Max Verstappen says he had no warning before his 200mph tire blowout when leading the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
With five laps remaining, Verstappen was cruising in the lead when his left-rear tire failed on the pit straight and he was pitched into the wall on the outside of the track. It was the second failure of the day after Lance Stroll had an identical issue 15 laps earlier on the same section of track, and Verstappen says he is frustrated to lose out on victory in such a fashion.
“I didn’t feel anything up until the moment that I suddenly went to the right,” Verstappen said. “The tire just blew off the rim. It’s not a nice impact to have. It’s quite a dangerous place to have a tire blowout at that speed. But all fine with me — the car not so much.
“Up until then, we had a very strong race. I was basically matching the lap times that I had to do behind. We were fully in control. Of course, it’s very disappointing what happened. We lost out on a lot of points — we could have opened up that gap in the championship as well, so to have this happening, especially so close to the end, is very frustrating.”
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Verstappen had led from the first round of pit stops after clearing Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, with teammate Sergio Perez rising to follow him in second place. Perez went on to win and although Verstappen’s retirement cost Red Bull a one-two, he says he’s at least consoled by the fact Hamilton failed to score after going off during a late race restart.
“Checo had a great day. He had a good start. He was behind me and then both of us, we got through the guys we had to pass. We were just doing the lap times we had to do up front, because the car was really good today.
“Also, two street circuits we had — now we go back to normal tracks. As I said before, Mercedes will be very strong on the normal tracks. They had some difficulties on the street circuits but as you could see also in Barcelona, they were mighty quick in the race so there are still a few things we have to keep on our toes and we have to keep pushing hard, because they have a good car. Even though sometimes they don’t say it, they do.
“We just have to keep on pushing. Still leading the championship — which I didn’t expect when I hit the wall.”