As Max Verstappen left the rear tire blew, it looked like the Azerbaijan Grand Prix would be over and ended under the inevitable safety car.
It was an interesting decision from Red Bull to talk to FIA Race Director Michael Masi about red flagging the race, especially since their husband Sergio Perez would otherwise have won more comfortably.
Verstappen’s wreck would not have been cleared in time to restart the race under normal conditions, and under Safety Car conditions, it is quite unlikely that more drivers will suffer blowouts, for whatever reason. Pirelli hopes to reveal in their investigations.
Whether it was Red Bull’s radio call to Masi that influenced his decision or not, it meant Perez had a lot more work to do to win a race he had in the bag, as a red flag meant a complete restart.
For the drivers, like the fans, the start is the most enjoyable part of a Grand Prix, but also the most intense part of a race. It is high pressure because you can win or lose many positions with cars around you and therefore it is also the easiest time to run into problems.
As there were only two laps left in the race, the start became the start or start for all, as an entire Grand Prix weekend actually came down to a race start, and an overtaking opportunity the next lap in turn 1.
Effectively, the previous 49 laps were only a major qualification for a two-lap Grand Prix.
The strategy went out the window as everyone chose a set of soft tires, understandably so as it was all about getting the tires up to temperature and having grip in the opening moments.
However, it was getting the tires up to temperature that was ultimately Lewis Hamilton’s downfall, and made the Red Bulls’ request for a red flag better than they might have hoped.
With the use of Mercedes’ ‘magic’ setting, Hamilton moved his brake fault massively forward in the formation lap – from about 60% to about 90% in an attempt to set serious temperature even though the front brakes and translate it to the tires and effectively heat them from the inside. It was clear how hard Hamilton had been working at front brake temperatures as they smoke as the field formed behind him.
It is a clever tactic that can be performed on laps and formation laps, and has been done for some time by many teams. Heating front tires is always the hardest part of starting a flying lap in qualifying or starting a Grand Prix. We have seen so many front lock-ups at the start of races and this is primarily temperature related.
Both Mercedes drivers and many others on the net will have been doing this for a while, but the problem for Hamilton was that after turning it off to start, he knocked on the switch again, which turned it on again when the race started .
2021 Grand Prix in Azerbaijan: Restart drama when Hamilton goes out by turn 1
Often drivers move the brake balance slightly backwards from a start from which they normally have it in the race, to avoid locking at the easiest time.
Hamilton, by pressing his magic button, ended up braking into Turn 1 with effectively only the front brakes, and was therefore not even close to being able to stop the car and ran straight out and out of the points. Luckily he was not in the middle of the pack, otherwise it would have caused an accumulation.
It appears to have happened when he went up with his right hand and had to steer the car to the left at the same time to prevent Perez from moving over Hamilton catching the button that is on the back of the steering wheel over gearet. change paddles. It cost him a likely win as he had already taken the lead with a fantastic off-line launch.
Further back, the two-lap race offered plenty of scrapping, including a spectacular battle between Gasly, Leclerc and Norris for the final podium spot, where Gasly’s aggression allowed him to retain the spot.
The biggest winner was Fernando Alonso, who jumped from 10th to sixth by the checkered flag.
Alonso has always been aggressive and opportunistic, but clean in the opening laps, and for almost a decade in Formula 1, he has typically made seats at the start before slipping down or getting his elbows out the rest of the race as he has not. t had the car to fight with those around him – especially in his troubled McLaren days.
In Baku, Alonso once again took advantage of it to score his best result for Alpine, after making a few places in the start and past Yuki Tsunoda with an opportunistic pass outside the box.
After riding alongside Fernando for a few years, I would say he was certainly the driver with the best spatial awareness and stamina to win places in the midfield match at the time. You just knew every time you were against him that he would never make your life easy, and that was the case again Sunday at the end with a two-round showdown that suited him down to earth.