamilton passed Perez in his quest to win the race and retake the points lead from Verstappen. However, in the first bend, he failed to brake, and his Mercedes skidded off the course. Hamilton was relegated to 15th place, ending a run of 54 races in which he had finished in the points position.
He apologised to the team, saying, “I’m very sorry, guys.”
Sebastian Vettel, the four-time champion, finished second for Aston Martin following an outstanding drive after qualifying 11th. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finished third.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 6, 2021
After Valtteri Bottas and George Russell crashed in Imola in April, Sunday’s race was the second red-flagged F1 round of the year, and the longest suspension since Romain Grosjean’s dramatic crash in Bahrain last year forced the race to be stopped for more than an hour.
Perez, who is in his first season with Red Bull, won for the second time in his career, and it saved the race for the team, which had been on the verge of a 1-2 finish before Verstappen’s tyre failed.