After yesterday’s crazy qualifying session, everyone was expecting an equally action-packed race - at least until lap 32, when a tyre failure led Lance Stroll directly into the wall in the main straight, it wasn’t the case.
With the first safety car caused by the Canadian’s Aston Martin, the race seemed decided.
But then, a second, absolutely heart-breaking tyre failure forced Max Verstappen, who was leading the race, to retire with only five laps left.
The race was interrupted for 35 minutes to allow the stewards to clean up all the debris strewn across the track. Baku GP restarted again with the drivers lined up in their new slots on the grid, on Lap 50 of 51.
Lights out once again for a two-lap sprint to the finishing line, Hamilton starting second, seemed to have his nose in front of Perez, but the unexpected happened, yet again, leading to a crazy end of the Grand Prix.
This sport. 💔 pic.twitter.com/s0zaj0GhqD— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 6, 2021
By winning the race the Briton could have regained the lead of the championship which, two weeks ago, was conquered by Verstappen.
In what was a very astonishing move, Hamilton locked up massively, going off into the Turn 1 run-off area, before continuing to eventually come home P15 and out of the points.
Today was a humbling experience. We worked so hard to put ourselves back in the top 10 today after a rocky week here in Baku. We gave it our all today and a small error caused the brakes to switch off. Sorry to the team, we’ll come back stronger for the next race 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/oHy75S07L3— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 6, 2021
Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, Team Principal Toto Wolff explained that the issue was caused by a switch on the steering wheel. However, he insisted that it was just a piece of bad luck more than anything, and he wouldn’t “call that a mistake”.
"It was just when Sergio when he came over... we have the same procedure. He touched the button that changed the brake balance and the brake balance went all the way forward and the car didn't stop."
Having a bad race should not discourage Lewis, they will probably just have a drink and leave city circuits behind for a while.
“Well we [me and Lewis] have 4hrs together on a plane now, maybe we’ll drink. [...] He doesn’t make any mistakes and that is what you need to remember, that’s what I’m going to say to him”, concluded Wolff.
The epilogue of today’s race could be decisive for the Championship: while nothing changed in the drivers' standings with Max Verstappen still four points ahead of Lewis Hamilton; with Mercedes having both cars finishing out of the points, Red Bull is now leading the Constructors’ Championship by 26 points.
Mercedes have been struggling for the entire weekend to find the right pace; however, they managed to pull off the miraculous and after “crunching through the numbers”, they found a set-up that worked around this exceptionally demanding circuit.
Wolff is however aware that city circuits and the W12 are not made for each other.
"As you can see today, we lose all the time in the twisty old town/city circuits. This is what happened in Monaco. It's not suddenly that the car that won 3 races is nowhere. We know the deficits. We see this in particular areas of the tracks”, commented the German TP.
Hamilton was starting alongside polesitter Charles Leclerc in the second position and was in a good place to win the race on the restart at lap 50, if only he didn’t run long dropping from P2 to P15.
On the other side of the garage, the Fin Valtteri Bottas has had a weekend to forget. It started with him missing his flight and getting to Baku much later than planned, and it may finish with an early as possible flight home.
Asked about Bottas’ difficult race, Wolff commented “the car was nowhere. And, when the car is nowhere on a city circuit you lose all confidence."
The last two races have seen a positive momentum swing to Red Bull - but the first triple-header of the season is coming up next. With France and double Austria to come, it is back to more traditional circuits, and that will certainly suit Mercedes better.
This is hard to take. We worked so hard this weekend to put ourselves into the fight after a really difficult start on Friday - only to leave with nothing.— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 6, 2021
Need a big reaction next time out in France 💪 pic.twitter.com/NLzncTGb7q
Indeed, Mercedes' team boss finished his Sky interview on a positive note: