After the first lap of the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing looked set to take the race win—but a series of Pirelli blowouts completely inverted the running order during the last laps of the event in the streets of Baku.
Polesitter Charles Leclerc had a great start, taking a clear lead from the very start and leaving Lewis Hamilton to play catch-up. Sergio Perez in his Red Bull nabbed two spots in a great start, moving from sixth to fourth. Sebastian Vettel, too, secured two places, ending the first lap in ninth. After a chaotic qualifying session, it was quite a shock that the first lap ended clean.
Just at the end of lap two, Hamilton used the tow to launch himself into the lead, showing just what a powerful machine the Mercedes is. On lap seven, Verstappen managed to pass Leclerc to secure second place; Perez soon followed, leaving Leclerc outside of a podium position. Leclerc opted to pit on the 10th lap of the 51-lap race, taking a bit of an alternate strategy in an effort to regain track position.
On lap 11, Carlos Sainz Jr. ran off the track and reversed back into action. He didn’t slow anyone down, thankfully, but it was a poor showing. Hamilton, meanwhile, lost at least two seconds in his pit stop because he had to wait for the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly to pass by him. He subsequently lost track position to Max Verstappen when Verstappen opted to pit. Perez wasn’t so lucky; a slow stop cost him an opportunity to cut in front of Verstappen, but he still emerged back on track in front of Hamilton.
Chaos ensued on lap 31 when Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll crashed near the pit lane entry, leaving a massive amount of debris on the track after suffering a tire puncture. A safety car had to be deployed to clean up the accident.
When the pit lane opened, Mick Schumacher’s Haas stopped at the end of pit lane and had to be pushed back to his pit stall. As soon as he was clear, the safety car entered the pits for lap 36, and racing resumed. Verstappen absolutely dominated the start, with Gasly passing Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc locking up and nearly wiping out his competition. Hamilton in third brought a strong fight to Perez but ultimately couldn’t get it done on the restart.
But on lap 47, Verstappen crashed while leading. The left rear tire failed, sending him into the wall and bringing out a safety car. It was an absolute disaster for Verstappen’s championship hopes, which would have been extended had he taken the win. Soon after, race control decided to suspend the race with a red flag to clean up the debris and end the race under green.
It was set to be a two-lap shootout to the finish, with the field being required to grid for a standing start. Hamilton pushed into the lead but locked up and ran off the track, dropping down out of the points-paying positions. Perez took the lead with Sebastian Vettel in second and Pierre Gasly in third. Leclerc and Gasly put on a solid battle for the final podium position that lasted the entire final lap, with Gasly ultimately securing the position.
Perez’s car died just after he took the checkered flag.
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing)
- Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
- Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
- Lando Norris (McLaren)
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
- Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
- Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)
- Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
- Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)