Pérez wins ahead of Vettel and Gasly after a Dantesque finish in Baku

The Mexican won a race promised to his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen before a tire failure sent the Dutchman into the wall on the pit straight. And does not lead to an unbreathable finale where Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) lost everything. 

 

Published on 06/06/2021 à 16:37

Julien BILLIOTTE

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Pérez wins ahead of Vettel and Gasly after a Dantesque finish in Baku

Lewis Hamilton lost everything by making a big mistake during the restart of the race / © DPPI

For his second career victory, Sergio Pérez experienced a scenario almost as crazy as that of his first success at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year.

Let's try to rewind. We were at the end of the 46th of 51 laps of the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Max Verstappen was heading towards a convincing victory, Red Bull was heading for a relentless double when everything fell apart for the Dutchman.

Victim of a spectacular problem with the left rear tire on the endless straight of the Baku circuit, the world championship leader was catapulted towards the wall at very high speed. 

Verstappen fortunately escaped unscathed but it was a hard blow for his global aspirations, he who was going to widen the gap a little further with his great rival Lewis Hamilton, then 3rd, behind the other Red Bull of Sergio Pérez. The Batavian's anger was palpable and was reflected in furious punches in the Tecpro protective barriers which surround the Azerbaijani route.

Verstappen's accident risks raising many questions on Pirelli's side, since the Dutchman's crash had been preceded around fifteen laps earlier by a very similar card for Lance stroll. The Canadian was also driving on the immense straight section of Baku when he lost control of his Aston Martin after a tire problem.  

The Safety Car was sent onto the track for the second time before the race management decided to wave the red flag. Moments before this interruption, Jonathan Wheatley, Red Bull Racing's loyal sporting director, asked race director Michael Masi to opt for such a measure to allow all drivers to change tires for safety reasons. 

After a half-hour interruption, the 17 drivers still in the race returned to the track for a potentially wild finish with a new start for the last two laps of the race! Stuck in pole position, Pérez was surprised by a Hamilton who was quicker to switch off the lights… but the driver Mercedes completely missed his braking and shot straight into the loophole, falling heavily in the standings.

Pérez didn't ask for that much. Sebastian Vettel, who started with an offbeat strategy, also took advantage of the Englishman's setbacks, just like Pierre Gasly, very lively all weekend at the wheel of his Alpha Tauri

The man from Guadalajara held on until the end to achieve his second career success, the first in his Red Bull colors. He is accompanied on the podium by a rediscovered Vettel and a super Gasly, who resisted the furious attacks of his friend Charles Leclerc, who started from pole.

The Monegasque had also managed the first start and the opening laps well, but the driver Ferrari was unable to do anything against Hamilton, Verstappen, and Pérez, who quickly fled. 

With a Mercedes engine that breathed well in a straight line, the Briton, who had started in front of the Dutchman, managed to keep his direct competitor at bay on the endless straight of the Baku track. 

Verstappen was nibbling tenth after tenth in the twisty section of the old town only to appear threatening when Hamilton rushed into the pit lane to swap his Soft tires for a set of Hard tires on lap 12. 

With Gasly's AlphaTauri hot on his heels, Hamilton had to wait a few more seconds outside his garage. Red Bull jumped at the chance by stopping Verstappen on the following lap. The Austrian team changed the Dutchman's tires in 1,9 seconds, compared to 4,6 seconds for Hamilton a loop earlier. The deal was in the bag. 

Red Bull even managed to insert Pérez, author of a great start from 6th place, between Verstappen and Hamilton after the Mexican's stop. Although Hamilton shouted in Pérez's exhausts, he never found the opening, the man from Guadalajara always managing to break away in the ultra-narrow intermediate sector. 

While we were getting ready to take a little nap, Lance Stroll woke everyone up for the first time by suffering a spectacular tire problem on the pit straight. Having become a simple passenger in his Aston Martin, the Canadian hit the wall violently and resulted in a first Safety Car.

The main beneficiary of the regrouping of the pack was not Hamilton but a surprising Vettel, who took advantage of fresher tires to catch Leclerc and Gasly at the restart. Verstappen was already far away and seemed poised for a masterful victory when the scenario completely went haywire for him. The rest, you know it.

Behind the Pérez-Vettel-Gasly trio, we find Leclerc, in front Lando NorrisFernando Alonso, who signs two final stunning laps, Yuki tsunoda (AlphaTauri), which regains the points for the first time since Bahrain, Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), Daniel Riciardo (McLaren), and Kimi Räikkönen, who snatches a new point for Alfa Romeo.

Julien BILLIOTTE

AUTOhebdo deputy editor-in-chief. The feather dipped in gall.

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