Max Verstappen yet again took a lights to flag victory around the Red Bull Ring. Bottas took a strong 2nd place while Norris fought back on to the podium despite receiving a 5 second penalty at the start of the race.
Like last week, it was a bright and dry start to the race, with rain not expected at any point. The weekend attendance peaked with 132,000 people at the track.
For the second week in row, Verstappen nailed the start and entered the first corner 1st. The cars remained in relative formation, apart from Russell who fell behind. But, the cars slowed before the end of the first lap as the safety car was released. Despite minimal contact with Giovinazzi, Ocon was out. The lightest touch on his front right tyre caused a suspension failure and he pulled up just outside of turn 3. Giovinazzi would later receive a 5s penalty for overtaking under the safety car.
The safety car was not out for long, returning to the pits on lap 3. Verstappen bunched up the pack massively at the restart, which gave Perez the opportunity to attempt an overtake on Norris. The cars were side by side throughout turns 1, 2, 3 and 4, but hard racing at turn 4 threw Perez into the gravel and down to 10th. Norris remained 2nd after his strong defense, but this incident was placed under investigation.
It was now Hamilton in 3rd, chasing down Norris infront. However, this would turn out to be a trickier affair than his overtake in Imola. Both cars had the same engine and the Mclaren was superb in a straight line. DRS was not providing any immediate opportunites for an overtake. Meanwhile, Verstappen was slowly pulling out the gap in front.
By lap 11 Verstappen had a 5s lead, and Hamilton was still struggling to find a way past the Mclaren.
Tsunoda was one of 4 drivers who started on the soft tyres and he was the first to pit. It was clear his race would be a aggressive 2-stopper. Gasly followed suit a lap later.
Radio messages to Norris suggested that he should attempt to back off the harsh treatment on his rear tyres, but should also try to hold the position.
Further back, Leclerc set up an incredible move on Perez, making the Red Bull driver lunge before switching into the open space through turn 5. Perez was now out of the points.
Despite starting 13th, Ricciardo was performing well making numerous overtakes into the points. Crucially, he managed to overtake Vettel for 5th – with pitstops – and launch himself into clear air.
On lap 20, Hamilton finally managed to find a way past Norris and, to add insult to injury, Norris was given a 5s penalty for the previous incident with Perez. He now had 10s between himself and Verstappen.
Another penalty was handed out a lap later, as Tsunoda crossed the white line too late on pit entry
The action plateaued as the cars started to nurse their tyres for strategy. Ricciardo started to come under fire from the twin Ferraris behind, but was able to maintain his advantage on the straights. However, Perez started to attempt a move from behind as well.
Ricciardo dove into the pits on lap 30. He was released behind Gasly, making up a significant amount of time during the previous stint.
Norris pitted a lap later and waited the agonising 5s for his penalty. As a result Bottas, who pitted at the same time, was able to make his way past.
Hamilton also stopped a lap later, which caused Verstappen to pit a lap later. This was fortuitous timing as the Red Bull was about to face traffic. A beautiful stop only underlined Verstappen’s absolute dominance of this race.
In the midfield, Gasly, Ricciardo, Perez and Leclerc launched into a tight battle for 6th. The 4 cars were separated by only 3s and track position would be vital for strategy calls. But, Perez was yet again involved in a turn 4 incident, contact with Leclerc’s Ferrari causing the scarlet car to veer off track. Within no time at all, Perez was given a 5s penalty.
Gasly threw a spanner in the works for Ricciardo by stopping and leaving him defenseless without DRS. But, Leclerc and Perez were launched into another battle and, again, Leclerc was forced off the track. The Monagasque was absolutely livid over the team radio. Perez was given another 5s penalty.
Up front, Hamilton was losing time to Bottas and Norris behind. With 30 laps still to go, it wasn’t looking promising for the championship contender. However, Bottas was told not to attack Hamilton, who was confirmed to have damage. Norris was immediately informed and this lit the fire under the Briton. Verstappen was infront by over 20s with 20 laps to go.
Surprisingly, Bottas was released from team orders and allowed to fight for 2nd, a thrilling turn in this engaging race. This later turned to Hamilton actually giving the place to Hamilton on lap 52. Norris was now all over the back of Hamilton.
Norris launched into an incredible overtaking maneuver throughout turn 5 and 6, forcing his way back on to the podium. Hamilton pitted immediately after, retaining his position, but now on softer tyres. There was now a huge battle for fastest lap, times switching between Verstappen, Hamilton and Sainz each tour.
Now, Leclerc was engaing in a battle for 6th with Ricciardo. Both drivers had impressive drives to this point and were both looking to maximise their points.
Out of nowehere, Verstappen pitted on lap 61, with a comfortable buffer to Bottas in 2nd. Verstappen stormed to back to back fastest laps, the Dutch driver looking for another ‘grand slam’ (Pole, Win and Fastest Lap).
Russell was now defending his 10th place hard against Alonso, the Briton looking for his first point for Williams. Alonso had the quicker car, but couldn’t find a way past immediately. Russell was using everything he could to keep the Spaniard behind, even using DRS from cars lapping him to get an advantage. After a 10 lap battle, Alonso finally managed to get his was past with only 3 laps to go.
Sainz launched his car past his team-mate for 7th and was now chasing down Ricciardo, who was a few seconds infront. Despite some very tough defending, Sainz was able to make his way past on the penultimate lap.
On the last lap, a bizzare collision took place between Raikkonen and Vettel, the Finn plowing into the back of the Aston Martin.
In front, Verstappen came through to take an undisputed victory ahead of strong perfromances by Bottas and Norris. The Mclaren driver taking his 2nd podium in two years at Austria. Hamilton took a subdued 4th while Sainz was able to ‘overtake’ Perez after the penalties were applied. Ricciardo recovered to 7th after his poor qualifying while Leclerc, Gasly and Alonso rounded out the points.
After an incredible run of 3 races in a row, it is advantage Verstappen and Red Bull in the championships. 3 victories and huge points have put Mercedes on the back foot for the first time in the hybrid era. In 2 weeks, F1 travels to Silverstone for the British GP. Will Hamilton make his home crowd roar, or will Verstappen spoil the party?
Full Race Results.
- Bottas +17.973
- Norris + 20.019
- Hamilton + 46.452
- Sainz + 57.144
- Perez + 57.915
- Ricciardo + 60.395
- Leclerc + 61.195
- Gasly + 61.844
- Alonso + 1 Lap
- Russell + 1 Lap
- Tsunoda + 1 Lap
- Stroll + 1 Lap
- Giovinazzi + 1 Lap
- Latifi + 1 Lap
- Raikkonen + 1 Lap
- Vettel + 1 Lap
- Schumacher + 1 Lap
- Mazepin + 1 Lap
- Ocon RET
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