Max Verstappen’s tyre failure with four laps to go resulted in the race being red flagged so that the debris could be cleared on the main straight.
FIA race director Michael Masi felt there was “no reason” not to restart the race, setting up a final two-lap sprint under green flag conditions after a standing restart on the grid.
The restart saw Lewis Hamilton make a mistake when trying to take the lead, dropping him out of the points, as well as a great battle between Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc for third place.
Writing in his post-race column for the official F1 website, managing director of motorsports Brawn took heart from the final sprint ahead of F1’s new ‘sprint qualifying’ events.
“I was encouraged to hear a number of commentators say we needed another 10 laps of the action we saw in the final two laps of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix because it acts as a good prequel to sprint qualifying,” Brawn wrote.
“Sprint qualifying will be a little longer, around 17 to 20 laps, but it could well feature the same type of thrilling racing as the drivers won’t have to worry about saving tyres.”
F1 will hold its first sprint race at next month’s British Grand Prix, running a 100km race on the Saturday to set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. It also plans two further events later in the year, currently scheduled for Italy and Brazil.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, locks up at the restart and runs off the circuit whilst battling for the lead with Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso managed to battle his way from 10th on the restart to finish the race sixth, saying that he enjoyed the chance to push without worrying about tyre life.
“We need to think about many two-lap races – 25 two-lap races or something like that in the Sunday!” Alonso joked.
“I think it was fun, people being very aggressive on those two laps knowing that you don’t need to take care of the tyres or anything. That was fun.”
Gasly spent most of the final two laps fighting wheel-to-wheel with Leclerc, holding on to secure his third F1 podium.
Gasly said the sprint finish “carries some sort of adrenaline inside you”, and that the drivers were “a bit like lions out of the cage”.
“Everybody goes for everything and tries to make up as many positions as they can in a very short time,” Gasly said.
“I didn’t see the replay of the last two laps but I must say on my side it was very intense, I really enjoyed it. If anything, hopefully in the future they will do the same.”