Formula 1 reigning champion Max Verstappen continued his relentless march to his third consecutive world title with another win at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Verstappen started the fourth race in a row from pole position and has won his fifth and seventh consecutive wins in nine races so far this season. Red Bull increased the championship lead to 81 points against teammate Sergio Perez.
“I think our tracks were excellent, so it was a great day, I enjoyed it very much,” said Verstappen. “I enjoy driving this car and racing for this team.”
So much so that despite his team’s reluctance to take risks, he managed to shoot on the fastest lap two laps after the last. Typically, he scored bonus points on the final lap to wrap up a perfect weekend after his victory from pole position in Saturday’s sprint race.
“I saw the gap and said, ‘We have to pit,'” Verstappen said. “From the outside it may seem like a big risk, but when you’re in the car it doesn’t look that risky at all.”
The win also took the 25-year-old Dutchman to 42 F1 wins in total, one ahead of the late Ayrton Senna and a single fifth on F1’s all-time winners list.
Here last year’s winner Charles Leclerc was second, 5.2 seconds behind Verstappen, and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was third, 17.2 behind.
Verstappen’s margin of victory, however, was reduced by a late pit stop, and it was another comfortable victory for his team at the home circuit at Spielberg.
Making a clean start from pole position, he outstripped Leclerc in Turns 2 and 3 and easily recaptured the lead by making a pit stop midway through the 71-lap race in the Red Bull Ring.
“The most important thing for me was lap one, then stay ahead (so we can) have our own race,” Verstappen said.
This was Leclerc’s only second podium of the season, but it put him in an upbeat mood.
“The upgrades we brought made me feel better. It looks good for the future,” Leclerc said.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and some other drivers were given a five-second time penalty for going outside the track limits.
Perez started in 15th place and beat Sainz with 10 laps remaining to secure his first podium since his second place two months ago.
“It’s been a good comeback,” Perez said.
Sainz finished fourth, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, sixth, seventh to Hamilton and eighth to teammate George Russell.
After Perez’s success in Azerbaijan, Red Bull won all nine races, including 11 when two sprint races are included, with Verstappen’s victory.
Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10.
After a safety car came out shortly after at the end of Lap 1, Verstappen escaped cleanly on the restart.
Hamilton, who started well and finished fourth in the early run, started having trouble controlling his car and started going out of track limits.
“I can’t keep it on the track, the car won’t turn,” said Hamilton, who received repeated warnings.
When a virtual safety car came out on Lap 15 after Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg left the circuit, most teams chose to change another tire to take advantage of the pit stops, costing them less time as vehicles on the track were forced to slow down.
But Verstappen and teammate Perez were left out.
“I could see we were closing the gap with a few laps to (VSC), so I knew I was going to get it back,” said Verstappen. “Just following our own plan was the best way to go.”
Drivers continued to drive outside of the track boundaries on the 4.3 kilometer (2.7 mi) track, which is known to be particularly difficult to stay within the white lines.
“Is there a penalty?” Hamilton asked Perez and continued to complain about other drivers driving out after his own suspension, forcing team principal Toto Wolff to intervene.
“The car is bad, we know, please drive,” Wolff said.
Perez was warned by his team with 15 laps left to comply with the track limits. He was right behind Sainz at that point and couldn’t afford the time penalty.
minutes of silence
Drivers lined up for a minute’s silence in memory of 18-year-old Dutch driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff, who died on Saturday at the Formula Regional European Championship held at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
F1 is holding a race in Belgium on 30 July.