Sergio Perez claimed his first victory as a Red Bull driver after teammate Max Verstappen crashed out with just four laps remaining of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Red Bull were set for a one-two finish that would have put Verstappen in control of the drivers’ championship, but the Dutchman suffered a dramatic left-rear tyre failure late on amid concerns over the Pirelli tyres.
A similar tyre failure involving Lance Stroll earlier in the race raised questions over the tyre compounds, which were softened for the Baku City Circuit, with the session stopped after Verstappen’s crash.
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Verstappen’s DNF looked set to hand Lewis Hamilton control of the drivers’ championship, but the reigning world champion went on at Turn 1 after the restart, conceding any points that would have moved him top of the standings.
Charles Leclerc started on pole, but his lead lasted only three laps as Hamilton passed the Ferrari before the two Red Bulls Verstappen and Perez also overtook the pole sitter who didn’t have the pace to maintain track position.
The first pivotal moment of the race came after 13 laps when Hamilton suffered a slow pit stop which allowed Verstappen, with a sub-two second pit stop, to complete the overcut and take first place.
Perez also benefited from Hamilton’s slow pit stop to take second place which put Red Bull in complete control of the race, with the Mexican offering Verstappen some protection from the reigning world champion.
However, the dynamic of the race shifted when a Safety Car was deployed after a puncture saw Lance Stroll crash on the start/finish straight. Sebastian Vettel was the beneficiary of this as he moved up to fourth on the restart.
Hamilton found some renewed pace after the Safety Car, but didn’t appear to have enough to catch Perez as Red Bull closed in on a one-two finish. Everything changed, though, when Verstappen crashed on the pit straight on lap 47.
This incident resulted in red flags due to the amount of debris on the track before Hamilton made the costly error into Turn 1 after the restart, with Perez taking the chequered flag ahead of Vettel in second and Pierre Gasly in third.
DRIVER OF THE DAY - Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
This was close to the perfect race for Vettel who kept his cool as so many around him lost theirs. Something clicked for the former world champion this weekend and with one or two more laps he might well have taken the chequered flag such was the pace the Aston Martin had at the end of the race. Vettel got his strategy right, showed courage when it mattered and composure when things got chaotic. Don’t count out the German just yet!
WHERE THE RACE WAS WON
3/51 - Hamilton into first! The world champion doesn't even need DRS to pass Leclerc who was powerless to stop the Mercedes. Hamilton had the slipstream on Leclerc. Perfect move.
14/51 - Slow stop! Hamilton into the pits! It's a slow stop for the defending world champion. Gasly coming in caused a bit of a jam in the pit lane and that could be a big moment in this race! Red Bull are capable of sub-2 second pit stops!
15/51 - Verstappen back out in front of Hamilton! As expected, the slow stop by Hamilton has cost him and Verstappen has pitted and rejoined the race ahead of the defending world champion.
47/51 - Disaster for Verstappen! What happened there?! Verstappen is in the wall! He had this race as good as wrapped up, but there has been a problem with one of his rear tyres! Horner has his head in his hands. He can't believe what has happened!
49/51 - Red flag! Session is stopped! The race stewards have decided that it's better to clear the track with the drivers in the pit lane and with just three laps remaining the red flags are out!
50/51 - Hamilton goes off at Turn 1! Disaster for Hamilton who locks up and goes on at Turn 1 and that is essentially his race over. Perez is away at the front of the pack.
Perez wins the Azerbaijan GP! What an incredible race and Perez takes the chequered flag, his first race victory as a Red Bull driver! It was a bad day for the top two championship leaders, with Verstappen failing to finish and Hamilton making a massive error on the restart.
BEST OVERTAKE OF THE DAY
The best overtake of the race came 24 laps when Carlos Sainz showed great bravery to pass Antonio Giovinazzi into Turn 8, going the long way round the Alfa Romeo and avoiding the wall while holding his nerve.
BEST PIT EXCHANGE OF THE DAY
"We've got to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Got to be measured, how risky we go," said Hamilton just before the restart. Unfortunately for the seven times world champion, he wasn’t so measured into Turn 1, although his worn out brakes were clearly a factor.
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