The Briton accidentally triggered a system that left him unable to brake properly in Turn 1 when trying to overtake Sergio Pérez in the restart
By Yuri Coghe
Sergio Pérez’s win in Azerbaijan was certainly a huge surprise – but it was far from the only shocking development on the coast of the Caspian Sea this past Sunday.
Late drama arose in Baku, with championship rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton ultimately leaving the street circuit with no points in the bag. The Dutchman led with five laps to go, until a rear left puncture put an end to his race. The Briton failed to capitalize on Verstappen’s misfortune, as he locked up when trying to overtake Pérez for the win on the restart two laps later and left the track at Turn 1. He would eventually finish 15th.
Hamilton, who remains four points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ championship, explained he accidentally triggered a system that left him unable to brake properly in Turn 1.
“Just on the restart, I think when Checo (Pérez) moved over towards me, I clicked a switch and it basically switches the brakes off, and I just went straight,” said the 36-year-old. “I had no idea that I’d even touched it.”
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“(It’s) very hard to take, but mostly just really sorry to the men and women in the team who have worked so hard for these points, but we will regroup and come back stronger I’m sure.
“Obviously it’s quite a humbling experience, to be honest. We’d worked so hard this weekend to come back out of the top 10 and it was looking so good. I put everything on the line and I fought as hard as I could today.”
Hamilton’s mistake bailed Verstappen out, as it allowed him to keep the championship lead for at least two more weeks, with the French Grand Prix coming up on the June 18-20 weekend. But the Red Bull driver remained gutted about the sudden retirement caused by a puncture.
“It’s just a shame,” said Verstappen. “Two street circuits we had, and now we go back to normal tracks. I wanted to open up the gap a little bit more before we go back to those kind of tracks.”
The Dutchman, who found out about Hamilton’s issues on the restart while at the medical centre, believes Mercedes have the upper hand in the next few races.
“I said already before that Mercedes will be very strong on the normal tracks. They had some difficulty on the street circuits, but as you could see in Barcelona, they were mighty quick in the race,” he said.
“So we have to keep on our toes and we have to keep pushing hard because they also have a very good car – even if sometimes they don’t say it, they do! But it is what it is. I’m still leading the championship, which I didn’t expect once I hit that wall.”