Max Verstappen labelled the Azerbaijan Grand Prix a “missed opportunity” to gain a big points advantage over Lewis Hamilton after he failed to finish at a track where his title rival's Mercedes suffered another low.
The reigning champions have been on the back foot since Monaco, with its car struggling on street circuits, and Verstappen looked set to lead team-mate Sergio Perez in a Red Bull one-two until his tyre blew and pitched him out of the race.
The loss was limited when Hamilton slid off the track at the restart, leaving the championship gap exactly as it was before the weekend - four points- but Verstappen fears Mercedes will be back on form when the racing returns to more ‘normal’ tracks.
“To lose so many points, it’s a big shame," said Verstappen. "Of course, we got a bit lucky with Lewis not scoring any points in the end so we’re still in the lead but I wanted to increase my gap and that’s a bit unfortunate.
“Sometimes you can hate this sport…for a few hours. Then I’ll be fine again.
“We missed out on an opportunity to make the gap bigger because when we get to normal circuits, Mercedes are normally very strong. So it’s a bit of a shame not to open up the gap a bit more.”
Verstappen’s praise for Perez
It was not all bad news for Red Bull, however, as Mexican driver Sergio Perez managed to secure victory for the team, taking only his second F1 win in what was his sixth race with the team.
After taking a trip to the medical centre after his crash, Verstappen was under the podium to watch his new racing partner pick up the winner’s trophy and enjoy the champagne celebration.
Verstappen said: “I think Checo did everything you want him to do, he had a good start he was already behind me and then we both overtook Lewis in the pits and it would have been an easy one-two I think.
“Of course I was frustrated from my side not to win but to see Checo up there, I was very happy for him because he’s a great guy, a great team-mate as well. I was really happy to see him there smiling.”
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