(Photo Credit: Formula One on Twitter)
In the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, it looked like Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing would be cruising to another dominate win in what ended up to be a world championship season. With a rear-tire failure on the pit straight ending his day, Verstappen has only finished one start in his career in Baku. On Sunday, the racing gods looked over him and Team Red Bull as they took two of the three podium positions at the end of 51 laps in Baku.
The race started with Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez battling into turn one with Leclerc locking up his left-front tire and ran wide, which gave the lead to Perez claiming a win out of the proverbial "holeshot." As they came to complete lap one, Perez was already out of DRS range of Leclerc and his team mate of Verstappen rounded out the top three. This battle continued for nine laps until the first Virtual Safety Car of the day was released.
That safety period was brought out by Carlos Sainz who pulled his car into the Turn Four escape road with a hydraulic failure which forced him to retire. Ferrari called Leclerc down in to pit road for a change to the hard compound tires and with an issue on the front jack, Leclerc had a stop of 5.4 seconds and dropped him to third place.
Perez and Verstappen restarted first and second on lap eleven and the gap between the two started to shrink as Perez was told not to fight for his position. On lap 15 with aid of DRS the defending world champion took the lead.
On Lap 20, after managing overheated rear tires on his car, Leclerc had to retire from the race with an engine failure coming down the main straight. For Ferrari, a terrible day in Baku didn't help with damage control for the team. In the Spanish GP, Leclerc suffered a failure of the MGU-H turbo and the failed strategy in Monaco has significantly hurt the Scuderia with penalties coming to Leclerc for using a third power unit when Formula One returns to Canada in a few weeks.
Lap 34 saw the second VSC of the day when another Ferrari powered car of Kevin Magnussen was forced to retire after his power unit failed after fighting for 11th with Ocon. Joining three other Ferrari powered cars in retirement, Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo was also forced to retire with engine troubles.
Red Bull Racing took the opportunity to double-stack both of their cars on a Lap 34 pit stop for a fresh set of hard tires as the both set sail and checked out from the field after that.
The battle then turned to the midfield as the Ferrari troubles secured Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton Third and Fourth place finishes respectfully.
For Max Verstappen, it was his 25th victory in Formula One and his first in Azerbaijan. George Russell has been Mr. Consistency in F1 as being the only driver to finish inside the Top Five in all of his starts this season.
Formula One returns to the track with the much anticipated return to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian Grand Prix, June 19th.