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Perez wins on a day of shocks and surprises in Baku


As we sat down to begin the intro to today's race report, we wondered what sort of mayhem we might witness over the next couple of hours.

After all, with the qualifying session alone accounting for four red flags, what chance of today's race passing by without incident.

And then, before the cars have even begun heading out of the pits, comes news that Mansour Ojjeh, a major driving force, along with Ron Dennis, of the team we know as McLaren, has passed away.

His death, coming days after the passing of Max Mosley and the anniversary of, team founder, Bruce McLaren's death, marks another significant milestone in the history of the sport as it heads into a new era.

No doubt Lando and Daniel will want to mark his passing with a strong result, as the team seeks to rediscover the sort of form it enjoyed in the golden era of the Dennis/Mansour days, when Woking effectively ruled the F1 roost.

Starting from ninth and thirteenth won't be easy for the pair, but having won from tenth a few years back, Daniel will know that nothing is impossible on the mean streets of Baku.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of yesterday's chaotic session, the fact is that Charles starts from pole, ahead of title protagonists, Lewis and Max.

While Ferrari appears to be emulating Mercedes annoying habit of insisting it is the underdog, all weekend the two red cars have been very much on the pace.

Based on Sainz' form and pace in Monaco, it is not impossible that Charles will convert his pole position into a win today, God - and the barriers - willing.

And then there's the big fight, Max and Lewis.

For once it really did appear that the Black Arrows were the underdogs, and then, from out of nowhere, Lewis produced a mega lap.

Having got through the single lap pace nightmare that was Friday, Mercedes will be feeling a lot more confident in terms of its long run pace which was right up there with Red Bull at the start of the weekend.

Consequently, in terms of Lewis and Max it's essentially mano a mano today, especially with their respective teammates starting a little further back.

As ever, the first lap will be crucial, and we know from experience - as recently as 24 hours ago - that Baku is an unforgiving track. Consequently, as the pair seek to despatch Charles to the lower region of the podium as soon as possible, it will come down to elbows-out racing and strategy.

Still smarting from its Monaco misery, Mercedes will be keen to make amends, while Red Bull will not be willing to release its grip on both championships too easily.

At a time their drivers are suggesting Toto and Christian should deal with the bendy wing saga by putting on some gloves and climbing into the ring, let's hope for a genuine street fight between the two title protagonists today.

As if that fight wasn't enough, the support card is looking pretty good also, with Pierre, Carlos, Sergio, Yuki, Lando, Fernando and Valtteri all eager to get in the mix, with Seb, Esteban and Daniel right behind.

Throw in the usual back of the grid battlers, who are joined by a frustrated Lance and you really have a recipe for... well, potential disaster, certainly on the opening lap.

While the wind is now not expected to be an issue, the lack of grip, overenthusiasm, sheer stupidity, frustration and those unforgiving, but oh so welcoming barriers, suggest that fans, as well as drivers, will need to remain alert throughout. We certainly don't expect this to be the same kind of borefest we were subjected to two weeks ago.

Those obliged to start on the softs - in other words, the Top 10 - are likely to use a soft-hard strategy, even though this gives much less flexibility in the pit stop window.

Another good option - which can be used by those outside the top 10 - is to use the mediums and hards, especially if we experience track temperatures in excess of 50 degrees.

If those are the tyres being used, it makes sense to start on medium and then move to hard: there's quite a wide pit stop window that leaves plenty of latitude for the timing of the pit stop and the pit lane penalty here isn't huge either.

On the other hand, there's a big probability of the safety car, as all the red flag stoppages in qualifying showed. If there's a safety car period this gives the opportunity for a 'free' pit stop, so starting on the softer and faster tyre could be advantageous. Unlike Monaco though, track position isn't absolutely everything here: it's very possible to overtake... just ask Daniel.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out. There's an early scare for Russell who almost loses the car as he tries to generate heat into his tyres. Elsewhere, Perez reports that his drink tube is leaking. There's also a little wobble in turn 16 for Ricciardo.

Air temperature is 25.3 degrees C, while the track temperature is 43.8 degrees.

Following the 'We Race as One' gathering, ahead of the National Anthem, there is minute's silence in respect of the late Max Mosley and Mansour Ojjeh.

Other than the top ten, Vettel, Ocon, Ricciardo, Schumacher, Mazepin and Giovinazzi start on softs. Raikkonen, Russell and Latifi are on mediums and Stroll on hards.

They head off on the warm-up lap. All get away cleanly though Schumacher is a little slow leaving his slot.

The grid forms, Stroll the last to take his place.

They're away! Into Turn 1 Leclerc has the lead while Hamilton has Verstappen covered. Behind, Perez gets through on the inside of Sainz, going on to pass Gasly heading into Turn 3.

Norris lost out to Tsunoda and Vettel in Turn 1, the German having made short work of Bottas coming off the line.

A great start sees Giovinazzi move up several places while Stroll gently kisses Schumacher's Haas.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Leclerc, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Gasly, Sainz, Alonso, Tsunoda, Vettel and Bottas. Russell pits after picking up a possible puncture.

Courtesy of the tow, Hamilton passes Leclerc, who makes a mistake in Turn 15, as Verstappen also seeks a way past. Gasly posts the fastest lap (49.031).

At the end of lap 3, Verstappen takes a look at Leclerc as they head into Turn 1 but he isn't close enough.

Ocon drives into the pits, the Frenchman's day appearing to be over barely after beginning. The Frenchman reports that he lost power.

Lap 4 sees Hamilton go quickest as Leclerc remains just 0.7s behind, with Verstappen another 0.8s behind the Ferrari. Tsunoda is battling Vettel for 8th.

"Overtaking feedback on Bottas," Norris is asked. "Not easy," he replies, "you'll have to give me a chance."

At the end of lap 6, Verstappen finally gets past Leclerc as Tsunoda passes Alonso for 7th.

Having passed the Ferrari, Verstappen is 1.425s down on Hamilton. Game on!

"Hamilton is struggling with balance," Verstappen is told, as Perez sweeps by Leclerc.

At the end of lap 7, Alonso and Norris both pit. They rejoin in 16th and 17th respectively.

Hamilton now has both Red Bulls within 2.9s of his gearbox, Mercedes worst nightmare. Bottas is 15s behind in ninth.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Baku, here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 07/06/2021 9:47

"Apologies for double dipping here but I am looking at all race reports, trying to find any news where Wolff has followed through on his 'threat' to protest the Re Bull rear wings. So far I've come up with zippedy doo dah. Maybe this will peter out as being the result of 'one windbag windbagging more that the other windbag'. "

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2. Posted by kenji, 07/06/2021 9:38

"Baku extremes...For once the status quo was majorly disrupted and some 'left field' runners got to ascend the stairway to [ F1 ] heaven. That alone was well worth the wait however the final act saw some malaproprisms fielded, the majpr one by the GOAT who stated that the final act was 'a marathon and not a sprint'? Just two manic laps to the chequered flag is most definitely a 'sprint'. There were others but there is no need to labour the point. All in all it was, IMO, a seriously scrappy race peppered with moments of intense interest. I was expecting a more fluid race with serious wheel to wheel racing but that never quite eventuated unfortunately, leaving me with a feeling that a lot of potential was left on the table. Nevertheless a good final result and a few 'tall poppies' left lying fallow. Hopefully the best is still to come. Great to see the new team drivers slowly getting to grips with their new cars. they should all be up to full speed given a couple more races and then we'll see just how effective they've become. The future looks interesting....


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3. Posted by C5, 06/06/2021 21:54

"Most definitely not. Given how the aero on modern F1 bars work I get the rule. And it gets the team more directly involved in the RACE result, which is nice to.

But let's please have it stay at that. The cause of this specific sudden tire fault will be found and remedied by Pirelli engineering and possibly changed tire pressure and lap limits. No need for new rules."

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4. Posted by habentsen, 06/06/2021 20:59

"I think we need a new rule in F1, two mandatory pitstops.
Should enable the drivers to push more and not have tyre failures.

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