It’s lights out and away we go in Baku!
Polesitter Charles Leclerc had a great start in the Ferrari and got away very quickly from the line and led in front of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. There were no incidents through the first few turns. Meanwhile on Lap 2, Sergio Perez has made a strong start to the race, moving up two positions to 4th place. On the other hand, Lando Norris has had a poor start and is already in 12th place, behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo. George Russell is the first one of the field to make a pitstop already. Lewis Hamilton makes it to P1 in Lap 3. The World Champion does not even need a DRS to overtake Leclerc, who could not stay in front of the Mercedes. It was a brilliant move. Lap 4 and the first retirement of the race is for Esteban Ocon. It appears that the Alpine has a gearbox failure as we heard Ocon on the team radio saying, “Lost power!”
We’re into Lap 7, and Max Verstappen hits the brakes late and overtakes Leclerc. Max obviously needed a few laps to get there. Lewis Hamilton complained about some balancing concerns over the Mercedes team radio in Lap 8, saying, “Balance is on the nose”, he also mentions struggling. Sergio Perez now closes in on Charles Leclerc and joins his Dutch Red Bull teammate in moving forward. Charles Leclerc is into the pit in Lap 10 and receives a fresh set of hard tyres. Charles Lecelerc rejoined the track before Kimi Räikkönen on P10. Lewis Hamilton says to be having struggles with his rears on the team radio in Lap 11. A disaster for Ferrari in Lap 12 after Carlos Sainz went straight through Turn 8 after his tyres blocked. As a result: the Spaniard is now in P15 after having to reverse back onto the track.
In Lap 15, we see Lewis Hamilton, the defending World Champion, make a slow pit stop of 4.6 seconds, and he loses his position on the track. One lap later, during Lap 16, Red Bull is capable of a pit stop for Max Verstappen in under two seconds. Sergio Perez is now leading the race with Sebastian Vettel on P2. Now Sergio Perez comes to a 4.3 second stop in Lap 17, but the Mexican stays ahead of Verstappen. Lap 19 and meanwhile Sebastian Vettel is leading the race, but he has yet to pit. It’s the first time the German has led a race since Brazil 2019.
Now, as it stands, we have P1: Vettel P2: Verstappen P3: Perez P4: Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel pits for a new set of tyres in Lap 21, and the former World Champion leaves the pit lane in 8th place. Aston Martin’s strategy of stretching out the first stint of the race seemed to pay off. Max Verstappen is now the new leader of the race with his teammate Sergio Perez on P2! Lap 22 and Valtteri Bottas hasn’t been mentioned yet. He’s still stuck in 10th place, where he started the race. He’s having trouble getting past Norris.
After a lock-up earlier in the race, the Spaniard had to work his way through the field, and he showed amazing courage by passing Giovinazzi into Turn 8 during Lap 24. He took the long way around after braking late. On Lap 25, Bottas drove off-track at Turn 16, losing him over a second and putting him further behind Norris. Nikita Mazepin makes a lockup and misses the corner in Lap 26. By 38 seconds, the Russian has dropped to the back of the field…
We hear a worrying Lewis Hamilton on the team radio during Lap 27 saying he cannot keep up with the Red Bulls. Mercedes have the best straight-line speed, but the Red Bulls have been the more balanced cars throughout the weekend. We’re into Lap 31, and we have the first Yellow Flag situation of the race.
Stroll had the longest stint in the race and was the only driver not to pit, and now he’s crashed into the wall after a rear puncture caused a massive accident on the run to the finish line. Eventually, the Safety Car has been deployed, and there is a significant amount of debris on the track. Michael Masi also decided to close the pit entry as a result. Still behind the Safety Car in Lap 34 and Lewis Hamilton mentions that a restart will be difficult on his tyres. Meanwhile, the pitlane re-opened, and Alonso, Giovinazz and Russell head into the pits. Mick Schumacher is also making a pitstop, but his tyre wasn’t put on properly by the team; they brought him safely to the pit and put on the tyre the right way, after all.
Finally, the Safety Car is ending in Lap 35. Max determines the pace, and we restarted! Lewis Hamilton considered going around Sergio Perez’s back but decided against it. Then Sebastian Vettel passes Leclerc before the Ferrari nearly collides with Hamilton’s rear end due to a lock-up! Sebastian Vettel’s tyres perform brilliantly as he passes Gasly, bringing the former world champion in 2nd place behind Hamilton.
We’re on Lap 44, and on the Mercedes team radio, Hamilton says, “I’m not getting any closer.” Despite having the fastest lap of the race a few laps ago in Lap 39. Now Max Verstappen has set the new fastest lap of the race in Lap 45.
Disaster for the race leader! Max Verstappen is in the wall in Lap 47. He looked set for victory, and the race was as good as wrapped up, but there has been a problem with one of his rear tyres. We saw something similar happen with Stroll earlier in the race. We see a shocking Christian Horner with his head in his hands at the pit wall, not believing what just happened with only a few more laps to go….
We’re now, unsurprisingly, behind the Safety Car in Lap 48, and there’s a good possibility this race will end behind the Safety Car. The problem seems to be with the Pirelli tyre probably becoming too soft. With only three laps remaining, the race stewards have decided that it’s preferable to stop the session with a Red Flag situation to clear the track with the cars staying in the pit lane. It has been decided that the race will resume. Later on, it has been decided that the drivers will make their second standing start of the afternoon.
Once again, the lights went out for a two-lap sprint race to the finish line, and Hamilton appeared to be in front of Perez. The championship leader had just said on the radio minutes before that he would not take any big chances because it’s still early in the season. Then he completely locked up, crashing into the Turn 1 run-off area before finishing P15 and out of the points.
Sergio Perez takes the chequered flag and his first race victory as a Red Bull driver! Getting some crucial points for Red Bull in exceptional circumstances. Sebastian Vettel finished second from 11th with his Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly took 3rd after holding off Leclerc’s repeated overtaking efforts, leaving the pole-sitter in 4th.