Max Verstappen crashes out of Azerbaijan Grand Prix just four laps from race victory

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Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen crashed out from the lead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after a left rear tyre failure catapulted him into the wall on the main straight on lap 47 of 51.  

Verstappen crashed out at 200mph on the start-finish straight, with his car sliding to a halt after a big collision.

The Dutchman was fine and climbed out of his car but kicked his Red Bull with frustration as the the red flags came out to allow the stricken RB16B to be removed from the track with just a handful of laps remaining.

The 23-year-old has never won in Baku, and was looking for back-to-back race wins thanks to victory in Monaco. He was on course to take a maiden win after controlling much of the race.

The driver was looking to extend his lead to 14 points over title rival Lewis Hamilton, after a relatively quiet race before the crash.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner was heard saying: “I think it’s a tyre failure. They’re at the end of their life. It’s exactly the same tyre that failed on [Lance] Stroll, so I think it’s a tyre issue.”

Hamilton, who started second on the grid, managed to get past the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in the opening few laps, pitting on lap 12 for a set of hard tyres.

But disaster struck in the pits once again for Mercedes, with a slow stop of 4.6s as the seven-time world champions double-stacked their cars, with Bottas coming in behind, handing the lead to title rival Max Verstappen, with teammate Sergio Perez sitting behind him in second.

Mercedes tried to protect the undercut by pitting early, however, it didn’t work out for them due to a slow pit stop and both drivers struggling for pace on the hards, it played right into Verstappen and Red Bull’s hands.

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But just as he looked to beat his main rival, the championship leader hit the wall hard, fuming under his helmet with his day over in Baku.

Replays of the crash seemed to show it to be a rear tyre failure, with red flags shown as debris remained strewn across the track, with the race red-flagged on Lap 49 of 51. 

Verstappen was heard shouting across the radio “***** tyre *****” as Horner was seen on the pit wall with his head in his hands.

Hamilton meanwhile, who inherited second place in the race after the crash, was heard asking: “Is it tyre wear, or a failure?” with clear concern over the radio for his own set of hards.

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