There is a well-known sporting adage that to "finish first, first you have to finish".
Championship leader Max Verstappen will be only too well aware of that having led for over 40 laps in the 51-lap Azerbaijan Grand Prix only to suffer a rear-tyre failure at well over 300km/h down the main straight, which pitched him into the wall.
His race over, Verstappen kicked his deflated left rear tyre before departing the circuit and heading to the medical centre for a mandatory check-up.
When he crashed out on lap 47, Verstappen was headed for a third race victory this season, and with his teammate, Sergio Perez, running second, just ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull looked set for their first 1-2 finish since Malaysia 2016 when Daniel Ricciardo led Verstappen home.
Verstappen's crash meant the race was red-flagged as Michael Masi, the FIA race director, wasn't sure if Verstappen's crash, and a similar one suffered by Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin earlier in the race, was due to tyre wear.
On the restart, with just two laps left to run, Hamilton looked to have got ahead of Perez to the first corner, but he couldn't stop his Mercedes car and went straight ahead, enabling Perez to retain the lead and go on to record his second win in F1, and his first for Red Bull. Joining him on what prior to the race would have been considered an unlikely podium came Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin and Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri.
Hamilton finished 15th while his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was only 12th, meaning no points for Mercedes, who are now 26 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors title race. There is no change at the top of the drivers championship as neither Verstappen nor Hamilton scored points. Verstappen maintains a 4-point lead over Hamilton, while Perez moves up the third, some 35 points behind his teammate, but has vindicated the faith shown in him by Red Bull.
Pirelli has suggested the tyre failures suffered by Stroll and Verstappen were due to debris rather than tyre failure. It is important the cause of the tyre failures is ascertained given they were high-speed crashes that could have resulted in serious injury to either driver, even though both drivers stepped from their cars.
"It's a bit early to understand what happened to the tyres," Mario Isola, Pirelli's head of F1, told Sky F1. "We are waiting for the tyres back to the fitting area to analyse them, but we probably need to airfreight them to Milan for a complete analysis.
"First investigations suggest debris because the rear left is not the most stressed tyre on this circuit."
Isola also said there was a cut on a left rear tyre on Hamilton's car, suggesting he was lucky he didn't crash also.
A disappointed Verstappen explained he was having his blood pressure checked in the medical centre when he saw on his phone that Hamilton had a problem at Turn 1.
"My blood pressure, even with that text message, was absolutely fine," Verstappen quipped.
"We lost a lot of points, we could have opened up the gap in the Championship, so to have this happening especially so close to the end, is very frustrating.
"Sometimes you can hate this sport - for a few hours - then I'll be fine again. It's a shame. I wanted to open up the gap a little bit more before we go back to those kind of [non-street] tracks. But we are still leading the Championship, which I didn't expect when we hit the wall."
Hamilton's lock-up as he tried to out-drag Perez to the first corner on the restart, was due to him accidentally flicking a switch that controls the brakes, meaning he basically didn't have any brakes as he approached the left-hand corner. It is debatable why the FIA positions the pole-sitter on the right-hand side of the track when the first turn is a left one, but Hamilton's mistake, even though Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff insists it wasn't one, was to hit the button effectively switching off his brakes. He went from potentially first to a 15th-place finish, and he appeared devastated by what happened.
"Naturally, it's quite a humbling experience, to be honest," Hamilton said. "We'd worked so hard this weekend to come back out of the top 10. It was looking so good. I'd put everything on the line and I fought as hard as I could today. On the restart, I think when Checo [Perez] moved over towards me I flicked a switch and it basically switches the brakes off, so I just went straight. I had no idea that I even touched it."
"It's very hard to take, but mostly I'm just really sorry to the men and women in the team, who work so hard for these points but we'll regroup and come back stronger," he added.
For Perez, it was a bittersweet race, because he had sympathy for what happened to Verstappen on the one hand, but, on the other, was pleased personally.
"I'm so happy for today, normally Baku is pretty crazy," he said.
"First of all I have to say I'm very sorry for Max, because he did a tremendous race, he really deserved the win. It would have been incredible to get that 1-2 for the team, but at the end it is a fantastic day for us. We were close to retiring the car, but luckily we managed to finish the race."
Vettel was as delighted to finish second, as Perez was to win, given he started 11th on the grid and now has his first podium with his new team.
"I think this means a great deal," Vettel said. "Obviously it's been a tough start for us and I think it was a great race. Great day, I'm over the moon for the team. Obviously, a great podium. We didn't expect that when we came here."
Pierre Gasly seems to get better with every race. He has not allowed his demotion midway through 2019 from the Red Bull team to what was then Toro Rosso to detract from his driving ability. He finished second in Brazil in 2019 and last year won the Italian GP. Third in Azerbaijan may not be as good as winning in Italy, but it follows on from sixth in Monaco, and indicates how motivated the talented Frenchman is.
"Incredible, honestly, I really don't know what to say," he told former F1 driver Paul di Resta before going onto the podium.
"It was such an insane race, a super-intense last two laps. I've already finished once first, once second and I've missed that third, so it feels incredible today to get that podium."
Charles Leclerc had started the race on pole position for Ferrari, but he couldn't keep Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton or Vettel behind him, and Gasly also got him during those frantic last two laps. Lando Norris kept up his impressive record of finishing in the top five in five of the six races contested so far, including third-place finishes at Imola and Monaco. He is fourth in the driver's championship, just 3 points behind Perez.
Fernando Alonso, who memorably drove back to the pits in his McLaren on just three wheels in the 2018 version of the Azerbaijan GP, again showed his liking for the track. He qualified eighth, his best so far this season, but had dropped to 10th when Verstappen's crash brought out the red flag. On the restart, he was the Alonso of old, overtaking Daniel Ricciardo in the McLaren, his friend and countryman, Carlos Sainz, in the Ferrari, as well as Yuki Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri, and, of course, Hamilton, who took himself out of the way.
Alonso finished sixth, his best result since Melbourne 2018. The Alpine car lacks a bit of top-end speed but corners well. With Kimi Raikkonen finishing 10th, it wasn't a bad day out for the "oldies" as five of the top 10 finishers are over 31.
What happened to Stroll and Verstappen in Baku was not only unfortunate but also alarming. It may transpire that debris was the culprit rather than the compound Pirelli used, but if subsequent tests indicate it was a tyre manufacturer failure, it will cause some consternation amongst the 10 teams on the grid.
Meanwhile, Verstappen can consider himself particularly hard done by. He deserved to win, and increase his championship lead, as he didn't put a foot wrong. Or should that be a finger wrong? According to Toto Wolff, what Hamilton did on the restart "can't be called a mistake", rather "I think it was a simple finger problem".
As entertaining as the Baku race was, it is a shame that the best driver on the day didn't win. But on the other hand, having a personable driver like Perez win, and with Vettel and Gasly both making comebacks, albeit for different reasons, this race confirmed why it is imperative that Baku stays on the calendar.
Christian Horner dedicated his team's victory to former McLaren team part-owner Mansur Oijeh, who died aged 68. His death follows the death last week of former FIA president Max Mosley, who was a colourful, if somewhat controversial, leader who is best remembered for his work in road safety.
He would have been concerned with the tyre explosions in Baku, given he was at the forefront of the decision to ban cars that were using Michelin tyres at the 2005 USGP after Ralf Schumacher had a bad crash when his Toyota had tyre failure. Consequently, only six cars using Bridgestone tyres started the race.
Maybe it is time the FIA allowed teams to go back to being able to choose their own tyre manufacturer?