|2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix|
|Race 6 of 23 in the 2021 Formula One World Championship|
Layout of the Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan
|Date||6 June 2021|
|Official name||Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2021|
Baku City Circuit|
|Course length||6.003 km (3.730 mi)|
|Distance||51 laps, 306.049 km (190.170 mi)|
|Driver||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Honda|
|Time||1:44.481 on lap 44|
|First||Red Bull Racing-Honda|
The 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, officially known as the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2021, was a Formula One motor race held on 6 June 2021 at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan. The race, the sixth round of the 2021 Formula One World Championship, marked the fourth running of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and the fifth time the country had hosted a Grand Prix, having also held the 2016 European Grand Prix.
Both championship contenders, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen experienced problems during the 51-lap race - Verstappen retired due to a high-speed tyre blowout, while Hamilton made a severe error at the resultant restart. Their troubles cleared the way for Sergio Pérez, Verstappen's teammate, to win his second Grand Prix, following his victory at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel took second place for his first podium with Aston Martin, while Pierre Gasly claimed third place for AlphaTauri. After the race, tyre supplier Pirelli launched an investigation into the tyre failures which ended the races of Verstappen and Lance Stroll.
The drivers and teams were the same as the season entry list with no additional stand-in drivers for the race. Tyre supplier Pirelli brought the C3, C4 and C5 tyre compounds (designated hard, medium and soft respectively) for teams to use at the event.
Having won the previous race at Monaco, Max Verstappen, of Red Bull, entered the round holding a four-point lead in the World Driver's Championship ahead of rival Lewis Hamilton, who was driving for Mercedes. Red Bull also held a one-point lead over Mercedes in the World Constructors' Championship.
The first practice session started at 12:30 local time (UTC+4) on 4 June, with second practice session starting at 16:00 on the same day, with a third practice session due to start at 13:00 local time on 5 June, with a three sessions lasting one hour. The first session ended with the Red Bull Racing of Max Verstappen fastest ahead of the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. Mercedes had a low key session with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in seventh fastest and tenth fastest respectively. Sergio Pérez was fastest in the second session ahead of Red Bull team mate Verstappen and Sainz. Leclerc finished 4th having caused a virtual safety car after hitting the barrier at turn 15. Nicholas Latifi caused a red flag after his Williams car's engine failed. The Mercedes pair Hamilton and Bottas once again struggled finishing 11th and 15th fastest respectively.
Qualifying started at 16:00 local time on 5 June. Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi (both in Q1), Daniel Ricciardo (Q2), Yuki Tsunoda, and Carlos Sainz Jr. (both Q3) all had accidents resulting in four red flags over the course of qualifying, tying it with the 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix as a record for the most red flags in a qualifying session. George Russell changed his entire drivetrain before heading out for a flying lap, the Q1 red flags giving his pit crew extra time in the garage to make for a flying lap. Charles Leclerc took pole position for the second consecutive event from Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
After qualifying Lando Norris said he was left "gutted" after he was handed a three-place grid penalty as well as three-penalty points on his FIA Super Licence for failing to correctly follow the red flag procedures. Charles Leclerc was surprised to be on pole and said he thought his pole lap was "quite shit". Lewis Hamilton hailed his second place on the grid a "monumental effort." Championship leader Max Verstappen was frustrated with third on the grid after what he described as "a stupid qualifying." Fernando Alonso, who qualified ninth, gave outspoken criticism of the fact that drivers who cause red flags are not punished, deeming it "unfair" that drivers who cause red flags are allowed to keep their grid positions. Valtteri Bottas was mystified with his qualifying performance after finishing down in tenth, eight positions behind teammate Hamilton, saying "something is wrong" with his car.
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Honda||1:41.760||1:41.625||1:41.563||3|
|5||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||1:42.121||1:41.740||1:41.576||5|
|7||11||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull Racing-Honda||1:41.968||1:41.630||1:41.917||6|
|11||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1:42.460||1:42.224||N/A||11|
|14||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari||1:42.923||1:42.587||N/A||14|
|107% time: 1:48.653|
|--||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||No time||N/A||N/A||192|
The race started at 16:00 local time on 6 June and was contested over 51 laps. The start did not produce many overtakes, as Leclerc retained first place of Hamilton and Verstappen. The main change in the order was Sergio Pérez overtaking Carlos Sainz Jr. and Pierre Gasly to move from sixth to fourth place. Behind them, Fernando Alonso climbed to seventh place and Sebastian Vettel to ninth, having started eighth and eleventh respectively. At the end of lap three, Hamilton passed Leclerc on the start/finish straight to take the lead, making the top ten order Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen, Pérez, Gasly, Sainz, Alonso, Yuki Tsunoda, Vettel, and Valtteri Bottas. Esteban Ocon retired at the end of the lap 3 with a turbocharger failure. Three laps later, Verstappen passed Leclerc for second place. Pérez also overtook Leclerc on the following lap, dropping Leclerc to fourth place.
On lap 8, Alonso became the first driver to make a pit stop for fresh tyres. Leclerc followed suit one lap later. On lap 11, Sainz outbraked himself into the turn 8 chicane dropping him from 6th to 15th, finding himself having to reverse out of a very narrow run off onto the racing line.
Hamilton was the first driver from the top three to make a pit stop. In an otherwise tidy stop, his exit from the pit box was delayed due to Gasly driving the pit lane behind him, costing him about two seconds. The following lap, Verstappen made his stop, giving Pérez a temporary lead. Pérez then stopped the lap after, but the wheelgun of the rear-right mechanic failed; the spare was used and the stop was completed. Following the stops, both Red Bulls jumped Hamilton, dropping him to fourth place, with Vettel, yet to make a pit stop, temporarily in the lead. Vettel stayed out for another four laps, maintaining speed before finally coming to the pit lane and exiting the pits in seventh place, over-cutting Tsunoda with his new tyres, seven laps fresher than the tyres of Gasly, Hamilton and all the runners in front of him.
The order settled over the next fifteen laps with Hamilton unsuccessfully trying to pass Pérez for second place. On lap 30, Aston Martin's Lance Stroll, who was the sole driver to have started the race on the hardest tyre compound and not to have made a pit stop yet, suffered a left-rear tyre failure when exiting turn 20 onto the main straight, causing him to lose control and crash into the left-hand barriers, resulting in his retirement and the safety car being deployed for a few laps. Stroll's stricken car had ended up on the pit lane entry and the pit lane was closed until it had been cleared. When the pit lane opened, the field had been brought together behind the safety car and none of the front runners elected to make a pit stop. The only ones who took a fresh set of tyres during the safety car period were Fernando Alonso, Antonio Giovinazzi, George Russell and Nikita Mazepin.
The safety car period ended after four laps and normal racing resumed on the start of lap 36. The top three remained unchanged with Vettel passing Leclerc on the resumption of racing for fifth place. At the end of the lap Vettel passed Gasly to climb into fourth place. The top five order settled for the next eight laps with Hamilton unable to keep up with Pérez through the corners, whilst closing the gap again down the straights.
Verstappen then set the race's fastest lap of 1:44.805 on lap 44. Two laps later, his Red Bull RB16B suffered a left-rear tyre failure on the main straight causing him to spin and crash into the barriers, coming to rest about 50m short of the finishing line. He retired from the race as a result and the safety car was deployed for a second time. This meant that Pérez was in the lead with Hamilton in second. The race director ordered the cars to pass through the pit lane to bypass the accident scene. Williams' Nicholas Latifi was told to "stay out" by his engineer, which he interpreted as an instruction not to enter the pit lane. In fact, the cars were required to drive through the pit lane, and "stay out" had merely been an instruction not to stop for tyres while doing so. This failure to follow the race director's instructions cost him a post-race penalty of 30 seconds being added to his race time (which was converted from a 10 second stop-and-go penalty). A number of messages were exchanged between Masi and the teams during the red flag period; most notably, McLaren's Paul James complained that Tsunoda did not slow down sufficiently for the initial double-yellows, to which Masi replied that none of the drivers had sufficiently slowed and that all of them would be addressed post-race. Two laps after Verstappen's accident, the race was red-flagged and suspended. On the formation lap to the grid for the restart, George Russell's Williams ground to a halt in the pit lane and retired with gearbox issues.
After a delay of 34 minutes, the race was restarted on lap 50 with a standing start, using the race order at the moment of the suspension of the race. Pérez had a slow start from the lead and Hamilton tried to pass on the inside of turn 1, but had inadvertently selected the wrong brake mode and was unable to brake sufficiently, causing him to lock up at high speed and forcing him onto the escape road; Hamilton dropped to last as a result. A scrap ensued between Gasly and Leclerc, with the former prevailing having exchanged positions twice down the main straight on the penultimate lap. Pérez then led the race to the end, ahead of Vettel and Gasly, with Leclerc, Norris, Alonso, Tsunoda, Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Räikkönen completing the top ten. Mick Schumacher had been passed by his teammate Mazepin at the restart but regained his position just before crossing the finish line to end the race.
Pérez won his second Formula One race, his first win for Red Bull and the first Red Bull race win by a driver other than Max Verstappen since the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, which was won by Daniel Ricciardo. Vettel's podium was his first for Aston Martin. Räikkönen took his first point of the season in tenth place. Both Mercedes drivers failed to score points despite finishing the race for the first time since the 2012 United States Grand Prix.  In Hamilton's worst finish for over twelve years, it also marked the first time since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix that he finished a race outside the points.
With the tyre failures on the rear for both Stroll and Verstappen, Pirelli lodged an investigation over the durability of the selected tyre compounds, their initial findings suggesting the tyre problems were linked to debris. Race director Masi is expected to reiterate the importance of yellow flag conditions to drivers prior to the French Grand Prix after the complaints lodged by McLaren during the race. Drivers, including Leclerc, said they would query the decision to delay the deployment of the safety car following Verstappen's crash late in the race. Masi defended his decision to restart the race with just two laps remaining from a standing start, saying there was no reason not to resume racing. When asked why Verstappen's accident warranted a red flag, but Stroll's similar accident only warranted a safety car, Masi stated that he wished to resume racing after Verstappen's accident had been cleared, but there were insufficient laps remaining (and therefore insufficient time) to clear Verstappen's accident under safety car conditions. Race winner Sergio Pérez revealed his car was close to retiring as he was managing an unspecified issue.
|1||11||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull Racing-Honda||51||2:13:36.410||6||25|
|2||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||51||+1.385||11||18|
|8||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||51||+7.709||5||4|
|10||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari||51||+9.576||14||1|
|182||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Honda||45||Accident||3|
|Ret||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||29||Accident||19|
|Fastest lap: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing-Honda) - 1:44.481 (lap 44)|