Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen won the Austrian Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday, clinching a third straight victory and extending his lead over title rival Lewis Hamilton to 32 points after nine races.
It was Verstappen’s fifth win of the season compared to three for Hamilton, who dropped down from second place to fourth late on after going too wide on a turn and rolling over a kerb, damaging one of his tires.
Disappointment for Hamilton, who has not won for two months, elation for the Dutchman Verstappen in front of his adoring orange-shirted fans after another clinical drive.
“I’m a bit amazed myself how today went,” the 23-year-old said. “The car was on rails. It was really enjoyable to drive.”
The undisputed master of the Red Bull Ring 👌<br><br>Win number 14 for <a href=”https://twitter.com/Max33Verstappen?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Max33Verstappen</a>!<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/AustrianGP?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#AustrianGP</a> 🇦🇹 <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/F1?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#F1</a> <a href=”https://t.co/CwRmAOybsm”>pic.twitter.com/CwRmAOybsm</a>
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finished second ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, who clinched the fourth podium of his career on the same track where he secured his first last year.
The 2020 top-three finish made him the youngest British driver on a podium and third-youngest overall behind Lance Stroll and Verstappen. The ultra-consistent Norris is the only driver to have scored points in every race this season.
He could have finished second but was given a 5-second time penalty for an incident with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez on Lap 1.
“It was exciting. I’m disappointed because we should have been in second place,” Norris said. “We had good pace. It’s nice to know that we can be there and can race. Hopefully we can keep it up next time.”
Montreal’s Lance Stroll finished 13th and Nicholas Latifi came in 15th.
Hamilton has not won since the Spanish GP on May 9, a dismal streak of five races for the defending champion seeking a record eighth F1 title. All of those have gone to Red Bull, with Perez taking the other.
This was another crushing success for Verstappen at the Red Bull ring, his team’s home track and with thousands of Dutch fans cheering on his 15th career win. He also won here last weekend at the Styrian GP.
“Even better than last week,” Verstappen said. “The car was unreal.”
Verstappen clinched his third straight pole on Saturday and got away cleanly again for another lights-to-flag win, the way Hamilton has so often done.
Fan appreciation for Verstappen
A great day for him and his adoring fans was completed by a bonus point for the fastest lap.
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s wait for a 99th F1 win continues and he will hope for a change of fortune at the British GP in Silverstone in two weeks’ time.
Verstappen jumped into the arms of his mechanics and engineers as the legions of his orange-shirted compatriots packing the stands started singing “Campione, Campione; Ole, ole, ole.”
Verstappen was quick to thank them.
The safety car came out on the first lap following an incident involving Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, who got sandwiched between two Haas cars at the back and had to retire with a broken wheel rod.
When the race restarted on Lap 4, Verstappen pulled away.
Perez tried to overtake Norris on the outside and was bumped off the track into gravel, coming back out in 10th spot. The incident went to the race stewards and Norris was handed a five-second time penalty.
“For what?” a bemused Norris said when his team informed him. “If it’s for Lap 1, what did that guy [Perez] expect trying to go around the outside?”
‘He’s too far ahead’
Verstappen clocked fastest laps as he surged clear, while Hamilton was on the back of Norris.
The Battle of the Brits — young gun Norris vs. veteran Hamilton — saw the 21-year-old Norris hold Hamilton off until Lap 21.
“Such a great driver, Lando,” an impressed Hamilton said on team radio.
Norris’ excellent spell of defending suited Verstappen just fine.
He was by now nearly 10 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Bottas followed Norris in for new tires on Lap 31 and Hamilton came in a lap later for a quick 2.2-second tire change, with Verstappen switching soon after.
All the changes were smooth, and so Verstappen’s advantage remained a healthy 14 seconds approaching the midway point of the 71-lap race.
Perez was in aggressive mood as he tried to claw his way into the bigger points, nudging Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari off the track on Turn 4. That also went to a stewards’ investigation, and this time Perez got a 5-second penalty. He finished sixth behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. Jr.
Mistakes are creeping into Hamilton’s driving, in part because Verstappen is cranking up the pressure.
The defending champion appeared to damage his car when he went over a curb and a short time later made another rare error on Lap 50 by going too wide, as he had done on his last lap in qualifying.
Hamilton started losing speed and Mercedes swapped him with Bottas. A short time later, Norris caught and passed him to move into third spot.
“We are miles away from [Red Bull],” Hamilton said. “We need all hands on deck. They have brought a lot of upgrades over the last few races and we haven’t brought any.”