SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 01: Race winner Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 1, 2018 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen scored a resounding victory at the Austrian GP to take his first win of the season. The Dutchman cheered on by a large sea of orange-clad countrymen scored the first win for Red Bull Racing at their home Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel finished second and third respectively.

On a dramatic day that saw DNFs for both Mercedes cars, Vettel and Ferrari retook the championship lead in the drivers’ and constructors’ championship. What should have been a 1-2 finish for the Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, ended with the Mercedes team in disarray.

Max Verstappen Wins, Vettel Retakes Championship Lead As Mercedes Falters

The Start

Bottas started on pole position with Hamilton beside him on the first row. Raikkonen got a good start and was alongside the Mercedes drivers. As Hamilton edged ahead, Bottas lost out and fell to fifth. With jostling going on at the front, Vettel who started P6 fell behind at the start.

By the time DRS was enabled, the order was Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Vettel, Grosjean, Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Ocon.

Reliability Issues Strike and Mercedes Falters Under VSC

On lap 12,ย  Nico Hulkenberg pulled off the track with smoke pouring out of the back of his car. Two laps later, the unlucky Bottas’ race ended with a gearbox problem. As the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed briefly, Ferrari and Red Bull double-stacked their drivers and put on the more durable soft compound tyres.

Mercedes did not pit the leader Hamilton and was caught napping by their rivals. On an unusually hot day with temperatures in the mid-40 degrees C, the Pirelli tyres were blistering fast. On lap 25, Hamilton pitted and rejoined in fourth position behind Verstappen, Raikkonen and Ricciardo. Mercedes appeared to have thrown away a win with another strategy blunder under VSC.

Ricciardo and Hamilton Retire

Even as teammate Verstappen led the race, Ricciardo suffered heavy blistering on his tyres. On lap 39, the Australian was forced to pit. On lap 53, Ricciardo was forced to retire with a gearbox issue.

Hamilton complained about loss of power and had fallen to fifth behind title rival Vettel. On lap 64, Hamilton’s race ended with fuel pressure problems. The first double retirement for Mercedes since the Spanish GP in 2016.

Verstappen Soaks In the Ferrari Pressure And Wins

Verstappen managed his overheating rear tyres and defended against the fast Ferrari cars behind him in the final laps. Raikkonen closed to within three seconds of the young Dutchman. Vettel was a further 1.5 seconds behind. But Verstappen held firm to take his fourth career victory. This was the first win for Red Bull at their home Grand Prix.

Raikkonen (P2) and Vettel (P3) brought home vital points and made it count for the Italian team. As rivals Mercedes scored no points, Vettel retook the drivers’ championship lead by 1 point from Hamilton. Ferrari also lead the constructors’ championship by 10 points from Mercedes.

Haas F1, Force India and Sauber Have a Good Day

The Haas F1 team and Romain Grosjean redeemed themselves at this race. Grosjean scored his first points of the season as he finished P4. Teammate Kevin Magnussen finished P5 and the Haas team jumped two places to fifth in the constructors’ championship.

Force India who started the race outside the top 10 scored a double points finish also. Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished P6 and P7 respectively.

Sauber had their drivers in the points with Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson P9 and P10 respectively. Fernando Alonso who started in the pitlane finished a creditable eighth to bring home points for McLaren.

The Championship Races Heat Up

The unexpected double DNF for Mercedes has handed the lead to Ferrari in both title races. Red Bull Racing has now scored three wins in nine races to match the three wins of Mercedes and Ferrari in the 2018 season.

With form varying from track to track between the teams, this 2018 F1 season has come alive. The final race of the triple-header is the British GP next week at Silverstone.

Austrian GP Results:

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired Pts
1 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 71 1:21:56.024 25
2 7 Kimi Rรคikkรถnen Ferrari 71 +1.504s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 71 +3.181s 15
4 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 70 +1 lap 12
5 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 70 +1 lap 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 70 +1 lap 8
7 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 70 +1 lap 6
8 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 70 +1 lap 4
9 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 70 +1 lap 2
10 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 70 +1 lap 1
11 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 70 +1 lap 0
12 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 70 +1 lap 0
13 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 69 +2 laps 0
14 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 69 +2 laps 0
15 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 65 DNF 0
NC 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 62 DNF 0
NC 28 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 54 DNF 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 53 DNF 0
NC 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 13 DNF 0
NC 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 11 DNF 0

Note – Stroll originally finished 13th, but had 10 seconds added to his race time for ignoring blue flags.

MAIN PHOTO:
Embed from Getty Images

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