Max Verstappen won a thrilling Grand Prix, closing a 25s gap to Hamilton on the way to victory. Perez took his second Red Bull podium as Bottas dropped off the podium places.
Mercedes take the upper hand
Despite forecasts of rain, the race started with dry conditions.
Verstappen kept the lead at the start, but an unusual moment at turn 2 saw the Red Bull off the track. Hamilton took the opportunity to take the lead, Verstappen having to fend off Bottas behind. Verstappen now had to close a 1.5s gap.
The Mclarens had an early on track battle, which led to Norris taking evasive action. Despite this, both remained in the top 10. After dispatching of his team-mate, Ricciardo then closed down on Alonso. The Australian appearing to return to his previous form. Ricciardo forced his way past on lap 12, which gave Norris the opportunity to overtake as well. Now, the Papaya team were just behind their rivals, Ferrari.
By lap 10, Hamilton had grown concerned over the state of his tyres. Numerous radio messages highlighted a lap of grip and graining on the front right. Meanwhile, Verstappen behind was not suffering with any issues.
The first stop came from Leclerc at lap 15, backing off from the fight with the McLarens. Riccardo came out behind Leclerc, but leapfrogged both Sainz and Gasly moving him to a net 7th.
Red Bull strikes back
Bottas was the first of the leaders to pit, causing Verstappen to pit a lap later, Bottas closed the gap significantly, but was unable to take 2nd. However, Verstappen stormed into the lead after Hamilton’s stop, the two going side by side into turn 1.
Verstappen kept the lead for the middle section of the race as the grid started to calm down. Hamilton remained in DRS territory, but the Red Bull’s traction meant that he was never close enough to make a move.
Out of nowhere, Verstappen pulled a surprise pit stop on lap 33. Red Bull had now pulled the trigger on the strategy. The Mercedes were expected to pit, but stayed out. They would now have to finish the race on their current tyred. However, Verstappen was catching by 2s a lap.
With 11 laps to go, Verstappen had pulled up to the back of Bottas, who was only 4s away from Hamilton. Verstappen pulled off an incredible overtake without DRS assistance to dispatch of Bottas. Now, the gap to Hamilton was 5s with 9 laps remaining. Just behind, Perez was catching Bottas and a certain podium looked to be slipping from his grasp. The Finnish driver was furious over the radio.
Bottas eventually conceded the place on lap 49, Perez was unchallenged for the remainder of the race. It was predicted that Bottas would pit for a fastest lap attempt, but he remained on track.
Verstappen entered Hamilton’s DRS with 2 laps to go. After slowly catching the Mercedes, it was now a race to the line and another opportunity to see the two drivers battling it out on track. Verstappen used the DRS to full effect with an overtake on the back straight. Hamilton was unable to fight back, he would finish 2nd.
During this time, the midfield stayed in formation, McLaren winning out overall with a solid 5th and 6th placed finish.
Verstappen achieved the fastest lap en route to victory and is now 12 points clear at the top of the standings. Red Bull outscored Mercedes as well, giving the Austrian team huge momentum. The championship battle was already close, but with Red Bull winning here, will there be anywhere they can’t challenge for victory?
Full race results:
- Hamilton +2.904
- Perez +8.811
- Bottas +14.618
- Norris +64.032
- Ricciardo +75.857
- Gasly +76.596
- Alonso +77.695
- Vettel +79.666
- Stroll +91.946
- Sainz +99.337
- Russell +1 Lap
- Tsunoda + 1 Lap
- Ocon + 1 Lap
- Giovinazzi +1 Lap
- Leclerc + 1 Lap
- Raikkonen +1 Lap
- Latifi + 1 Lap
- Schumacher + 1 Lap
- Mazepin + 1 Lap
Featured Image Credit: @F1OfficialTwitter