Verstappen in title control after Austria repeat

Max Verstappen has won back-to-back races in Austria to blow out his title lead over Lewis Hamilton.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

The Dutchman completed a rare career grand slam — winning the grand prix after leading every lap from pole and taking the fastest lap of the race — in his most comprehensive victory of the season, while Hamilton trundled home to an uncompetitive fourth behind teammate Valtteri Bottas and a superb Lando Norris.

The result, which was completely unchallenged throughout the Austrian Grand Prix’s 71 laps, extends Verstappen’s lead to 32 points at the end of the season’s first triple-header, an expansion of 28 points in just three races.

“Pretty insane. I’m a bit amazed myself,” he said. I didn’t expect it to be like this.

“Incredible, to be honest. The car was on rails. On every tyre we put on it was really enjoyable to drive.”

While Verstappen’s victory was never in doubt, the battle for the balance of the podium went down the wire between Bottas and Norris.

The Mercedes car struggled with its tyres more significantly than the McLaren late in the race, and Bottas had been held up in the middle of the race by teammate Hamilton, who was suffering with damage from riding the kerbs, allowing Norris to close up behind the pair and pressure for the podium.

Mercedes eventually ordered Hamilton to cede position to Bottas, and Norris overpowered him shortly afterwards to follow the Finn up the road, but the McLaren couldn’t make enough of an impression to launch a pass for second place.

“For me it’s nice to be back on the podium again in second place,” Bottas said. “I think as a team we got some decent points considering the gap we have to Red Bull in terms of pure pace.”

But Norris was dissatisfied to finish only third. The Briton had run comfortably second dearly in the race but had copped a five-second penalty for a lap-four incident defending against Sergio Perez.

Perez had tried to launch a move around the Briton’s outside at turn four but ran out of room, skidding across the gravel and dropping from third to 10th.

But the stewards controversially found Norris at fault, slapping him with a penalty served at his sole pit stop, which allowed Bottas to jump him for position through pit lane.

“We should’ve had second place,” he said. “I thought [it] was just racing.

“He tried to go around the outside, which was a bit stupid.

“I’m frustrated but also happy with P3.”

Hamilton took fourth with a late second pit stop to ensure he could make it to the flag ahead of Perez, who finished fifth on the road but served two five-second penalties of his own — ironically for pushing Charles Leclerc off the track in similar incidents to those that cost him early in the race — that demoted him to sixth in the final classification.

Carlos Sainz assumed fifth place for Ferrari instead. The Spaniard was poor off the line, dropping to 15th on the first lap, but long first stint allowed him to push hard on softer tyres at the end of the race to sneak into Perez’s penalty window by just 0.7 seconds to bump himself up an extra place.

Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh for McLaren after starting 13th, losing places late to Perez and Sainz but defending against Leclerc and Pierre Gasly, who finished eighth and ninth.

Fernando Alonso finished 10th for Alpine after passing George Russell for the position with three laps remaining, ensuring Williams remains pointless for the season to date.

The race ended in bizarre circumstances, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen crashing on the final lap while battling for 12th.

Raikkonen was bottle behind Russell through turn four when Vettel cut underneath him to take the place, but as they exited the turn the Finn drifted right until he made contact with the German’s rear-left tyre, sending both spinning off into the gravel.

Raikkonen was able to take the flag, but Vettel’s race ended on the spot.

Esteban Ocon was the race’s only retirement, out on the first lap in a turn-three melee with Antonio Giovinazzi and Mick Schumacher.