Perez secured an eventful first win for Red Bull in a race that ended with a 2 lap sprint to victory. Verstappen was set for a comfortable win after a near flawless race, however with four laps to go his tyre left rear tyre failed, causing a chaotic end to the race, which saw Hamilton lock up and go from second to 16th.
The main talking point coming away from the race will be the performance of the Pirelli hard compound tyres. Both Lance Stroll (lap 31) and Verstappen (lap 47) crashed out at nearly 200mph down Baku’s infamously long back straight, with tyre fails on the rear left. This will raise many questions about Pirelli’s tyre choice for the weekend, it’s safety and how it could have swung the championship battle away from Verstappen. Both drivers effected were robbed of good results. Despite the controversy it certainly opened up plenty of excitement that also saw Vettel secure Aston Martin’s first podium and Gasly claim third. The race had a heart stopping finale with a full restart with just two laps to go. On the restart Perez started in first followed by Hamilton and then Vettel on brand new soft tyres. It looked like Hamilton had taken the lead at corner one but then he locked up into the escape road relegating him to the back. He later lamented his incorrect use of the ‘magic’ button, believed to aid in heating up the brakes before a restart, with his brakes clearly overheating on the grid. The main winner was Alonso who jumped from 8th to 6th in the last few laps.
The bulk of the race built nicely to set up the final crescendo of excitement. From the initial start Perez began his charge moving from 6th up to 4th over the opening lap. Vettel also moved into the points up to 9th after overtaking two cars, whilst Bottas began his disappointing day, failing to make any progress from 10th. The race strategy games began on lap one with George Russell Williams and Giovinazzi in the Alfa jumping into the pits for hard tyres, believing they could go to the end.
To begin with it looked like it could be Hamilton’s day as he snuck past Leclerc with DRS on lap 3 to take the lead. He was quickly followed by Verstappen and Perez, with Leclerc dropping from pole to fourth by lap 9.
In what looked at the time to be the defining moment of the day Hamilton pitted early on lap 11. When Red Bull pitted first Verstappen and Perez on subsequent laps, they both took their turn to jump the seven time champion. Hamilton was left shocked as to how he could have lost so much time. At this point it looked like it would settle into a one two for the Milton Keynes based outfit, despite Hamilton’s constant hounding behind Perez. The Red Bulls were just too strong in the tight castle section for Hamilton to get past.
This all left Vettel out front going long on his initial tyres until lap 19, where after pitting he fell to 7th but on much fresher tyres then the rest of the field. He put these to good use straight away getting past Tsunoda on his out lap. The race was then brought together again after the Stroll tyre failure on Lap 31 giving Vettel a prime position to pounce on those ahead with older tyres. On the two laps after the restart Vettel did exactly that, first getting Leclerc at turn 1 and then getting Gasly, who was also driving a solid race, two laps later, promoting himself to fourth. Bottas again failed to impress losing 3 places at the restart.
After Hamilton nearly overtook Perez on lap 39 the race looked to again have settled down into its finishing order, but Baku had one last sting in its tale with the tyre failure to Verstappen that caused such Drama.
It will ultimately be remembered for its tyre failures and a glorious podium that no one would have predicted. Whilst the battle in the championship between Verstappen and Hamilton will remain as it started.
- Russell DNF
- Verstappen DNF
- Stroll DNF
- Ocon DNF