Max Verstappen made it two-in-a-row in Austria as he claimed a second dominant victory in as many weeks. It was a lonely drive for the Red Bull, as he remained at the front throughout, and easily took pole with a lead of just under 18 seconds and the fastest lap bonus point. It is clear that the team have both the driver and performer advantage now, and they demonstrated it perfectly on their home track.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris rounded out the podium, while championship rival Lewis Hamilton could only muster fourth place. He qualified in that position and struggled to find a way past Norris for about 20 laps, by which point Verstappen’s lead was insurmountable. He’d hoped to challenge for second, but his car sustained floor damage on lap 30 – it was struggling for pace as its tyres started to wear. With 19 laps remaining, team orders were to let Bottas past, and Norris managed the same two laps later. It was an impressive drive, even despite a five-second penalty for pushing Sergio Perez wide earlier in the race.
Carlos Sainz wrapped up the top five, beating Perez, who’d also picked up two five-second penalties for twice forcing Charles Leclerc wide. It was a bad race for Esteban Ocon, who was forced to retire on the opening lap, and a particularly sad day for George Russell. He’d qualified in eighth place and was in a good position to earn his first points for Williams this race – however, Fernando Alonso passed him just four laps before the end of the race, and he eventually finished in 11th.
After the race, Verstappen said: “I feel incredible to be honest. The car was unreal. On every tyre set we put on it was really enjoyable to drive. It’s insane – I’m a bit amazed myself how today went. I didn’t expect it to be like this. Incredible job by everyone to deliver something like this.
When you go into the weekend everyone sees you as the favourite but it’s never easy to always deliver what we did today
– Max Verstappen
“When you go into the weekend everyone sees you as the favourite but it’s never easy to always deliver what we did today, so a great effort by the whole team. The whole package over these two weeks here has been incredible. I just had to be awake at the start. I knew if I could go fast on lap one, I could do my own race. Insane to see all the fans here. So much orange is incredible. A great motivation.”
Bottas said: “For me personally, one place better than last week and I started from fifth. I think as a team we got some decent points considering the gap we have to Red Bull in terms of pure pace. For me it is nice to be on the podium in second place. I think it’s really maximised what we could get today.
“The [hard tyre] held on pretty well. They started to drop towards the end but also with Lando and I have to say surprisingly McLaren was really quick today putting on some pressure. Two weeks to Silverstone we have some work to do but right now I am keen to have some champagne.”
Norris said: “It was a lot of fun, a good race. It was exciting but also disappointing because I felt we should have been in second place. I thought lap one was just racing really. He tried to go round the outside, which was a bit stupid, and he ran off the track himself – I didn’t push him.
“I am frustrated but also happy with P3. I think we had good pace. I could keep up with [Bottas], even in the dirty air, but not enough to get within DRS. Shoulda, woulda, coulda in the end. It’s nice to know that we can race them, first time in many years we have been able to keep up with the Red Bulls and Mercedes.”
We’ve a weekend break, and then we’ll be returning on 18 July for the British Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton has won here six of the last seven races, and he’ll be hoping to truly mount an offensive and beat Verstappen. If Red Bull dominate once again, I think the title race is essentially over.