Sergio Perez secured the second win of his F1 career in after a chaotic finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku.
The Mexican took to the front of the field after teammate Max Verstappen dramatically crashed out after a tyre failure, while a late mistake from Lewis Hamilton handed Sebastian Vettel his first Aston Martin podium, with Pierre Gasly completing the top three.
It was a fairly clean opening lap, although Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher banged wheels, while Antonio Giovinazzi made a good start, picking up five places on the opening lap.
George Russell pitted at the end of lap one to switch onto the hard tyre, with Giovinazzi making the same move at the end of the second.
Leclerc’s lead at the front of the field was short lived, with Hamilton cruising pass on the third lap, but Verstappen had to wait after being distracted by debris on the track at turn 15.
Esteban Ocon’s race came to an abrupt halt after just four laps, as the Alpine driver reported a loss of power, while a puff of smoke was seen at the back of his car, forcing him to come into the pits to retire.
Leclerc remained close to Hamilton, but Verstappen behind had the stronger pace, as moved up to second before looking to close in on the reigning champion, while Perez also got ahead of the Ferrari driver.
Carlos Sainz had a problem after his pitstop as the Spaniard rang wide, having to reverse back onto the track, narrowly avoiding a collision with Giovinazzi in the process.
Hamilton pitted from the lead on the 11th lap, but Mercedes had to hold him in the box as Gasly came in behind, meaning Verstappen came out comfortably ahead when the Dutchman stopped on the next lap.
Perez took over at the front of the field, and stayed out a lap longer than his teammate. A fast inlap put him in a position to come out in front of Verstappen, but a rear tyre was slow to go on the Mexican’s car, ensuring Verstappen retained the lead, but Perez did rejoin in front of Hamilton.
Vettel stayed out longer on the soft tyres, leading the race for several laps with Aston Martin seemingly waiting for a safety car, but the German’s pace was good enough to move him up to seventh once he’d been into the pits for fresh tyres.
Lance Stroll was the only driver yet to pit after 30 laps, having moved up to fourth. The Canadian also seemed to be waiting for a safety car, but he suffered a tyre failure, sending him violently into the wall and leaving debris across the track.
The safety car was deployed, but no-one was able to come into the pitlane, with Stroll’s stricken Aston Martin blocked the entry.
Once the scene was clear, a number of drivers came in for a second change of tyres, including Schumacher, but the Haas driver had to be pushed back into his pit box after being released as one of his tyres wasn’t fitted properly.
Hamilton tried to put Perez under pressure on the restart, but the Mexican defended well to keep the Mercedes behind, while Verstappen pulled away at the front.
Vettel, having stopped later than those around him, had fresher tyres, and was able to move ahead of Leclerc, before passing Gasly a couple of laps later.
Verstappen seemed to be heading to a comfortable victory while Perez kept Hamilton at bay, when the Dutchman’s well worn rear left tyre gave way, firing the Red Bull driver into the barrier at high speed.
Initially the safety car was deployed, but with just a couple of laps left and a lot of debris to clear, proceedings were red flagged while the scene was cleared and to allow those on similarly used tyres to put on fresh rubber.
Vettel was the only driver towards the front of the grid to take to the restart on brand new soft tyres, looking to put pressure on those ahead, and it was Hamilton who locked up, going straight on as he locked up, dropping him to the back of the field.
Leclerc and Lando Norris both tried to take the final step on the rostrum away from Gasly, but the Frenchman defended hard to hold on to third place.
Williams had a difficult end to proceedings as Russell suffered a mechanical failure ahead of the restart, forcing him to come straight back into the pits, while Nicholas Latifi was given a late drive through penalty for failing to follow the safety car through the pitlane ahead of the red flag.
1 Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
3. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5. Lando Norris (McLaren)
6. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
7. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
8. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
9. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
10. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
11. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
12. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
13. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
14. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)
15. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
16. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
George Russell (Williams)
Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
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