Max Verstappen speaks ahead of Azerbaijan Grand Prix
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Max Verstappen has revealed his reaction to the moment he found out Lewis Hamilton had thrown away the chance to reclaim the championship lead in Azerbaijan, as the seven-time world champion made an uncharacteristic mistake in Baku.
Race leader Verstappen had just crashed out with five laps to go as the Red Bull driver suffered a left-rear tyre failure, which catapulted the driver violently into the wall on the straight, bringing out the red flag.
Despite walking away from the crash, after kicking out at the exploded tyre in frustration, Verstappen found himself staring down the barrel of a DNF, with zero championship points, with Mercedes and Hamilton perfectly poised to capitalise and take back the lead of the drivers’ standings.
At the standing restart, Hamilton was lined up alongside Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez in second place, ready to pounce on the Red Bull driver.
“We’ve got to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Got to be measured, how risky we go,” said Hamilton on his team radio.
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But, as the lights went out, Hamilton had a clean run on Perez, who had inherited pole position after his teammate’s crash, but then it all came undone for the seven-time world champion.
Hamilton cascaded down the escape route at Turn 1, locking up the front tyres and forfeiting any chance for points in Baku, a moment initially missed by his title rival, who was in the medical centre.
“I was laying on that bed, they were checking my blood pressure and suddenly my phone was vibrating and I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ because I could hear the cars, of course,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.
“Then I was done and allowed to leave and saw on my phone that Lewis had a problem in Turn 1. My blood pressure, even with that text message, was absolutely fine!”
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Immediately afterwards, the Mercedes driver was heard over team radio asking his race engineer Pete Bonnington, “Did I have the ‘magic’ on?
“Yeah looks like it was knocked back on,” came the reply before Hamilton said, “Could’ve sworn I switched it off.”
‘Brake magic’ is understood to be a setting used by Mercedes behind the Safety Car to help heat the brakes by altering brake bias settings, along with various other things.
The incident meant Verstappen still leads the driver standings by four points, with Red Bull extending their lead in the team standings by 26 points.
Speaking of the tyre blowout, which Pirelli have promised to fully investigate, the Dutchman and his team boss Christian Horner said there had been no indication the failure was about to happen.
“I didn’t feel anything up until the moment when I suddenly went [into the barrier],” said Verstappen.
“The tyre just blew off the rim and it’s not a nice impact to have.
“It’s quite a dangerous place to have a tyre blowout at that speed. But all fine with me. The car, not so much!
“Until then I think we had a very strong race. I was basically matching the lap times I had to do and we were fully in control. Of course, it’s very disappointing what happened.”
Red Bull lead the way as the F1 paddock heads to Paul Ricard in two weeks’ time, with Mercedes looking to stop the rot in France.
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