Pérez wins Azerbaijan GP after Verstappen crashes from lead

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Sergio Prez de Red Bull celebra en el podio su victoria en Gran Premio de Azerbaiyn, el domingo 6 de junio de 2021, en Bak. (Maxim Shemetov, Pool via AP)

BAKU – Sergio Pérez won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a two-lap shootout after 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 Sunday 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.

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“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.

Pérez 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 and the team did not yet know why.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel took second to give Aston Martin its first ever F1 podium in an an impressive drive 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 Sunday 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 Pérez, 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; Pérez climbed to third.

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

“I am so, so happy. First of all I have to say I am very sorry for Max because he had a tremendous race," Pérez said. "We were going to have a 1-2 together, but in the end it was still a fantastic day for us and luckily we were still able to finish the race.”

Charles Leclerc started on the pole for Ferrari but couldn’t replicate his qualifying pace and was quickly passed by Hamilton and both Red Bull cars. A slow pit stop for Hamilton — held up by the team because Gasly was passing his pit box — allowed Verstappen and Pérez to both come out ahead of Hamilton.

Verstappen then retained control and was cruising toward the victory until he was blindsided by the tire failure.

Leclerc eventually finished fourth after losing a fight with Gasly for the last podium place. Lando Norris took fifth for McLaren, hours after the team announced longtime investor Mansour Ojjeh had died aged 68.

Fernando Alonso was sixth for Alpine and Gasly's teammate Yuki Tsunoda took a career-best seventh.

Carlos Sainz was eighth for Ferrari after recovering from going off the track and Daniel Ricciardo was ninth to give McLaren a double points day. Kimi Raikkonen's 10th place for Alfa Romeo was his first points finish since Nov. 1.

Hamilton’s teammate 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.


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