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June 7, 2021

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Perez triumphs as Verstappen crashes in Baku

Sergio Perez won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a two-lap shootout after Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen crashed while leading with a tire failure and Lewis Hamilton went off course trying to seize the win on the standing restart.

Verstappen was four laps away from a second consecutive victory yesterday when his Red Bull suddenly slammed hard into the wall with a puncture to his left rear tire. The Dutchman climbed from his car, inspected the tire and kicked it in anger before stomping off in disgust over the race-changing failure.

“Is he OK?” radioed rival and seven-time champion Hamilton.

Verstappen was fine but Red Bull was furious over a second Pirelli failure asked for a race stoppage to allow tire changes for safety reasons. Lance Stroll had crashed earlier after his own unexpected tire failure.

Formula One red-flagged the race and brought the field to pit lane, then decided to resume with a standing start for a two-lap sprint to the finish.

Perez was the leader but Hamilton shot past him in his attempt to win the race and reclaim the points lead from Verstappen. But he failed to brake in the first corner and his Mercedes slid off track. Hamilton dropped to 15th, snapping a streak of 54 consecutive races of earning a points position finish.

“So sorry, guys,” he told the team. Mercedes principal Toto Wolff told German broadcaster Sky Sport that the front brakes were unresponsive.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel took second to give Aston Martin its first ever F1 podium after qualifying 11th. It was Vettel’s highest finish since 2019. Pierre Gasly was third for AlphaTauri as all three drivers made their first trip to the podium this season.

The red-flag yesterday was the second of the season following a crash between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell at Imola in April, and the longest suspension since Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash in Bahrain last November caused a stoppage of more than an hour.

It was the second career win for Perez, who is in his first season with Red Bull. It somewhat salvaged the race for the team that had been headed toward a 1-2 finish before Verstappen’s tire failed. Verstappen retained a four-point lead over Hamilton in the standings; Perez rose to third.

The 2016 Spanish GP was the last time the top two drivers in the championship standings failed to score points.

Charles Leclerc started on pole for Ferrari but finished fourth. Lando Norris took fifth for McLaren, hours after the team announced longtime investor Mansour Ojjeh had died aged 68.


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