Sergio Perez wins Azerbaijan Grand Prix after dramatic late blown tyre costs Max Verstappen victory
Incredible finale in Baku sees Verstappen and then Hamilton miss out on chance to win race
Red Bull's Sergio Perez won a dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday after a blown tyre denied teammate Max Verstappen what looked like certain victory.
Verstappen, who crashed out with five laps remaining, keeps his four-point championship lead over Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time world champion locked up at the late restart, veering off track and dropping from second to 15th.
Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel was second to earn his team a first F1 podium with Pierre Gasly's Alpha Tauri in third to complete an unexpected podium at the Baku City Circuit.
"I'm so happy for today," said Perez, who won following a two-lap shootout after Verstappen's crash. "Normally Baku is pretty crazy but I have to say sorry to Max. He deserved the win today and it would have been good for the team to get a 1-2 but the win is a fantastic result.
"At the restart I had a poor getaway and Hamilton got alongside me but I made the car as wide as possible and he didn't make the corner.
"This is definitely a strong boost of confidence for myself and the team."
Verstappen was closing in on a second consecutive win, following victory in Monaco two weeks ago, when his Red Bull suddenly slammed hard into the wall with a puncture to his left rear tyre.
The Dutchman climbed from his car, inspected the blowout and gave it a frustrated boot before stomping off in disgust.
Perez was the leader following the restart but Hamilton shot past him in his attempt to win the race and reclaim the points lead from Verstappen but he locked up his tyres in the first corner and his Mercedes slid off track.
That rare error from the usually faultless British driver meant his run of 54 successive top-10 finishes was ended. A retirement in Austria in July 2018 was the last time Hamilton failed to pocket any points.
"Naturally, it's quite a humbling experience," Hamilton said. "We've worked so hard to come back into the top ten and I put everything on the line but just lost out in the end.
"I clipped a switch that places the brakes off so I just went straight on at turn one on the restart. I'm very sorry to the guys and girls in the team. I had no idea that I've even touched the 'magic' switch.
"I think it's ... yeah, it's very unfortunate for Max. Today is a good stroke of bad luck, we'll try to regroup and come back stronger next race."
Four-time champion Vettel revived memories of his glory days with a brilliant drive for Aston Martin.
"It's a big deal for the team," said Vettel, who secured his highest finish since 2019. "We had a good start, made some positions and looked after our tyres.
"I'm over the moon for myself and for the team, it was great. A podium – we really didn't expect that."
Gasly was equally delighted with his third place as all three drivers made their first trip to the podium this season.
"Incredible, honestly I don't know what to say," said the Frenchman. "It was such an insane race and an intense last two laps every session we were there.
"Qualifying was mega, I didn't know we'd be in contention for a podium but in the end we did. It feels incredible to get that podium."
Charles Leclerc started on the pole for Ferrari but could not maintain his qualifying pace and was quickly passed by Hamilton and both Red Bull cars.
The Monegasque eventually finished fourth after losing a fight with Gasly for the last podium place, while Lando Norris took fifth for McLaren.
Fernando Alonso was sixth for Alpine and Gasly's teammate Yuki Tsunoda took a career-best seventh.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was never in contention after qualifying 10th and finished 12th after being overtaken by both of the Alfa Romeo cars. Mercedes failed to score a point for the first time since 2018.
Updated: June 6, 2021 09:56 PM