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Max Verstappen robbed of win after tyre blow out in Azerbaijan: 'Frustrating'

Published on 06 June 2021 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen retired from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Dutchman, started from third, seems to be heading to a sure win but with five more laps to go, the rear-left tyre blew out on his RB16B. Verstappen was able to walk away unhurt from the severe impact with the wall and saw an almost certain win disappear like snow in the sun. A major disappointment for the Red Bull Racing-driver, who could see his lead in the championship to Lewis Hamilton grow by as much as eleven points. The damage was kept to a minimum though because at the re-start Lewis Hamilton locked up and dropped back all the way to plumb last. Sergio Perez stood firm and took his first win home for Red Bull Racing. Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly rounded out the podium.

“It’s a bummer what happened today”, says Verstappen after the race. “It was actually a pretty easy race. I was managing the pace at the front of the field and was trying to match it to the drivers behind of me because of the long stint. If I needed to pick up the pace, I did. But you don’t want to stress the tyres too heavily which we didn’t do. Sometimes it’s not such a nice sport when things like these happen towards the end.”

Max never saw the unfortunate tyre blow out coming: “Everything felt very comfortable and I never felt any vibrations or whatsoever. Very strange that this happened.” The debris from Lance Stroll’s crash – who had the same problem – were not the cause according to the Dutchman: “Everyone is driving the same lines, lap after lap, to get a slip stream, so it’s very strange that this happened only to me. I think that the marshalls cleaned up the track very well. It’s just very frustrating.”

Because of a mistake by Lewis Hamilton at the re-start, Verstappen is still leading the world championship. The damage has been contained, even though the Red Bull Racing-driver had wanted to extend his lead: “That was more important for me today. I think that Mercedes are in general stronger on the normal circuits. That is why I wanted to open up a gap here today. But we’ll see. We have had two positive weekends actually because the car was very strong in the race here. I don’t think that anyone really had a chance to make it difficult for us in the race, and that says a lot.”

Verstappen ends with some praise for his team mate Sergio Perez, who managed to win his first Grand Prix for Red Bull today: “Today Checo did exactly what you wanted him to do. He had a good start and was quickly behind of me. We both overtook Lewis after the pit stops and it would have been an easy one-two. It’s a shame I didn’t win but I was happy to see Checo at the top of the podium. He is a great guy and team mate.”

It is a little after four local time when the lights go out and we are on our way for the sixth Grand Prix of the season. Max Verstappen gets well off the line and retains his third place entering Turn one. Team mate Sergio Perez has a decent start from sixth as he overtakes both Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly.

At the end of the first lap, which the entire field managed to pull off without any issues, polesitter Charles Leclerc was leading the pack followed by Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Sergio Pérez, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz. Hamilton manages to keep the gap to Leclerc in check and overtakes the Monegasque one lap later. Verstappen takes a peek on lap four, entering the first corner, but falls a bit short to put his car alongside the Ferrari. On the same lap, Esteban Ocon is the first driver to retire from the race with a technical issue.  

On lap seven of the race, Max is close enough to Charles Leclerc. At the end of the long straight, he manages to make small work of the Ferrari-driver with the aid of his DRS, after which he sets his sight on Lewis Hamilton. Sergio Perez is having a good run as he overtakes Leclerc one lap later.

Race leader Hamilton comes in on lap eleven for a set of the harder compound tyres, but the Briton loses well over two seconds as he is forced to wait on Pierre Gasly who comes flying by. One lap later it’s Verstappen’s turn, as he rejoins as race leader after an excellent stop. Team mate Perez’ pit stop – who comes in one lap later – is not that flawless, but the gap is just big enough for him to take second place from Lewis Hamilton. For Perez the pressure is full on during the laps that follow but the Mexican is able to fend off the seven-time world champion and keep him out of DRS-range.

Halfway the race, front runner Verstappen is together with Sergio Pérez, Lewis Hamilton, Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly en Charles Leclerc the top six. Max’ lead on his team mate is at that moment about five seconds and Perez, in turn, leads Hamilton by some two seconds. Lance Stroll is the only one from this group that still needs to head in for his mandatory stop.

On lap 31 the race takes a turn for the worse as Stroll, due to a puncture, impacts the wall severly as he exits Turn twenty. The Canadian is able to walk away unscathed but because of the debris on the track, Race Control decides to deploy the safety car. A bad call for Verstappen who was quite comfortably leading the race.

Four laps later, the safety car heads back in and the field is let loose again. Max Verstappen retains the lead, behind him Sergio Pérez, Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel and  Charles Leclerc are for now the top six. Verstappen seems to be cruising to a victory until bad luck strikes and – just like Lance Stroll – the rear-left tyre blows. Max his the wall with full speed but walks away unhurt. This means the end of the race for the Dutchman who sees a potential twenty six points disappear in front of his eyes.

After the red flag, the race is resumed with still three laps to go and with a standing start. Lewis Hamilton appears to take the lead immediately, but locks up and goes straight ahead in the first corner. This drops him back all the way to last. Sergio Perez stands his ground and gives Red Bull Racing another reason to be happy as he takes his first Grand Prix win for the team. Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly round out the podium by finishing second and third respectively.

Results Grand Prix Azerbaijan:

1Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda513:33.68625
2Sebastian VettelVETAston Martin Mercedes51+1.385s18
3Pierre GaslyGASAlphaTauri Honda51+2.762s15
4Charles LeclercLECFerrari51+3.828s12
5Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes51+4.754s10
6Fernando AlonsoALOAlpine Renault51+6.382s8
7Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda51+6.624s6
8Carlos SainzSAIFerrari51+7.709s4
9Daniel RicciardoRICMcLaren Mercedes51+8.874s2
10Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari51+9.576s1
11Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari51+10.254s0
12Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes51+11.264s0
13Mick SchumacherMSCHaas Ferrari51+14.241s0
14Nikita MazepinMAZHaas Ferrari51+14.315s0
15Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes51+17.668s0
16Nicholas LatifiLATWilliams Mercedes51+42.379s0
17George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes48DNF0
18Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda45DNF0
0Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes29DNF0
0Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault3DNF0