Baku witnessed a great race on Sunday, June 6 as surprising levels of drama unfolded throughout a hectic 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Monaco’s very own Charles Leclerc finished in fourth place, overcoming his nightmare experience at his home GP just two weeks prior.
Max Verstappen looked set to take his first ever win on the unforgiving street circuit before a double tyre failure put his Red Bull car into the wall in the later laps, giving way to teammate Sergio Perez, who ultimately crossed the line in first place.
This GP was certainly one to remember for Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who started the race in 11th place only to finish a close second place behind Perez. Baku was so full of on track drama, that four drivers didn’t manage to make it over the line at all.
In third place was Pierre Gasly, who was just about able to hold off a hungry Leclerc in his rearview mirror. The Monegasque finished the race in fourth place, just over a second behind the AlphaTauri.
Leclerc started the race in pole position, but was passed by Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen on the second and seventh laps respectively. The Ferrari man did well to finish fourth, despite the madness on track.
The ensuing laps saw many tyres lock-up, resulting in a few disappointed drivers. The first to go was Lance Stroll, who’s Aston’s left-rear tyre gave way on the pit straight on the 35th lap and put him into the wall.
The next tyre issue claimed the comfortable lead of Verstappen, who was cruising along on the 47th lap when his double tyre failure spun his Red Bull into the wall. The Dutch driver emerged from the crash unhurt, but shaken.
The whole fiasco triggered a safety car, which became a red flag that suspended the race on the next lap. The race resumed with a standing start 35 minutes later, and as the entire grid made the most of the time by switching to soft tyres, the two remaining laps would see Formula 1 fireworks.
As the lights went out again on the restart, Hamilton had his nose just ahead of Perez, but the Brit locked up massively and headed directly into the Turn 1 run-off area. Hamilton kept calm and carried on but finished in 15th place, or second to last.
At the end of a thrilling race, Perez emerged victorious in Baku for the first time. The Mexican also managed to secure his first win with Red Bull and vital points for his new team in the constructors championship.
Despite all the drama and no points for Hamilton or Verstappen, the two rivals still sit at the top of World Drivers Championship standings, having taken turns to win the first few races of the 2021 season. Verstappen stands in first place at the moment, just four points ahead of Hamilton, who missed the opportunity to reclaim the lead with his late lockup.
After a suspense filled afternoon in Azerbaijan, Formula 1 will take one weekend off until the French Grand Prix on June 20 at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
Featured image courtesy of CNN