THE 2021 AZERBAIJAN GP WAS ABSOLUTELY INSANE!!!!!! There was so much action and so much excitement!! It’s true that the Azerbaijan GP is well-known for giving F1 fans incredibly exciting races. The long main straight makes great overtaking opportunities. The narrowness of the street circuit leaves no margin for error for the drivers. And quite clearly, the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was one of the best races that the Baku City Circuit has hosted.
This race was DEFINITELY better than the 2021 Monaco GP. Fans who have watched F1 for the last 2-3 years would already expect that, but I don’t think anyone expected this race to be as incredibly mind-blowing as it was. When the race got underway, it started to seem boring but then it picked up and got really exciting with the pitstops and the crashes and all of the excitement.
But the biggest reason that the 2021 Azerbaijan GP was better than the Monaco GP is that we didn’t get Lance Strolled! The F1 TV Directors were back and the TV Direction was perfect again! But I don’t think anyone’s going to be joking about Lance Stroll after the dangerous high-speed crash that he faced. His car crashed into a barrier at a really high speed down the main straight. It happened when his car’s rear-left tire suddenly punctured. The same thing happened to Max Verstappen in the Red Bull. Pirelli now has a critical investigation on their hands (more on these incidents later in this post). Luckily, both drivers don’t have any injuries.
So Verstappen’s crash meant that Sergio Perez was in first for the standing start that made the Red Flag restart. There were just 2 laps left in the race, and all Perez had to do was keep his cool and maintain his position, and that’s exactly what he did. Lewis Hamilton‘s disaster at the restart sent him all the way back to the end of the field. That added to Sebastian Vettel’s fantastic maiden podium with Aston Martin, which I’ll analyse in this post. And behind Vettel was the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly. He took his first podium of 2021 and proved that AlphaTauri’s pace is REAL.
Ferrari had absolutely no race pace, but McLaren had even less pace than Ferrari. Could this mean that teams like AlphaTauri and Aston Martin are back in the fight for becoming the Kings of the Midfield? We’ll have to wait and see! In this race review, we’re going to look at how Perez and Vettel pulled of such incredible performances. We’ll also look at all of the tire troubles, and we’ll also look at why Mercedes had a disastrous race.
All 3 Podium Finishers Had Incredible Performances
The curse of the 2nd Red Bull car has been lifted!!!! Sergio Perez drove a fantastic race today and won the 2021 Azerbaijan GP. Amid all of the madness, he kept his cool, he maximized his performance, and he definitely deserves this race win. So let’s circle back to the start of the race. Perez started the race in 6th after a disappointing qualifying. So far in 2021, Perez hasn’t exactly had some great qualifying pace. He’s struggling to match his teammate in qualifying. But Checo’s pace in the races are REALLY good, and he took that to a new level in Azerbaijan.
As soon as the race started, Perez was on the pace. He passed 2 cars and made his way up into 4th place by the time he reached Turn 4! He overtook Sainz for P5 at the exit of Turn 1, and then swooped around the outside of Gasly into Turn 3. After that, Charles Leclerc fell down the order due to a clear lack of pace. Leclerc fell to P9 after his pitstop. By now, Perez was on his way to securing his first podium for Red Bull Racing.
But Perez wasn’t the only driver who put in a top performance. Sebastian Vettel was FLYING in that Aston Martin. He had a terrible qualifying when he missed out on Q3 by 0.029 seconds. But when the race came around, nobody could match Vettel’s pace. By Lap 11, Vettel was up in P5 and maintaining his pace, although he was this high up the order due to other cars pitting. And then came the golden laps. By Lap 13, everyone except for Vettel had already made their first pitstop. That means Vettel was in the lead of the race! This was a huge event because that’s the first time Vettel lead a race since the 2019 Brazilian GP!
Vettel continued his stint on the soft tires till Lap 18, which was an INCREDIBLY long stint for the soft tires in this race. And Vettel managed his tires in such a brilliant way that he was going faster than some of his rivals while making sure the tires didn’t puncture. It takes a huge amount of skill to do that. So when Vettel came out of the pits, he came out in around P6. Vettel had done an overcut on Norris and Tsunoda. The overcut already proved itself when Sergio Perez came out of the pits on Lap 14 ahead of Hamilton, despite being behind the Mercedes before the pitstops.
Now we come to Pierre Gasly. By the time Vettel was out of the pits, Gasly was in a solid P5. But he would’ve been in 4th if it wasn’t for Lance Stroll, who was going long on his hard tires At the Safety Car restart after the accident, Sebastian Vettel got past Leclerc at the exit of Turn 1 and started to overtake Gasly through Turn 2. By the time, Vettel and Gasly got to Turn 3, they were side-by-side, having the ultimate midfield battle. Gasly had to defend furiously to stop the Aston Martin from getting ahead. But it didn’t matter, because a lap later, on Lap 37, Vettel used the insanely powerful slipstream down the main straight. He could easily pass Gasly and take 4th place in the 2021 Azerbaijan GP.
So we cut to Lap 46, everything has been stalemate from Lap 37 to Lap 46 until suddenly Verstappen crashes out. This is shocking, and the Safety Car is deployed. But at around Lap 49, Race Control stop the race. Red Flag is out, and it looks like the race isn’t going to restart with just 2 laps to go in the race. But then a miracle happens; the marshals clear the track, and the race restarts from a standing start for a 2-lap sprint to the finish. That was ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. Hamilton accidentally pressed a button called the ‘Magic Button’. That changed the car settings to put extra load on his front brakes. That’s why he just locked up and went straight on at the race restart.
Since Vettel was in P4 before Verstappen’s crash. Then he got promoted to P3 and then to P2 when Hamilton made that mistake and ended up finishing behind Mazepin at the end of the race. Gasly got a well-deserved podium place from the position he gained from Hamilton’s issue. And Sergio Perez claimed the coveted win of the incredibly chaotic 2021 Azerbaijan GP!
The Crazy High-Speed Mind-Blowing Tire Issues
Pirelli still hasn’t completed the full investigation into the causes of the crashes that happened on Sunday. But Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing, spoke about the crashes. He did say that it is likely debris caused the tire blowouts. For those of you who don’t know, at the 2021 Azerbaijan GP, both Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen suffered a puncture to their rear-left tire while going down the main straight.
They both crashed into the wall, although Lance Stroll’s crash was definitely more violent than Verstappen’s. Verstappen actually got lucky that he crashed into the right side of the track. It would’ve been way worse if he’d crashed into the pit entry area. Footage of the crashes is in the Race Highlights or other F1 video on YouTube. As I mentioned earlier, Mario Isola told the media some very interesting details…
“I believe I can exclude that failures were due to tyre wear because it’s not a matter of tyre wear…. The rear-left tyre is not the most stressed tyre in Baku because… it’s obviously the rear-right. I don’t want to give any preliminary conclusions.” said Isola. This is a major clarification because many people were surprised that the hard tires were puncturing. The tires were supposed to last 40 laps, but they barely lasted 30 laps.
“But it seems that it is a cut due to debris because as I said, it’s not the most stressed tyre… We had other cars with the same number of laps [on the] same tyres without any issue. So the preliminary investigation is that it is probably due to an external factor, or debris, or kerb or whatever.
“Another element was there was no sign, or any warning according to the teams,” Isola added. “We have to receive the telemetry from them but what they told us was that there was no warning, no vibration nothing to seem that there would be something [wrong] in the tyres. In 2018 if you remember, Bottas picked up a big piece of debris on the main straight and he had the same problem with the sudden deflation. In that case, it was visible from the images, and we could see clearly the piece of debris that was cutting the tyre. But in this case, it’s a bit more complicated.
“Obviously another element of our investigation are images and if there is any camera, any image, any video, any footage that we can use to better understand what happened [we’ll use it]. For Max, it could be debris from Lance’s car,” said Isola. “For Lance, honestly I don’t know because there were no incidents before his crash, so I cannot exclude that there was a part of something on the track. We found a cut on the inside shoulder on the rear-left tyre used by Lewis Hamilton in the same stint [as Verstappen],” said Isola. “The cut was quite deep and big, probably 6-7cm, but not cutting the construction, so the tyre was still in one piece, just with this cut. And when there was the red flag and Lewis and came to the pit lane and changed the set of tyres, we were able to find the cut in the tyre.”
Pirelli have confirmed that their findings from the investigation will be communicated to the teams before the French GP. Right now the investigation is taking place in their laboratories in Milan to find out the exact causes of these dangerous crashes. This is the end of the race review; the 2021 Azerbaijan GP was incredibly exciting and full of unexpected events! Hopefully the craziness of the 2021 F1 season can reach the French GP as well. The French GP recently got a reputation for being a really boring race, but let’s hope that changes in 2021. Stay safe, and stay on the lookout for new posts!