Max Verstappen has clinically dispatched Lewis Hamilton to claim a dominant victory at the Styrian Grand Prix and steal a march in the championship standings.
This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.
Red Bull Racing was untouchable all weekend in the first of two successive races at Austria’s Red Bull Racing, and Verstappen converted a comfortable pole position into an all-laps-led victory ahead of helpless title rival Hamilton.
It was Red Bull Racing’s most comprehensive performance of the season, taking the Dutchman to an 18-point advantage in the title stakes.
“I felt a good balance in the car,” he said. “It’s looking really good. We just have to keep on going, keep pushing really hard. I’m confident we can do a really good job.”
The final margin of victory was an exaggerated 35 seconds thanks to a late pit stop by Hamilton to take a point for fastest lap with new tyres, but the Briton leaked time to the Dutchman all afternoon, leaving him with no cards to play but limit the damage with the consolation score.
The result marks the first time since 2013, before the dawn of the turbo-hybrid era, that Mercedes has conceded four grands prix in succession, and the reigning constructors champion now sits 40 points behind Red Bull Racing in the standings.
“I was trying to keep up with [Verstappen], but the speed they have — they’ve obviously made some big improvements in the last couple of race,” Hamilton said. “It’s impossible to keep up.
“They’re just faster. There’s not a lot that I can do in that respect.
“We need to find some performance. We need an upgrade of some sort. We need to push.”
Mercedes may at least take some solace from Valtteri Bottas completing the podium ahead of Sergio Perez to restrict what could have been a substantial points loss, though the Finn didn’t have it easy.
He started behind Perez and trailed him in the first stint, the pair well off the pace of the leading duo, but a slow pit stop for the Mexican gifted Mercedes an opportunity to jump Bottas ahead through the pit stops.
Perez couldn’t find a way back past for third, so Red Bull Racing switched him to a two-stop strategy that required him to make up 21 seconds in 17 laps with fresh rubber.
The pursuit came down to the final lap, but Bottas was centimetre perfect on his aging tyres to deny the Mexican a chance to make a move, taking the flag by a measly 0.527 seconds.
“it was getting pretty close at the end and there was not much margin,” Bottas said. “I’m glad we could defend, and it’s been a while since I’ve been on the podium.”
Lando Norris took fifth with a strong race for McLaren after running third in the opening 10 laps before Perez and Bottas steamed by in their faster cars.
But it wasn’t enough to prevent Ferrari from making inroads into McLaren’s third place in the constructors standings off the back of two standouts drives from Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in sixth and seventh.
Sainz ran until lap 41 on the medium tyre, the longest stint of the race on that compound, to rise from 12th to fifth, losing a couple of places at his stop and recovering to sixth for a quiet final 27 laps.
Leclerc started seventh but was 18th at the end of the second lap with front wing damage from a collision at the first corner, but the Monegasque drove a race of controlled aggression to pick off car after car on either side of his pit stop to rise seventh with 11 laps to spare in what he described as one of the best performances of his F1 career.
Lance Stroll finished eighth at the head of a tight battle for the final points places ahead of Fernando Alonso and Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda.
Kimi Raikkonen beat Sebastian Vettel to 11th, while Daniel Ricciardo suffered from a loss of power in his McLaren during the opening laps that dropped him from ninth after a strong start to 13th.
Esteban Ocon had a quiet race to 14th ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, while Mick Schumacher beat Williams driver Nicholas Latifi and Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin to 16th.
George Russell retired from a points-paying place with a pneumatics problem, while Pierre Gasly suffered a race-ending puncture on the first lap.