Max Verstappen won the Austrian Grand Prix with a masterful, if undisputed, race from pole to flag for Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton’s title hopes took another hit, taking just fourth place after missing a beat with floor damage. He had enjoyed a good battle with McLaren’s Lando Norris, who came back in another magnificent race to take third place with Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in second. Carlos Sainz, from Ferrari, was fifth, and Sergio Pérez, from Red Bull, sixth.
Verstappen had maintained the pace advantage he enjoyed last weekend here at the Red Bull Ring and, having nailed the start, dominated the race to the flag with a clinical performance. Hamilton struggled, however; after having suffered damage to the floor by the curbs, he lost the aerodynamics in his car and, despite having reached second position, he could not hold the place as Mercedes accepted that he should move for Bottas. Meanwhile, Norris ran another standout race to claim his third podium of the year.
Verstappen’s fifth victory this season is the third in a row and the fourth at the Red Bull Ring, his team’s home circuit and where the Dutchman has had the most success.
The victory leaves Hamilton with an increasingly serious deficit in the fight for the title. Verstappen now has a 32-point lead over the world champion and Red Bull has further extended its lead over Mercedes to 44 points in the constructors’ championship.
Verstappen has achieved a series of forceful and forceful victories, with four of the five previous races, while Hamilton has not won since the Spanish GP.
The next round is the British GP and Hamilton will be desperate for the machinery to challenge in his home race. Mercedes will have to improve radically before that. Hamilton is five winless races and hasn’t been within 20 points of the title leader since the Austrian GP in 2017. If you want to push the championship fight to the limit, Mercedes simply cannot allow Verstappen to extend the lead any further. .
Verstappen maintained his lead at turn one against Norris and Pérez, with Hamilton following the latter but unable to pass. A safety car was called almost immediately when Esteban Ocon stopped after sustaining damage from being caught at turn two.
Racing resumed on lap three and Perez attacked Norris, but he went off after becoming aggressive on the outside of turn four and skidding on gravel, dropping to tenth. The British driver simply squeezed Perez wide, allowing Hamilton to advance to third position, and stewards investigated the incident, and Norris received a five-second penalty, which was deemed to have forced Perez out of track. The penalty seemed harsh, but at least it held up consistently when Pérez was similarly penalized twice when he did the exact same thing to Charles Leclerc on two separate occasions later in the race.
Verstappen wasn’t worried up front, quickly opening a 3.4-second gap on lap eight. Hamilton approached Norris, who defended well, and the world champion did not enjoy a sufficient pace advantage to pass, their fight allowed Verstappen to further extend his lead.
Norris was adamant about holding off Hamilton, whose hopes of challenging Verstappen were quickly fading. However, on lap 20 he finally managed to hold onto turn four. “A great driver, Lando,” acknowledged Hamilton when he finally passed.
Hamilton was almost 10 seconds behind Verstappen on lap 21, but the Dutchman was in control, quickly dispatching a few fast laps to extend his lead.
Bottas passed Norris at the stops as he served his penalty and Hamilton pitted on the hard tire on lap 31, with Verstappen covering the stop a lap later. The Dutchman’s lead was unrivaled, 13 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
The British driver now appeared to have some damage to the floor due to curbs and reported that the car’s handling was not up to specification. Bottas caught the world champion, who had been left behind by Verstappen. With Norris closing in, the Finn was instructed that he was free to attack his teammate, just before Mercedes opted to give the team orders for Hamilton to let Bottas pass. It appears that the team did not believe that Bottas could remain in front of Norris while he was being held.
Clearly, Hamilton had aerodynamic issues and then Norris ran him through the inside at turn six. Mercedes faced her man a lap later for fresh hard rubber. Ahead, Verstappen had no problems in the lead, 25 seconds clear on lap 56, with Hamilton now fourth, 20 seconds behind Norris.
That Hamilton was taking damage was clear, as he could not advance even with new rubber. Verstappen had enough of an advantage to make a late stop for new tires and maintain his lead. It closed tightly when Mercedes was left licking her wounds after a second match followed by bruises at the Red Bull Ring.
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for McLaren with Charles Leclerc in eighth for Ferraro. Pierre Gasly, from AlphaTauri, was ninth and Fernando Alonso, tenth for Alpine.
More to follow
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism