The Dutchman started on pole position, led every lap and set the fastest lap en route to claiming the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday
By Yuri Coghe
Max Verstappen started on pole position, led every lap and set the fastest lap en route to victory in the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
By claiming these four honours at the same race, the Red Bull driver earned his career’s first ‘Grand Chelem,’ adding another dominant performance to his stronger-by-the-day 2021 championship campaign.
The 23-year-old earned 77 of the 78 possible points in the triple-header that started two weeks ago in France and moved to Austria last Sunday. He now boasts a 32-point gap in the standings to Lewis Hamilton, the reigning seven-time world champion, and looks set to end the era of Mercedes dominance that has taken F1 by storm since 2014.
Valtteri Bottas and Lando Norris followed in second and third, with Hamilton and Carlos Sainz Jr. completing the top 5.
Verstappen had a great deal of support from the Dutch fans who made their way to the Red Bull home track. His latest win was his third straight and his fifth overall this year. It was also Verstappen’s 50th career podium. Red Bull celebrated a fifth P1 in a row, a streak that began when Sergio Pérez claimed the Azerbaijan GP in early June.
“Today was incredible, to be honest, the car was on rails,” Verstappen said in his post-race interview. “It was really enjoyable to drive. You go into the weekend as the favourite, but it’s never easy to do. It was insane to see all the fans and so much orange.”
Bottas, who started the race in P5, took advantage of Hamilton’s reported aerodynamic issues to overtake his teammate and finish second. The Briton finished fourth, right where he started. He made his way to second place at one point, but damaged his front wing by running over curbs and lost performance, resulting in the less than ideal result.
“It’s nice to be on the podium again in second place,” Bottas said in the post-race interview. “McLaren were really quick today, they were putting on the pressure.”
Norris also overtook Hamilton for third after the aforementioned issues. The McLaren driver held off Hamilton early in the race for many laps and continued to show a great performance to earn his third podium of the season and the Driver of the Day award.
But it wasn’t all positives for Norris. Race stewards ruled that he pushed Pérez off the track and into the gravel when fighting for P2 on the fourth lap, and as a result, he received a five-second penalty. Norris disagreed with the punishment and believed he could have finished second had he not been penalized.
“It was a good race,” Norris said in the post-race interview. “It was exciting but I’m disappointed because we should’ve been P2, I thought Lap 1 was just racing.”
Pérez, who finished in sixth place, also endured his own penalties during the race. The Mexican driver pushed Charles Leclerc off the track and into the gravel twice when fighting for positions with the Ferrari driver. He received two five-second penalties for committing the same infractions that Norris had.
The two Ferraris made it into the points after a tough Saturday that saw them being knocked out in Q2. Sainz Jr. finished in P5, three positions ahead of teammate Leclerc. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo also moved up during the race, finishing seventh after starting in P13.
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Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 in ninth and tenth, respectively. The returning two-time world champion overtook George Russell late in the race and prevented the Williams driver from scoring his first point with the British team.
Russell, who finished P11, started the Austrian GP in the eighth position after making it to Q3 on Saturday, for the first time in his Williams career. Alonso’s teammate Esteban Ocon retired on the opening lap after coming into contact with Antonio Giovinazzi at Turn 3, causing the safety car to be deployed.
World champions collide
World champions and former Ferrari teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel collided on the last lap as the Finn moved abruptly to the right and in the way of the German’s Aston Martin. Vettel retired and finished 17th, one position ahead of Raikkonen, who managed to limp his way to the line for a 15th place finish.
Canadian Lance Stroll finished in 13th, one position behind AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese driver received two 5-second penalties for crossing the white line on the way to the pits. The mistake is rarely seen in F1, let alone twice in the same Grand Prix, and adds to the ups and downs in performance Tsunoda has been displaying in his rookie season.
Giovinazzi and the other Canadian in the field, Nicholas Latifi, crossed the finish line in 14th and 15th, respectively. Mick Schumacher, in 18th, and Nikita Mazepin, in 19th, were the only drivers to be lapped twice.
The tenth round of the 2021 Formula 1 season is set for Silverstone in two weeks, with the British Grand Prix taking place on July 18. A new qualifying format will be tested during the weekend as well.
See the Austrian Grand Prix top 10 below, and watch the race highlights here: