Max Verstappen and Red Bull continue to dominate following success in Spielberg

By Sports Desk July 02, 2023

Max Verstappen produced another emphatic performance to complete a home win for Red Bull at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The double world champion was made to work for his seventh victory from nine rounds so far after he passed Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on track.

But after manoeuvring himself ahead of both Ferrari drivers, Verstappen raced off into the distance to the delight of his 70,000-strong travelling army from Netherlands.

Leclerc crossed the line five seconds behind Verstappen in Spielberg, with Sergio Perez recovering from his lowly grid slot of 15th to finish third. The Mexican fought his way past Sainz with 10 laps remaining following a nip-and-tuck duel.

Sainz took fourth after he served five-second penalty for exceeding track limits.

The Spaniard was among six of the 20-strong field to be sanctioned by race director Niels Wittich, with Lewis Hamilton also punished.

Hamilton finished an underwhelming seventh, while Lando Norris ended the day in fifth to record his best result of a difficult season for his under-performing McLaren team. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished between Norris and Hamilton.

George Russell made up three places from his starting spot of 11th to finish eighth.

Verstappen heads Perez in the standings by 81 points – the equivalent of more than three victories – heading into next weekend’s British Grand Prix.

A day after taking the sprint race spoils, Verstappen was celebrating his fifth consecutive win on his unstoppable march to a hat-trick of world titles.

Verstappen fended off an aggressive Leclerc on the opening lap before he fell to third after the Ferrari drivers stopped for tyres under the Virtual Safety Car.

It ended Verstappen’s run of 249 consecutive laps at the head of the field. However, the Dutchman required just 11 laps before he was back in charge.

After he left the pits on lap 25, Verstappen moved ahead of Sainz a couple of laps later, and then fought his way past Leclerc on lap 35 of 71.

From there, the Dutchman cruised to the flag – even stopping for tyres on the penultimate lap in order to set the fastest lap and take a bonus point.

“We did not pit during the Virtual Safety Car,” said Verstappen. “We followed our strategy and that worked out well. It was a great day and I enjoyed it a lot.”

Asked about the prospect of taking his third straight title, Verstappen said: “I don’t like to think about that yet.

“I am enjoying the moment. We have done a good job all weekend and a lot of things went right for us. I am happy and now I will focus on Silverstone.”

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion endured a difficult day in his Mercedes.

Hamilton started fifth and leapfrogged Norris at the start of the race, but soon faced the wrath of the stewards for putting all four wheels of his Mercedes over the white line.

A black-and-white warning flag was served to Hamilton before he was hit with a five-second penalty on lap 17.

Sainz, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Logan Sargeant were also handed five-second penalties, while Yuki Tsunoda saw his initial five-second sanction upgraded to 10 for driving off the track.

Hamilton served his penalty at his second pit stop on lap 43, dropping him to eighth place. He moved up one spot when Gasly stopped for tyres but he failed to make any impression on Aston Martin’s Alonso.

The Briton was on the radio several times asking why other drivers had not been penalised.

Team principal Toto Wolff first came on with a word of encouragement for his superstar driver.

“They are all going to get penalties in front of you, Lewis.” he said.” Keep going.”

But following another frustrated radio message from Hamilton, Wolff was back on to his driver with a firmer message.

“The car is bad, we know,” said Wolff to the Briton: “Please drive it.”

Hamilton finished 39.1 seconds behind Verstappen and is no closer to ending his 18-month losing streak in Formula One.

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