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Azerbaijan GP: Sergio Perez wins dramatic race after Max Verstappen accident and Lewis Hamilton error

An amazing Baku race finishes with Red Bull's Sergio Perez winning from Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel after title contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton both failed to score points

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Max Verstappen's Red Bull suffers tyre failure causing him to crash out while leading the Azerbaijan GP with only a few laps left

Sergio Perez won an extraordinarily dramatic Azerbaijan GP for Red Bull after team-mate Max Verstappen lost a certain victory in a high-speed accident five laps from the end, and Lewis Hamilton botched the subsequent restart to ruin his own chance of success.

After Aston Martin's Lance Stroll had already suffered an accident when his left-rear tyre suddenly let go at around 200mph on Baku's long main straight, Verstappen's afternoon suffered a similarly scary conclusion on lap 46.

Verstappen was headed for a key victory to stretch his title lead over Hamilton to 15 points when his own left-rear tyre suddenly let go and the Red Bull slammed into the outside wall on the pit straight.

Kicking the failed tyre after exiting his crashed car, a frustrated Verstappen trudged away and seemed set to lose the points lead to Hamilton, who was now running second to Perez.

But there was one final extraordinary final twist to come.

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Lewis Hamilton locked up at Turn One and runs off track during the restart

After the race was red-flagged and the cars returned to the pit lane while the track could be cleared, the event was eventually restarted late into the Baku afternoon with a second standing start from the grid for the final two laps.

Hamilton, whose Mercedes brakes were smoking as he lined back up on the grid, got a better getaway than Perez and appeared set to lead into from the Red Bull into Turn One.

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But, inexplicably for a driver who makes so few mistakes, Hamilton ran straight on into the escape road as the pack streamed through the corner behind him.

With so little time to recover, the world champion finished 15th - ending a record run of 54 races in the points stretching back to 2018.

"Just on the restart, I think when Checo [Perez] moved over towards me I clipped a switch and it basically switches the brakes off, and I went straight," explained Hamilton to Sky F1, who had referred to a switch that adjusts brake bias as 'the magic' over the radio.

"Very hard to take but I'm mostly just really sorry to the men and women in the team who have worked so hard for these points."

With neither title contender scoring points, Verstappen therefore retains his four-point championship advantage.

An unexpected one-two-three after late Baku drama

Perez certainly enjoyed his fair share of good fortune but the Mexican was already driving a strong race.

Gaining two places off the start to run fourth, he jumped Hamilton through the pit stops and then kept the Mercedes at bay despite the world champion often running within DRS overtaking range of him.

Now a double race winner in F1 after his long-awaited maiden triumph with Racing Point in Bahrain last December, Perez becomes the first driver other than Verstappen to win for Red Bull since Daniel Ricciardo in 2018.

Sebastian Vettel has replaced Perez at his former team this year, now known as Aston Martin, and the German four-time champion starred on Sunday to take a remarkable second for his first podium since leaving Ferrari.

The German, fifth two weeks ago in Monaco, had started 11th on the grid but hauled himself up the order via a long first stint before completing quick-fire overtakes on Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly after the Stroll-triggered Safety Car.

But AlphaTauri's Gasly, a consistent front-runner all weekend, still took a deserved third for the third podium of his young career after overtaking Charles Leclerc at the restart.

Leclerc had started on pole but the Ferrari did not have the race pace to challenge and had quickly been overhauled by Hamilton and the two Red Bulls. He eventually secured fourth, just ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris who had recovered well from a grid penalty and then poor start.

Fernando Alonso was 10th at the late restart but the wily Spaniard was on the move for the two-lap dash to the flag and secured sixth place for the best result of his F1 return with Alpine. Yuki Tsunoda was seventh in the second AlphaTauri for his first points since March, with Carlos Sainz eighth for Ferrari after an early error.

With Valtteri Bottas enduring a dismal afternoon and finishing 12th, Mercedes unusually ended with no points from the weekend and so slip further behind Red Bull in the standings after Perez's win.

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Lance Stroll's Aston Martin picks up a puncture and crashes at high speed on the start-finish straight during the Azerbaijan GP

Azerbaijan GP: Top 10 finishers
1) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
2) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
3) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) Lando Norris, McLaren
6) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
7) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
8) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
9) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
10) Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo

Full race result

Verstappen loses out on deserved triumph

Two weeks after a composed drive to a first victory and the title lead in Monaco, a venue where he had never previously claimed a podium, Verstappen was on course to drastically improve a patchy record in Baku.

Although he stayed behind Leclerc and Hamilton at the race start, he looked fast on his soft tyres and, after following his Mercedes rival in overtaking the Ferrari inside the first six laps, positioned himself for the first pit stops.

Hamilton, starting to struggle on his tyres, was called in by Mercedes first but the team lost crucial ground in the pits when they had to hold the car to wait for an oncoming car.

Red Bull responded by pitting Verstappen a lap later and he comfortably jumped his title rival. Perez, who ran longer a further lap longer, then also emerged from his stop ahead of Hamilton to form a Red Bull one-two.

Growing his lead to four seconds after the Safety Car called for Stroll's scary crash, Verstappen's afternoon was then suddenly punctured - literally - as he powered down the 2km long straight to start what should have been his 47th lap.

"I didn't feel anything up until the moment that I suddenly went to the right," a disappointed but sanguine Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. "The tyre just blew off the rim and it's not a nice impact to have, it's quite a dangerous place to have your tyre blow-out at that speed.

"But luckily all fine with me, the car not so much."

Hamilton misses unexpected open goal

With Verstappen unexpectedly out of the picture, the coast seemed clear for Hamilton to reclaim the championship lead.

"We've got to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint," he warned over Mercedes team radio as the field waited to leave the pits for the late restart. "We've got to be measured on how aggressive we are."

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes will regroup and come back stronger in the next race

Those words somewhat came back to haunt Hamilton when the world champion out-braked himself into the Turn One run-off area, although it appears that an inexplicable knocking of a switch in his Mercedes cockpit proved his undoing rather than the result of overly-aggressive driving in his attempt to pass Perez.

It was all the more frustrating for the seven-time champion given Mercedes had collectively worked wonders to get themselves in a front-running position in the first place after struggling all through practice for single-lap pace and tyre grip.

Excluding race retirements - the last of which was racked up at the Austrian GP of July 2018 - Hamilton had last finished a race outside the points in Spain 2013, his fifth race for Mercedes.

"We know we have gaps which we simply have to overcome," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. "But I have no doubt, this a team which is so strong and so angry, and we are going to turn that anger into positive form and come back."

Azerbaijan GP Race Result

Driver Team Time
1) Sergio Perez Red Bull 2:13.36.410
2) Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1.385
3) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +2.762
4) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +3.828
5) Lando Norris McLaren +4.754
6) Fernando Alonso Alpine +6.382
7) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +6.624
8) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +7.709
9) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +8.874
10) Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo +9.576
11) Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +10.254
12) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +11.264
13) Mick Schumacher Haas +14.241
14) Nikita Mazepin Haas +14.315
15) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +17.668
16) Nicholas Latifi Williams +42.379
Did Not Finish
George Russell Williams
Max Verstappen Red Bull
Lance Stroll Aston Martin
Esteban Ocon Alpine

What's next in an amazing 2021 season?

As part of a rejigged schedule, F1 takes a week's break before embarking on its first triple-header of the season. The French GP at Paul Ricard on June 18-20 is followed by consecutive events at Austria's Red Bull Ring.

All races are live only on Sky Sports F1.

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