Red Bull’s Verstappen was cruising to victory with three laps remaining when his left-rear tyre blew, in similar fashion to Lance Stroll’s earlier incident which caused his Aston Martin to crash violently. The race was red-flagged, allowing the track to be cleared and all cars were able to change tyres.
From a standing start, for the final two laps, Perez was beaten off the startline by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, but Lewis locked-up and went straight on at Turn 1 and dropped to the tail of the field. Perez won but was instructed to stop his car straight after taking the chequered flag.
2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix race results
How the Azerbaijan Grand Prix unfolded
From pole position, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc led Hamilton and Verstappen, with Perez moving past Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) around the outside at Turn 4. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz dropped to sixth (having been passed by Perez at Turn 2), ahead of Fernando Alonso (Alpine), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes).
Hamilton slipstreamed past Leclerc to lead at end of Lap 2, the Ferrari then dropped into DRS range of Verstappen, who passed Leclerc at the start of Lap 7. Behind them, Tsunoda passed Alonso for seventh.
Perez passed Leclerc for third, prompting Leclerc to pit on Lap 10 to switch to hard tyres. Leader Hamilton stopped on Lap 12, but suffered a slow stop of 4.6s as Mercedes had to wait for Gasly to go past to release him.
Verstappen and Perez stayed out for a Red Bull 1-2, with Verstappen stopping on Lap 13 and rejoining well clear of Hamilton. Perez pitted a lap later, but also had a slow stop of 4.3s, and he rejoined in second just ahead of Hamilton. Gasly moved ahead of Leclerc in the pitstop cycle for fourth.
Hamilton had one serious attempt at passing Perez after the stops, but the Red Bull stayed ahead. Meantime, Vettel ran a long first stint, leading the first laps for the rebranded Aston Martin team. Vettel led until Lap 18 until he stopped, rejoining in seventh, ahead of Tsunoda, and the battling Lando Norris (McLaren) and Bottas.
Sainz went down the escape road at Turn 8, locking up soon after his pitstop, which dropped him to 14th. He spent the rest of the race recovering, quickly passing Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) and Alonso.
Stroll ran even longer on his first stint than teammate Vettel, after crashing out of qualifying and starting from the tail of the field. Stroll was running fourth on Lap 31 when he crashed heavily on the start/finish straight due to a left-rear blowout. That caused a safety car but as the pits were closed – due to where Stroll’s car ended up – it only served to close the pack up rather than switch the order with no ‘free’ pitstops available.
Only Alonso, Giovinazzi, George Russell (Williams) and Mick Schumacher (Haas, whose left-front wasn’t fitted properly and he had to be pushed back) all pitted for softs.
The race restarted on Lap 36, with Verstappen leading and Perez blocking Hamilton. On fresher tyres, Vettel passed Leclerc for fifth on the exit of Turn 1, and almost got Gasly at Turn 3. Vettel had to wait until the start/finish straight, where he blasted past Gasly for fourth. Further back, Sainz got past Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) for ninth.
Verstappen pulled clear out front, while Perez fended off one more DRS-assisted attack from Hamilton. With just three laps remaining, Verstappen crashed out of the lead as his left-rear tyre blew, just like Stroll’s had. He got out of his wrecked car and kicked the tyre.
That handed Perez the lead, ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Gasly and Leclerc as the race was then red-flagged to clear the track of debris and to allow the cars to change to soft tyres.
The racing resumed with a standing start for the final two laps, with Hamilton jumping ahead of pole-sitter Perez but locking up and straightlining the first corner. Perez led Vettel, Gasly and Leclerc, as Norris and Alonso battled past Tsunoda. Hamilton rejoined in 16th.
Starting the final lap, Leclerc overtook Gasly for third, but Gasly repassed him. The charging Norris then attacked Leclerc but couldn’t find a way past.
Perez scored his maiden F1 win from Vettel, Gasly, Leclerc, Norris, Alonso, Tsunoda, Sainz, Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo). The Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton finished down in 12th and 16th respectively. Verstappen’s only solace was the point for fastest lap.
Esteban Ocon (Alpine) retired with an engine issue after a handful of laps.