After free practice and qualifying sessions plagued with red and yellow flags, everyone expected Baku to be your run of the mill street circuit. Ferrari’s Leclerc started in pole, but with Hamilton and Verstappen behind in arguably quicker cars. Out of the blue, following a similar incident involving Lance Stroll, Verstappen was out of the race with only a handful of laps to go. Baku finished in a crazy two-lap sprint race that saw Perez take his first win for Red Bull and Hamilton falling back to 15th.
How It Happened
Within the first few laps, Leclerc had lost his pole position to Hamilton before the race turned into a near-certain perfect race for Red Bull’s duo. Verstappen was five laps from the end with a clear lead over his teammate, who was skilfully keeping Hamilton at bay when everything changed.
If Verstappen had won, he would have been 15-points clear of Hamilton if the Mercedes driver clinched a third-place victory. With Verstappen out, it looked like Hamilton was set to land first or second place, depending on Perez’s performance.
It looked as though Verstappen was about to lose his Championship lead when another twist came to the Baku GP.
The race was red-flagged, starting with a second standing start from the grid for two final laps. Hamilton’s brakes were visibly smoking on the grid, and it appeared that he was leading over Perez into Turn One. An unfortunate manoeuvre saw Hamilton end up in the escape road, with the rest of the pack speeding past.
Hamilton’s 15th place finished ends his record fun of 54 races in the points. With Hamilton out of the points, the defeated looking Verstappen remains in the lead with four points. Mercedes remains in second in the constructor’s championship to Red Bull after Bottas had another unsettled week with a race that saw him finish in 12th.
An Unexpected Podium
Midway through the race, a Verstappen, Perez, and Hamilton podium looked all but certain. The three drivers who appeared on the podium all made their first appearances of the years – with two collecting their first wins for their team. Perez became the first Red Bull driver other than Verstappen to win pole since Riccardo’s 2018 win in Monaco.
Sebastian Vettel – whose teammate Lance Stroll had his own tyre malfunction – finished in second. It’s the first podium for Aston Martin, which saw Vettel pull himself up from 11th thanks to a long first stint and tactical overtakes. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly bagged a well-deserved third place after overtaking Leclerc at the restart.
The Pirelli Tyre Issue
Serious questions are being asked after Verstappen and Stroll appeared to suffer the same issue with their left-rear tyres. Thankfully, both drivers walked away from their respective crashes unharmed. Pirelli has begun an investigation as commentators and drivers raise their concerns about safety following both incidents.
Pirelli’s Mario Isola said that their initial investigation indicated that it was on-track debris after another cut was found on the rear-left of Hamilton’s car.
Baku proves that anything can happen during an F1 Grand Prix. With the French GP just two weeks away, it’s the perfect time to show your team spirit with F1 merchandise. Whether it’s a Lando Norris’s or Daniel Ricciardo replica driver cap or t-shirt, Red Bull team jacket, Alpha Tauri cap, or Mercedes team shirt – Madly Motorsport has everything an F1 fan needs.