Lewis Hamilton

The misfortunes of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sees the Formula One title race unchanged. But Hamilton’s Mercedes team are expected to be more competitive again in the next races against Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Max Verstappen heads to the French Grand Prix in Le Castellet on June 20 still leading the Formula One championship but like title rival Lewis Hamilton leaves Azerbaijan has rather mixed feelings after a turbulent weekend.

Red Bull’s Verstappen seemed on course towards a convincing victory on the Baku street course on Sunday when his left rear tyre blew up with five laps left.

That promoted Mercedes’ Hamilton to second which would have seen him re-take the championship lead but he then locked up on the restart when trying to pass the eventual race winner Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull, and finished 15th.

As a result, Verstappen maintains his four-point lead over the seven-time champion Hamilton in a race where each man could have gained but also lost much more.

“Today was really a stroke of bad luck but Max had bad luck too,” Hamilton said. “It’s one of the toughest moments I’ve had for a while – one moment we had all the points and the next we had none.”

Red Bull showed their superiority on the narrow and turny street circuit just as they had a fortnight ago in Monaco where Verstappen won and Hamilton only managed seventh.

A podium for Hamilton in Baku would have been beyond Mercedes’ expectations but the team should be more competitive again on regular race tracks from the French event in Le Castellet onwards.

That was one of the reasons why Verstappen was upset after his crash which he luckily escaped unharmed.

“It’s a shame that we missed out on the opportunity to make the gap bigger to Lewis today in the championship as we know when we get back to the normal tracks Mercedes will be very strong again,” Verstappen said.

And Mercedes motor sport chief Toto Wolff vowed after a weekend to forget with zero points: “This is a team which is so strong and so angry, and we are going to turn that anger into positive form and come back.”

A major analysis of the Baku race will also take place at tyre providers Pirelli because Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll suffered exactly the same mishap as Verstappen earlier in the race, luckily also walking away unharmed.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suggested tyre failures but Pirelli motor sport boss Mario Isola spoke of debris as a possible reason.

“I believe I can exclude that failures were due to tyre wear, because it’s not a matter of tyre wear. The rear-left tyre is not the most stressed tyre in Baku,” Isola said.

“For Max, it could be debris from Lance’s car. For Lance, honestly I don’t know because there were no incidents before his crash, so I cannot exclude that there was a part of something on track.”

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