Baku 2021: Tough race for champions, sweet surprise for fans
If there is one word that can resume every Baku Grand Prix is chaos. It is present in every session in Azerbaijan. Accidents, punctures, crashes. Everything is right there. And it's something that made Baku one of the fans' favorite weekends.
After three really long weeks, F1 is back. Baku is the perfect venue for the long-awaited return of the sport. Let's remember an instant classic. The 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: where Sergio Perez claimed his second victory in F1, Lewis Hamilton made a huge mistake at the restart, Max Verstappen had an unexpected puncture, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly on the podium, Fernando Alonso's amazing final laps, and more.
The 2021 Baku Grand Prix was one to remember. The streets of Azerbaijan were ready for the action. It was the sixth race of the season. Charles Leclerc managed to grab pole position on Saturday, with Hamilton second, and Verstappen third. Unexpectedly, the start was clean, without crashes and with a few overtakes.
As the race progressed, the Monégasque started losing pace, and both Hamilton and Verstappen overtook him. Perez managed to do the same just a few laps later. From that moment on, the race didn't offer much action until the first pit stops, with strategy being a key factor in that phase of the Grand Prix.
After an impeccable job by Red Bull's crew, Verstappen and Perez were leading the pack being first and second, with Hamilton behind. It seemed an easy win for the Dutchman, but something unexpected happened.
On lap 31, Lance Stroll suffered a nasty crash on the main straight. While he was going over 300 km/h, one of his tires blew up and the safety car had to be deployed. After all the debris had been cleaned up, the race resumed, with the first three positions being the same.
The real chaos was yet to come, though. With only five laps to go, Verstappen suffered a very similar incident as the one that hit Stroll. The Red Bull driver lost the lead, and the red flag was displayed with only three laps to go.
A few minutes before the restart, the race direction informed that there would be another standing start. Perez was first, Hamilton right on his tail, and an incredible Vettel third.
The lights went out and the race finally restarted. It seemed that Hamilton got the better of Perez in turn 1, but a costly mistake under braking meant he went wide and found himself at the end of the field. Meanwhile, Perez and Vettel were pulling away, with a great battle for the last step of the podium between Gasly and Leclerc.
In the end, it was the Frenchman who managed to get P3 for AlphaTauri, with the Ferrari driver having to settle for P4. Lando Norris finished fifth, while Alonso got P6, after gaining four places in the last few laps. Another crazy race through the streets of Baku came to an end, leaving all the fans enthusiastic about Perez's win and for many unexpected final positions.
We'll see what this street circuit will have to offer in 2023. The fans have high hopes for this incredibly difficult race for the drivers, which has always offered a great show. Let's hope it'll be a great spectacle this year too, like it has always been.