The Dutchman has now won half of the eight races of the season; Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished second and third
By Yuri Coghe
Max Verstappen led every lap on his way to giving Red Bull a home victory at the Styrian Grand Prix Sunday. He also extended his championship lead to 18 points.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished second and third to complete the podium, with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez and McLaren’s Lando Norris coming in fourth and fifth, respectively.
It’s the first time Red Bull has won four races in a row since the 2013 season, when Sebastian Vettel claimed the final nine rounds of the year on a record-breaking run. A Honda-powered car last claimed four straight victories in the 1991 season, when three-time world champion Ayrton Senna from Brazil won the first four rounds.
“Straight away I felt a good balance on the car,” Verstappen said after the race. “We have to show it again next week. I’m looking forward to it. I’m confident we can do a really good job again.”
The 2021 Austrian Grand Prix, the ninth and next round of the Formula 1 season, takes place next week at the same race track. Verstappen and Red Bull also won at home in Austria in 2018 and 2019.
The Dutchman has now won half of the eight races run thus far this season, as he and Red Bull continue to look strong in their mission to put an end to Mercedes’ and Hamilton’s dominance.
The German team has claimed the last seven constructors’ and drivers’ championships, with Hamilton enjoying six of his seven F1 championships with the outfit.
It’s the first time Verstappen has won more than three races in a single season, with the Styrian GP win extending his career total to 13.
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“It was a bit of a lonely race,” said Hamilton, who started and finished second. “I was trying to keep up with those guys (Red Bull) but they’ve made some big improvements over the last couple of races. We got good points as a team today, and we’ve got to keep pushing.”
Hamilton pitted late for fresh tires, claiming the fastest lap bonus point — and taking it away from Pérez, who had pitted for mediums on lap 56 — on the very last lap of the race. The Briton was unable to pose a real threat to Verstappen at any point of the day. Hamilton almost left the track at turn 5 on lap 25 but managed to correct his trajectory.
“From where I started I think P3 was the maximum today,” said Bottas, who started in fifth place due to a three-place grid penalty received on Saturday. “I’m glad I could defend against Perez. It’s good that we get to do this all again next week.”
Pérez finished the race less than one second behind Bottas, applying pressure on the last few laps but not managing to take the Finn’s position on what would have been a second double podium in a row for Red Bull and a third straight top 3 finish for the Mexican. A slow 4.5 second pitstop on lap 28 resulted in Pérez losing the third position he had at that moment to Bottas.
Norris was overtaken by Pérez on lap 10 and Bottas one lap later, finishing fifth after starting in third. He continues to be the only driver to score points in all eight races of the season so far. His McLaren teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, faced power issues early in the race, finishing 13th — just where he qualified on Saturday.
First lap scrap
Ferrari was able to score more points than McLaren to close the gap to third place in the constructors’ championship to 12 points.
Carlos Sainz Jr. stormed from P12 on the starting gird to take the checkered flag in sixth place. Charles Leclerc also had to fight his way back as a first-lap collision with Pierre Gasly and Canadian Nicholas Latifi sent him to the pit to repair front-wing damage as well as to the back of the grid.
Leclerc made some beautiful moves to get past Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel on his way to seventh, capping off his strong performance by overtaking Fernando Alonso and Stroll late in the race. He was voted the driver of the day by the fans.
“So bittersweet,” Leclerc tweeted after the race. “One of my best performances with heaps of overtakes but should have been higher without the contact with Pierre. A shame about what happened but we’ve spoken and everything is ok. Our speed looks good for next weekend.”
The opening lap accident resulted in Gasly retiring. Latifi had a puncture but was able to pit and continue, finishing 17th and between the two Haas entries of Mick Schumacher, 16th, and Nikita Mazepin, 18th.
Lance Stroll finished in P8 to repeat his season-high result also achieved at Imola and Monaco, finishing four positions ahead of his Aston Martin teammate Vettel.
The Canadian driver added four points to his total to move ahead of Esteban Ocon. Stroll, who raced with the Montreal Canadiens logo on his helmet to show support ahead of the Stanley Cup Final, now sits twelfth in the drivers’ championship.
Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda came in ninth and tenth, respectively, to give points to Alpine and AlphaTauri, as seven of the ten F1 teams finished in the Styrian GP top 10. Alonso’s teammate Esteban Ocon started 17th and finished 14th.
Alfa Romeo drivers Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished in P11 and P15.
Heartbreak for George Russell
Seen as one of the most promising young talents in the F1 grid, George Russell seemed to be on his way to claim his first point finish for Williams at the Styrian GP.
He was running in eighth place and closing in on Alonso until his impressive performance came to an early end after a slow pit stop followed by a power unit issue. The Briton retired on lap 39. He had already impressed on Saturday by qualifying eleventh — moving to P10 after Tsunoda was handed a three-place grid penalty.
“This one hurt,” said Russell on Twitter. “Every single member of the team should hold their head high today. We were up there on merit. Racing can be brutal but we keep fighting.”
The F1 grid remains in Austria as they look forward to next weekend, with the Austria Grand Prix on Sunday set to cap off the season’s first triple-header.
See the full 2021 Styrian Grand Prix results: