F1: Sergio Perez Claims Maiden Win for Red Bull after Tire Drama around the streets of Baku

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Sergio Perez was in the right place at the right time in Azerbaijan to take his first F1 win in the streets of Baku. Β© Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez took his first F1 victory for Red Bull following an exciting Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Mexican driver was in the right place at the right time after the two title rivals ran into trouble due driver error and mechanical failures.

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The streets of Baku produced another blinding race with slipstream and Safety Cars once again prominent in the 51-lap race.

It is becoming one of the highlights of the calendar since joining in 2017.

There is typically a surprising name on the podium, and this year didn’t disappoint.

Lights out and away we go

The Ferrari of Charles Leclerc – the surprise pole sitter from yesterday – led the cars away after lights out.

In behind followed Lewis Hamilton, who retained second from title rival Max Verstappen.

However, the big gains from the opening lap came from Sergio Perez.

‘Checo’ jumped from sixth to fourth, doing what Red Bull signed him to do – provide support for Verstappen up front.

It was to be a sign of things to come from the Mexican, and he was soon into the podium places after making his way past Leclerc.

After another great Saturday, it is clear Ferrari still have some way to go with their race pace, as the Monegasque driver quickly started to tumble down the order.

Mercedes Pit Stop Woes Continue

Hamilton was the first of the front runners to come into the pits on lap 11.

However, Mercedes are looking far from the well-oiled machine of the hybrid era.

Unlike Monaco, the team were not at fault for the slow stop.

Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly came in on the same lap and this caused the British driver to delay upon exiting his pit box.

Hamilton had the Red Bulls breathing down his neck when he came into the pits, meaning any mistake would be costly.

This was to be the case as Verstappen jumped him after coming in a lap later.

Perez then rubbed salt in the wound by also snatching a place despite having a slow stop himself.

The result of a fantastic in lap for the Mexican in which he pumped in the purple sectors.

Another driver struggling was the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.

The Spaniard appeared to turn a corner after a strong podium in Monaco.

A costly lock-up meant another podium looked unlikely at best however, and led to him being stuck behind an Alfa Romeo for several laps to come in 14th.

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Aston Martin Go Long with Contrasting Results

Both Aston Martin’s decided to stretch out their first stints in the hope of a strong run on the soft tires.

It seemed to be working, with Sebastian Vettel leading the pack and Lance Stroll just a few places behind.

That all changed on lap 31, however.

As Lance Stroll came hurtling down the back straight, he suffered a left-rear tire failure and a nasty shunt with the barriers.

The Canadian was visibly shaken as he got back to the pits, with team owner and father, Lawrence comforting him.

The Safety Car made its expected appearance with debris all over the track.

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When the pit lane opened several drivers reverted to a two stop, making the most of the opportunity to fit the soft compound.

One was young Mick Schumacher, however it didn’t last long.

The Haas team realized the front-left was not fitted and correctly.

Avoiding a probable retirement, they hastily wheeled him back into the pits of a second bite at the cherry.

When the racing resumed on lap 36 it was Seb Vettel who looked like the man on a mission.

He got past Leclerc firstly – the Ferrari driver suffering a big double lock up which almost sent him careering into the back of the Aston Martin.

Next up was Gasly who sounded as shocked as anyone over the radio when he saw Vettel swoop past.

The End is Near for Bottas

You may have noticed the complete lack of information regarding the race of Valtteri Bottas so far in this report.

That’s because once again, the Finn had an underwhelming and inconspicuous race for the Mercedes outfit.

Starting in tenth, the team set him the goal of fifth or better to keep in touch with the Red Bulls in the race for the Constructors.

After an average start, it got no better for him with his inability to overtake Norris hindering him badly.

Following the Safety Car, he even had the ignominy of being passed by his compatriot, Kimi Raikkonen for 12th place.

The Mercs haven’t been the fastest car by a long shot this weekend, but Hamilton showed it is capable of fighting at the front.

Bottas is looking very ‘Vettel 2020’ at the minute – lacking in motivation and confidence in his car.

A change will be needed if we are to see the Bottas of old again.

Questions to be answered from Pirelli

Lap 46 and Max Verstappen was cantering to victory leading a Red Bull 1-2 followed by Hamilton a few seconds behind.

It had been a comfortable race for the Dutchman so far and highlighted again that being at the front doesn’t faze him.

Hunter or hunted, Verstappen looks like the real deal and is looking as complete a driver as Lewis in the car.

Unfortunately for him and the team, these cars and more precisely, these tires will not always play ball even when you don’t put a foot wrong.

On lap 47, Verstappen suffered a similar fate to Lance Stroll with a left-front tire failure down the back straight.

It was a painful sight as Red Bull looked on as their championship lead slipped away.

Max had done nothing wrong and questions must be asked of Pirelli about why this happened to two drivers.

It’s not only unfair but it’s also dangerous, with Verstappen close to the pit entry walls.

He showed great control to ensure his car veered to the right rather than the left.

A red flag was soon called out to once again clear the debris.

It was decided the remaining two laps would go ahead with a standing start the order from the FIA.

We got another gem over the new FIA Radio this weekend as well.

Red Bull Sporting Director Jonathan Wheatley informed Race Director, Michael Masi that the team had no warning about the tire failure and suggested that teams needed to change for safety reasons.

No matter how competitive these guys are safety is paramount, and no team wants to see another driver crash at high speed into the barriers.

An Advert for Sprint Qualifying

The race ended with a two lap dash to the line to give us some idea of the sprint qualifying that awaits us.

As expected, it was drama from the word go.

Looking like a Bonfire Night display, Hamilton’ smoking Mercedes got a great start.

After sneaking up the inside of Perez, it looked like the move was done and dusted.

That was until he bolted straight down the escape road relegating him to the back of the grid.

After the race he attributed this to the ‘brake magic’ not doing its desired job.

An error caused by him accidentally flicking the switch when up-shifting on the way to the grid.

After seeing his rival fall to tire issues, this was a bitter blow.

Especially after he highlighted the fact that this was “a marathon and not a sprint” on the way to the grid.

This left an unexpected podium that could only make you smile.

Perez saw out the final two laps to take his second victory and first of Red Bull.

Vettel rounded off a superb day to take Aston Martin’s first podium.

While Pierre Gasly continues to shine holding off Charles Leclerc with some aggressive driving to take 3rd.

In the other Alpha Tauri Tsunoda put in a strong performance to take 7th while Raikkonen picked up his first points of the campaign in 10th.

Another great race in this enthralling 2021 season.

Next up, Paul Ricard in two weeks time.

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