Sergio Perez wins the Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2021
What’s with Sergio Perez, harsh conditions, and podium finishes? Talent, that’s what it is. Having started sixth on the starting grid, the Mexican weaved his way to the front of the grid after a set of crucial pit stops from Redbull.
Having had to hold off Lewis Hamilton for a large duration of the race, Perez managed to help his teammate Max Verstappen retain his grip on P1 until Verstappen crashed after a tyre issue on lap 47. It was up to Perez to get the win for Redbull.
He had successfully defended attacks from the ever near Mercedes of Hamilton after losing the advantage because of the safety car deployment when Lance Stroll crashed. Back to a standing start from the grid after Verstappen’s crash red-flagged the race, Perez was quick to try and beat Hamilton to the first corner but, to his advantage, saw Hamilton lock up and go into the run-off at turn 1.
Perez went on to defend his position and bring home the second win at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix for Redbull. It was his first win and podium since joining the team and his second career win after winning at the Sakhir Grand Prix last season.
Back on top: Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel found himself back on the podium at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix for the first time since the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix. Vettel made his way up from 11th and found himself at the head of the pack having not pitted and the Redbulls on his tail.
After pitting for fresh tyres, he made his way to sixth place, behind Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly when the safety car came out. Using the edge his fresh tyres gave him, he got the jump on the two drivers and was in fourth place.
After the exit of Verstappen and Hamilton’s lock-up at the restart, Vettel moved up to the second place, behind the man he had replaced in the new Aston Martin team. This podium was the team’s first in the season and the first under its new name and livery.
Pierre Gasly set forth his best on track to fend off the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc to finish third. Showing a quick pace on the track, Gasly had also gone fastest in FP3. Pushing his car to the limit after the restart, Gasly moved past Leclerc into third and held on till the finish.
A bad run for Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas
Despite starting the race on pole position, Leclerc soon found himself overtaken by Lewis Hamilton and sometime later by Max Verstappen. Apart from facing issues with debris, it was evident that the Ferrari lacked the pace that was needed to fight for the top three points positions. Leclerc was passed by Vettel and was then engaged in a battle for third with Gasly in the last two laps of the race before finishing third.
The otherwise powerful Mercedes W12 seemed to be causing problems for both drivers in Baku. While Lewis Hamilton managed to make a significant recovery in qualifying and started second, Valtteri Bottas wasn’t able to get results and started 10th. Far off the usual pace, the Mercedes possessed, Bottas found himself unable to assist his teammate and team in search of points. Having been overtaken several times, Bottas finally finished twelfth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Championship race
One could imagine Lewis Hamilton potentially being back on top of the driver’s championship standings after Max Verstappen’s unfortunate crash late into the race. This would mean Redbull would come back into second place after leading both the constructor’s and driver’s championship after their performance earlier in Monaco.
Much to his dismay, his lock-up coming into turn 1 after the restart saw him finish down in the fifteenth position, without points. Sergio Perez’s win then increased the gap between Redbull and Mercedes further in the constructor’s championship with Mercedes trailing by 26 points.
While this race saw Verstappen and Hamilton both finishing without points, their positions on the top of the driver’s championship standings did not change. Race winner Sergio Perez however moved into third place behind Hamilton.
Tyre issues: Pirelli facing flak after separate incidents
Tyremaker Pirelli was under scrutiny after two drivers, first Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen later on in the race suffered left-rear blowouts and crashed into the barricades. Both incidents caused the deployment of the safety car and Verstappen’s incident on the main straight even led to the race being red-flagged and halted until the debris was cleared from the track.
A furious Max Verstappen was even seen taking his frustration out on the left tire of his car, the tyre that had taken away his to-be first victory at Baku that would help put some more distance between him and Lewis Hamilton in the driver’s championship.
Both drivers luckily escaped unscathed from the crashes. Pirelli came under pressure from drivers, the team management, FIA officials, and fans alike after the incidents and began undergoing tests to figure out the cause.
Post the race, officials gave statements saying that the cause may have been tyre wear but were a bit skeptical as the left rear tyre was not the most stressed tyre on this particular circuit. While they were unable to determine the cause of Lance Stroll’s crash, it was assumed that Verstappen had picked up debris from that crash and that is what led him to develop problems of his own.