Sergio Perez wins a thriller in Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez placed fourth in the Monaco Grand Prix on May 23. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Jesus Coronel

A chaotic race filled with surprises ensued in the second street circuit of the year in Baku, Azerbaijan on June 6.

Red Bull was leading the Drivers and Constructors Championships over Mercedes after Monaco, but the silver arrows were ready to bounce back and regain control of the championship.

Qualifying would be only the start of a dramatic weekend for the F1 Drivers, as there were four red flags in the session.

Those red flags helped Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc earn a second consecutive pole position.

But it didn’t translate well on the streets.

During the start of the race, he had to fend off Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and he could not do so as they overtook him within the first 10 laps.

Hamilton pitted early on the 12th lap, but he lost out on second place to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez because he had to wait for AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly to pass first.

The Red Bull drivers gained a big lead from Hamilton and it seemed like he wouldn’t catch up, but he would get a crucial chance.

On the 31st Lap, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll had a very scary crash after his rear left tire gave out, which forced the safety car on the track.

This was a difficult weekend for Stroll, as he crashed out of qualifying on Saturday.

“I just felt like the rear just let go,” he said in an interview. “I don’t know if it was a puncture, suspension or debris. We’re still looking into it.”

But even with the safety car period ending, Verstappen and Perez were able to hold off any attempt Hamilton had to get into the top two during the restart.

Meanwhile, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel was gaining positions as he had begun his charge to the front.

He had started in 11th and he had just overtaken Gasly and moved up into 4th place. Gasly couldn’t believe it as he exclaimed “That’s not possible,” to his team.

More time has passed and the gap Hamiton had to the Red Bulls was still relatively far, then disaster would happen.

Verstappen crashed out of the race after his rear left tire popped with four laps to go. He was leading the race after the 12th lap and was clearly frustrated when it occurred.

“Frustrating and very disappointing,” he said. “So close to the finish to retire with a tire blowout. You can hate this sport.”

The race was red flagged with two laps left.

With Verstappen out, all the pressure was sent to Perez to win the race for Red Bull, while championship contender Hamilton now had a chance to win the race for Mercedes.

The battle for the podium grew more intense with now four different racers in contention. Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

When the race restarted, Hamilton gambled immediately and went for a move to go into the lead, but his brakes failed, forcing him off the track and into 15th place.

This was after he said that the season is “a marathon, not a sprint”.

“It’s really painful,” he said. “I’m sorry for the team for this day.”

Perez and Vettel began to pull away on the restart and as the final lap began, Gasly, Leclerc and Norris would be in a very close battle for third.

And as the finish line was approaching, Sergio Perez would get his first victory with Red Bull, with Sebastian Vettel helping Aston Martin to their first podium with second, as well as a second consecutive Driver of the Day Honors. Pierre Gasly was able to hold on to third.

When Red Bull signed Perez, they wanted a driver that can consistently be in the top spots to not only supplement Verstappen, but also deliver on results when Verstappen is out.

“I’m so, so happy for today,” he said. “Normally Baku is pretty crazy. I’m very sorry for Max because he did an incredible race. He really deserved the win.”

Sebastian Vettel has steadily been on the rise as time has passed, and now he gets to celebrate his first podium of the year as well as helping Aston Martin achieve history.

“This is a great day,” he said. “This means a great deal. I’m over the moon, we did not expect a podium when we came here.”

Podiums don’t come too often for AlphaTauri. And Gasly has a streak of one podium every year since 2019 and is proud of it.

“Super intense last two laps,” he said. “The car has been incredible all weekend. It feels incredible to get that podium. All in all a fantastic job (by the team).”

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