Max Verstappen looked set to take his first first-ever Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix victory before he crashed out from the lead with just five laps to go – giving Sergio Perez a second career victory, as Lewis Hamilton locked up on the penultimate lap to finish 16th in a hugely dramatic race in Baku.
For the first time this season, Charles Leclerc led away from pole, but he was passed for the lead by Lewis Hamilton with no need for DRS, so strong was the tow, on Lap 2. Verstappen then swept by the Ferrari man on Lap 7.
Verstappen took the lead after a crucial sequence of pit stops, Hamilton starting that sequence on Lap 12 with a slow switch for hards thanks to traffic in the pit lane. Verstappen pitted a lap later and emerged first, followed by Perez who split the championship rivals. And the Dutchman seemed to have victory in the bag, mastering a Lap 35 Safety Car restart after Lance Stroll’s terrifying accident, when the Aston Martin driver’s left-rear tyre appeared to give way on the pit straight.
That was until Verstappen himself, comfortably in the lead on Lap 47, spun and crashed after an apparent tyre issue of his own. Unhurt, but shaken, his crash triggered the Safety Car, which turned into a red flag that suspended the race on Lap 48. The race resumed with a standing start 35 minutes later on Lap 50, giving us two laps of flat-out action, the field all having switched tyres during the stoppage.
Perez would lead Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Leclerc off the line for the re-start. Hamilton got away well, his nose seemingly ahead of Perez’s, but the Briton locked-up heavily and went into the Turn 1 run-off. He finished 16th, leaving Perez in the lead, Vettel second and Gasly – having held off a charging Leclerc in the final laps – to take the final podium place.
“VIPCARS Rent a Car Baku” Company congratulates the “Red Bull Racing Honda” team and driver Sergio Perez on the victory and wishes him good luck in the future!