A 15th place was not what Lewis Hamilton had in mind on Sunday, but he actually did quite well with all things considering the sixth race of the Formula 1 season in 2021.
The podium at Baku City Circuit saw three drivers who had not stood on the podium after any of 2021 Formula 1 the first five races of the season.
Red Bulls Sergio Perez won Azerbaijan’s Grand Prix ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel in second place and AlphaTauris’ Pierre Gasly in third.
This trio appeared on the podium after a chaotic run of 51 laps around 20 turns, 6,003 kilometers (6,003 kilometers) temporary street turn on Azadliq Square, Baku, Azerbaijan.
Red Bulls Max Verstappen had the victory well in hand, or so it seemed, on lap 46, leading the race comfortably ahead of Perez in second place and Chief Championship rival Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in third place.
Verstappen, who came into the race with his first lead ever in the position of the driver after dominating the Monaco Grand Prix, it was set to score 26 points in this race, 25 from victory and one to run the fastest lap of the race. Hamilton was set to score 15 and Verstappen was set to turn a 105-101 lead into a 131-116 lead because of that.
But things took a 180 degree turn at a speed.
Due to a tire problem that came without any warning, Verstappen crashed straight down the front, giving Perez the lead and Hamilton second.
It effectively created a 29-point swing in the position. Verstappen dropped from 26 points to 0, and Hamilton moved from 15 to 18.
At the subsequent restart after the red flag period with two rounds left, it looked like it would get worse for Verstappen, as Hamilton briefly took the lead from Perez – then 18 to 25 points for the 36-year-old Briton, a 36-point turn over Verstappen in total.
But Hamilton unlocked the brakes and sailed into the drain area. He rejoined the race and finished in 15th place, his first finish outside the points in nearly three years and finishing a record streak of 54 races.
So Verstapen’s lead over Hamilton in the standings is still 105-101 after the race.
However, the whole sequence actually turned things in Hamilton’s favor, despite him going off the field and not being able to take full advantage of Verstapen’s mistakes.
Instead of following the 23-year-old Dutchman with 15 points in the driving position on his way into the seventh of 23 races on this year’s schedule, he only tracks him by four.
The entire sequence gave him 11 points. It was not 29 or 36, but all in all, Hamilton did quite well on what was his first really terrible result since his Austrian Grand Prix retirement from July 2018. Even when disaster strikes, he still comes out better than it had appeared he appeared.
Verstappen is set to take the same four-point lead he had after the Monaco Grand Prix, for the French Grand Prix on Sunday 20 June. This race is broadcast live on ESPN by Circuit Paul Ricard, beginning at 6 p.m. 9:00 ET.