A shock podium in Baku has been overshadowed as Max Verstappen’s incredible performance was ruined in terrifying scenes.
An insane finish to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has handed Red Bull’s Sergio Perez a stunning victory after teammate Max Verstappen crashed out of the race with four laps remaining.
But he still remains on top of the driver’s championship after Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was the second last man across the line after drove off the track at the first corner on the restart.
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It left a very different podium than was expected with Perez ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly in third.
None of the men on the podium had finished on the podium this season.
It was a wild finish however with four laps remaining after Verstappen had led since his 1.9 second pit stop early in the race put him out in front of Hamilton with the Mercedes driver stuck behind Perez in third for most of the race.
But with four laps remaining, the F1 world was left stunned as Verstappen crashed out of the race after his left rear tyre failed, sending the championship leader in to the wall at 200m/h (320km/h).
It was a terrifying moment but not the first in the race after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll crashed in the 30th lap having not yet pitted with his left rear hard tyre failing in a similarly high-speed section of the course leading into the pits.
“That is heartbreak for Max Verstappen,” David Croft said on Sky Sports.
“Questions are going to be asked if that’s two left rears in Baku.”
Croft said that it looked as though the race would finish behind a safety car but it was quickly red flagged with plenty of debris left on the track.
Verstappen, team boss Christian Horner and the mechanics in the garage were near inconsolable in disbelief over Verstappen’s horror crash.
Verstappen was furious, punching a barrier after kicking his car.
“It’s not acceptable, it’s not acceptable Crofty,” Paul di Resta said.
“Pirelli have gone one step softer with the tyre compound for this year’s race,” Croft said. “Have they gone too soft or is it just construction? They changed the PSI on the rears from Friday through to Saturday.”
Di Resta said Pirelli “the drivers don’t like the tyres”, with a heavier compound necessary with the weight of the downforce the cars have.
“That could be championship deciding,” di Resta added.
Croft add that the best thing was that Verstappen had walked away from the accident.
Lewis Hamilton quickly asked what had happened to Verstappen, with fans praising his sportsmanship.
“Is he okay?” Hamilton immediately asked.
Ted Kravitz chimed in that the red flag had allowed every team to change tyres.
“I think that might have been at the back of race director Michael Masi’s head that if we do have a tyre problem here with these hard tyres, if we do, a big if, then everyone would be able to change their tyres under the red flag,” he said.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner said it was the “exactly the same tyre that failed on Stroll, so I think it’s a tyre issue.”
A radio exchange between Red Bull and race director Michael Masi was illuminating as well.
“We got zero warning of that failure, nothing on a metric, not a vibration,” Red Bull sporting director Johnathan Wheatley said, as Masi was dealing with the immediate aftermath.
“Our point is, consider a red flag and the opportunity or everyone to change tyres.”
Social media was quick to blame Pirelli for the failures.
But the restart was just as wild with Hamilton unable to stay on the track after going straight on at the first corner, meaning he finished 15th.
He revealed after the race that he had accidentally flicked a switch that Hamilton said essentially turned his brakes off – a setting called brake magic.
Brake Magic is the lever behind the steering wheel that Mercedes use on outlaps to heat the brakes to prepare for a restart and to get heat from the brakes thriough the calipers and wheels into the tyres.
It means that Red Bull have increased its lead at the top of the constructor standings by 25 points as Perez moves to third in the championship.
Social media was quick to react to the dramatic finish as well.
Perez, who only just made the end of the race with the car breaking down just after going over the finish line as it was reportedly close to being retired.
But Perez was thrilled as he claimed the second race win of his career after his first late last year at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
“Normally Baku is pretty crazy,” he said. “I have to say sorry to Max, it would have been incredible to get that one-two for the team.
“But at the end, it was a fantastic day for us. We were close to retiring the car but luckily we managed to finish the race.
“This is definitely a strong boost of confidence for myself.”
Vettel was equally stunned with Aston Martin’s best ever finish with second.
“A great day, I’m over the moon. We were not expecting a podium here,” Vettel said.
Gasly was stunned by the result after a great weekend in his AlphaTauri.
“It was such an insane race, and super intense last two laps,” he said. “I’ve already finished once first, once second and I missed that third place so it feels incredible to get that podium.”
It was a great weekend for AlphaTauri with Gasly in third and Yuki Tsunoda finishing seventh, claiming his best result and first points since the season opening race in Bahrain.
Ferrari (Charles Leclerc 4th, Carlos Sainz 8th) and McLaren (Lando Norris 5th, Daniel Ricciardo 9th) also finished with double points finishes.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix results
1st: Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
2nd: Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
3rd: Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
4th: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5th: Lando Norris (McLaren)
6th: Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
7th: Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
8th: Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
9th: Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
10th: Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)