Verstappen wins stellar Austrian Grand Prix

2018-07-04 06:01

FORMULA 1 isn’t called the most unpredictable sport in the world for nothing. And the Austrian Grand Prix well and truly proved it with a stunning race.

First, it was supreme bravery from Kimi Raikkonen as he wedged his Ferrari in-between the two Mercedes at the pull away.

It didn’t quite work for the Finn who locked up into turn three while attempting to snatch the lead from Lewis Hamilton.

Raikkonen fell back as Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas seemingly took control of the race ahead of Max Verstappen in the Red Bull who has barged his way past the recovering Ferrari of the Finn.

Meanwhile, Vettel had dropped to eighth in the fracas of the opening lap after starting sixth due to a three-place grid penalty for blocking in the Saturday qualifying session.

He made short work of both Haas cars as he recovered to sixth.

The race had barely settled when Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault engine blew up spectacularly followed by Valtteri Bottas also pulling out of the race with a hydraulics failure.

Bottas’ retirement brought out the Virtual Safety Car and both Red Bull and Ferrari double stacked their cars in the pitlane.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was told to stay out, which would later prove to be a significantly strategic error.

With Hamilton finally pitting 10 laps later than his rivals, he rejoined in fourth.

He struggled for pace on his fresher rubber and soon fell victim to Vettel.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, too, had to swop his blistered tyres as the track temperature continue to hover around the 47°C mark.

Hamilton pitted for a second time and rejoined in fifth behind Ricciardo.

He moved back into fourth as Ricciardo pulled off the track with a gear sync issue.

It wasn’t long before disaster struck for Hamilton and Mercedes as the Brit’s loss of fuel pressure forced him into retirement.

It was the first double retirement for Mercedes since the first lap clash between Hamilton and Rosberg in Spain 2016.

This time though both cars dropped out of the race due to mechanical issues.

What’s was more telling, however, was Hamilton’s lack of pace given that the team had introduced a comprehensive aero upgrade for this race which follows an engine upgrade in Spain.

Track temperature clearly didn’t play into Merc’s hands, as Hamilton quickly blistered his much fresher tyres while Raikkonen, Vettel and Verstappen completed nearly 60 laps on their soft tyres.

The inability of the Mercedes to run in traffic was once again highlighted, as Hamilton could not match the pace of those ahead while on similar tyres.

Hamilton’s retirement promoted Romain Grosjean to a brilliant fourth with his teammate Kevin Magnussen in fifth.

The 22-point haul marks the best-ever result for Haas in what was the team’s 50th race.

Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez were sixth and seventh for Force India while Fernando Alonso, starting from the pitlane, brought his McLaren home in eighth.

Charles Leclerc and his Sauber teammate Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten.

Ahead it was a day to remember for young Verstappen as he delivered a mature drive to sew up career victory number four and that at his Red Bull team’s home grand prix.

Raikkonen and Vettel upped the pace in the closing stages but ran out of laps as Raikkonen ultimately finished 1.5 seconds adrift of race winner, Verstappen. As if to illustrate the fine state of his tyres, Raikkonen set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap.

Vettel recovered superbly to third and with it takes the driver’s championship lead by one point from Hamilton.

It was an even bigger day for Ferrari as they took over the lead in the constructor’s standings by 10 points.

There won’t be time for resting on any laurels as the paddock head to the British Grand Prix this weekend where Mercedes and Hamilton will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with.

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