Perez wins after Hamilton’s error, Verstappen’s crash
Max Verstappen lost victory to a late puncture in a dramatic finish to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that also saw Lewis Hamilton throw away a chance to reclaim the championship lead.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez won the race from Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly in a two-lap sprint to the finish when the race was stopped after Verstappen crashed out with five laps to go.
Hamilton was second on the grid at the restart and was ahead of Perez into Turn One but locked up his tyres and ran into the escape road, dropping to 15th at the flag.
His uncharacteristic error meant Verstappen retained the championship lead by four points from the Mercedes driver.
Hamilton’s costly error
Verstappen had dominated the race after passing Hamilton during the pit stops only for his hopes to explode with his left-rear tyre on the pit straight with five laps to go.
Verstappen crashed at high speed in an incident almost identical to one suffered by Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll at half-distance.
Both Verstappen and Stroll were uninjured after smashing into the wall when their tyres failed at close to 200mph. But both incidents will raise questions about the integrity of Pirelli’s tyres – not for the first time since the Italian company came into F1 in 2011.
Verstappen’s late retirement brought out the red flag and led to a chaotic two-lap sprint to the finish.
Hamilton had referred to the long season and his fight for the championship with Verstappen in a radio message just before the restart.
“Gotta remember this is a marathon not a sprint, so you’ve got to be measured in how aggressive you go,” Hamilton said.
Team boss Toto Wolff replied: “Absolutely agree, Lewis.”
But when he took to the grid, Hamilton’s front brakes were smoking and after getting the jump on Perez at the start, he locked up heavily and sailed into the escape road, with a golden opportunity to retake the championship lead thrown away.
After the race, Hamilton asked: “Did I have the magic on?” Race engineer Peter Bonnington replied: “Yeah, you knocked it on, bud.”
The ‘magic’ button switches the brake balance for warming the front tyres up on the formation lap and under safety car. That means Hamilton would have had excessive front brake bias, which he was not expecting, and would have caused to the lock-up.
It seems Hamilton had accidentally knocked the button after switching it off before the restart. (BBC Sport)