Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton squandered an opportunity to take second place and maybe the win in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In the process, he also failed to snatch the championship lead back from Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Verstappen ended his race in disaster after a tyre failure caused him to crash from the lead with just three laps remaining. The race was red-flagged and restarted on Lap 50, with Hamilton in second place behind Verstappen's teammate Checo Perez.

Hamilton was quick off the grid and looked like he was going to take the lead away from Perez before he locked up at Turn 1 and took a field trip off the track into an escape road. He took himself out of the points and eventually finished all the way back in 15th place.

The seven-time world champion went from hero to zero and allowed Verstappen to keep a 4-point advantage. Hamilton quickly went on the radio to make sense of what happened. He asked race engineer Pete Bonnington: "Did I have the magic on?"

"Yeah looks like it was knocked back on," said Bono.

Hamilton spoke to after the race to explain what happened. "Just on the restart, I think when Checo [Perez] moved over towards me, I clicked a switch and it basically switches the brakes off, and I just went straight," he said. "I had no idea that I'd even touched it."

He admitted that it was difficult to accept his error but he apologised to his team for losing the opportunity to get back on the top of the table.

Today was a humbling experience. We worked so hard to put ourselves back in the top 10 today after a rocky week here in Baku. We gave it our all today and a small error caused the brakes to switch off. Sorry to the team, we’ll come back stronger for the next race ??

— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 6, 2021

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff quickly defended Hamilton by saying, "It cannot be called a mistake. He [Hamilton] touched a button and the brake balance changed – it went right forward and obviously the car wouldn't stop. It was a finger problem."

Mercedes had been struggling all weekend and found pace just in time for qualifying. During the race, the reigning world champion overtook Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to take the lead before the Red Bulls managed to get in front during the pit stops. In the end, Perez took the victory followed by Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) and Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri).

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, pictured in November 2020, is aiming to win an eighth world title to overtake Michael Schumacher Clive Mason/POOL