After a slow start in Baku, Azerbaijan, everyone was concerned that we’d have another Monaco. A race where the lead didn’t change and nobody could overtake. This was far from what we saw after 2 car failures and two terrifying tyre failures gave us an unforgettable race. Races like these make this sport the best in the world.
With Leclerc finally getting his moment on pole after his disaster in Monaco, everyone was ready for a good start in Baku, with Hamilton and Verstappen right behind him. As the lights went out, Charles made a good start as everyone filtered through behind. Norris lost many places on the start and was one place ahead of his teammate but was soon able to make up some positions. By Lap 2, Perez was also able to make up positions to sit behind the leaders in 4th. Hamilton was able to overtake Leclerc for the lead on Lap 3 with ease and would stay there until the fateful pit stops. On Lap 7, Verstappen was also able to overtake Leclerc for P2, with his Red Bull teammate taking P3 almost immediately afterwards.
George Russell pitted almost immediately due to an experimental strategy decision by the struggling Williams team, as did Giovinazzi. Shortly afterwards Esteban Ocon came into the pits but this time to retire with engine issues that ruled him out very early, on just Lap 4. After being unable to keep the lead, Leclerc pitted on Lap 10 onto the hard tyres, the compound that every car pitted onto. As all the cars began to pit, a few started to struggle. Sainz locked up into Turn 8 and fell down to P15 after reversing onto the track.
Hamilton pitted from the lead on Lap 15 but he got stuck in his box as Gasly passed him in the pit lane. This ultimately meant he lost places to Verstappen and Perez, as the Red Bull team performed another successful sub-2 second stop for Max, although Checo also suffered after a poor stop. After these stops, Vettel was leading the race as the Aston Martin team made very different strategic decisions to the other teams. Lewis is then trying to make up time on the Red Bulls, which is proving impossible. He was not helped by his teammate at all, who was battling Norris down in P10. The race is reasonably calm as drivers settled into their positions, until all changed as tyres began to blow up.
Lance Stroll had gone long after a disastrous Q1 crash on the Saturday. Then it all went wrong on Lap 31. Pirelli are still investigating the reasons for his right rear puncture/failure but it ultimately sent him flying into the wall and out of the race. This closed the pit lane, leaving many drivers concerned after seeing these tyres exploding, when they should have still had much more life in them. The safety car is of course out too. With aging tyres, Lewis expressed how concerned he is to be restarting the race under those conditions.
Although the pit lane did reopen before the restart, only Russell, Alonso, Giovinazzi took advantage of it as it would ruin the grid slot of the drivers at the front of the grid. Mick also pitted, but it wasn’t as smooth. Despite a minor issue with the tyre not being attached as he left the pits, Schumacher was quickly returned to the pit box and was able to continue the race.
Max takes the restart well, with Sergio winning out against Lewis behind him. Vettel does well to pass Leclerc and Gasly too. And then disaster strikes! The Azerbaijan race we all expected occured, with chaos throughout the field.
In almost the same place, the same tyre blows up on Verstappen’s car as had failed on Stroll’s. An absolute disaster for the championship leader! Every member of staff in the paddock and fans watching are beginning to question these Pirelli tyres. The race is red flagged to get the drivers’ tyres change, given the safety concerns we were seeing. Everyone assumed the race was over, but we were in luck, a two lap crazy race ensued in Azerbaijan.
The chequered flag:
The lights went out once again and Hamilton pushed Perez for the Azerbaijan GP win. Another disaster! Hamilton couldn’t brake, taking him from P2 to last in seconds. Vettel follows Sergio, with Gasly making his way to P3 behind him. The chequered flag then comes in Azerbaijan after an intense race. All three drivers make it onto the podium for the first time in 2021, a massive success for everyone involved.
Red Bull took a big lead in the constructors championship after Perez’s well-deserved win. With Max out of the race and Lewis out of the points, the driver’s championship remains unchanged at the top. Bottas had another shocking race, finishing P12 and going to 6th in the championship, something we could not have predicted in 2021. We’re 6 races in and we have so much to get excited about! France can’t come fast enough.