Verstappen Dominates in Austria

Red+Bull%27s+Max+Verstappen+cruised+to+his+4th+win+of+the+season+at+the+Styrian+Grand+Prix+with+a+commanding+victory+which+was+never+in+doubt.+

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen cruised to his 4th win of the season at the Styrian Grand Prix with a commanding victory which was never in doubt.

Michael Hernandez, Assistant Sports Editor

Formula 1 continued its triple header at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria for the Styrian Grand Prix, the first of two races at this circuit. Red Bull had won the previous three races and had all of the momentum heading into their home race. Max Verstappen came off of winning the French grand prix while teammate Sergio Perez won the previous race in Baku. This track has been a Red Bull favorite, with Verstappen winning the race in both 2018 and 2019. However, both Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valteri Bottas won at this circuit in last year’s two races. 

During practice, once again it was a straight battle at the top between Red Bull and Mercedes. However, during free practice two, a strange incident, even by this year’s standards, occurred. Bottas entered the pit lane for a practice stop and launched into second gear as he left his box in an attempt to improve the exit from the pit box and the time while in the lane. 

However, he lost control of his W12 engine and spun in the pit lane, ending up sideways in front of the McLaren pit crew. It was a dangerous move that resulted in a three-place grid penalty from the race stewards. This meant that wherever Bottas qualified, he would then drop three places, which would have a huge impact in the race considering how important both drivers are to their team’s strategies.

Verstappen stormed to pole position, followed by Bottas and then Hamilton in third. Lando Norris’ McLaren was in fourth with Perez in fifth. Another surprise was George Russell’s Williams, who qualified in 11th. However, due to Bottas’ penalty, Hamilton, Norris and Perez were promoted by one place. Russell was also promoted up to 10th with Yuki Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri receiving a three-place penalty. Verstappen, Hamilton, and Bottas started on the medium tires while Perez opened on the soft tires. This is due to the qualifying rule that if a driver makes it into the final qualifying session (Q3), they have to start the race on the tire that they used on their fastest lap in the second qualifying session (Q2).

When the lights went out on Sunday, Verstappen got away clean and remained in the lead after turn one, unlike last week’s race in France. Perez briefly got ahead of Norris before losing the position as Norris retook third with a move around the outside of turn four. One incident on the first lap was between Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari and Tsunoda’s teammate Pierre Gasly as both went wide in turn one. When Leclerc rejoined the track, he hit Gasly’s left rear tire with his front wing, giving him a puncture. Gasly was then hit by Nicolas Latifi’s Williams who broke Gasly’s suspension, forcing him out of the race. 

After a couple of laps, both Perez and Bottas made easy work of Norris, passing him on the straights as Verstappen still led Hamilton. Russell was also in eighth and on track to score Williams’ first points since 2019. However, he had to retire due to a mechanical issue. 

On lap 26, Perez entered the pits first since he was on the softer, less durable compound. Unfortunately, the Red Bull pit crew had a rare mistake which resulted in a slow stop. Mercedes responded by pitting Bottas the following lap. Due to Red Bull’s mistake, Bottas exited the pits ahead of Perez, effectively taking third. Hamilton then pitted the lap after that. Red Bull countered by pitting Verstappen on the following lap. However, Verstappen’s stop was flawless and he remained in the lead of the race. 

After the pit stops, Verstappen had a five second gap to Hamilton, a 17 second gap to Bottas and a 2.5 second gap to Perez. At this point, Hamilton was told on the radio to pick up the pace to try and catch Verstappen. He reduced it to four seconds but it was useless. Hamilton’s pace dropped off and Verstappen never looked back.

At the same time, Perez was trying to pass Bottas to occupy the final podium place. Red Bull made the call to repeat what they did in France and told Perez to pit for a new set of tires. The only difference was that Perez did not lose a position since the gap to fifth placed Norris was over 30 seconds. They made the call on lap 54, and with 17 laps to go, Perez had the task of overtaking Bottas, who opted to stay on the track

After 71 laps, Verstappen won the Styrian Grand Prix, leading the entire race and never putting a wrong foot forward. He dominated the whole weekend and showed why he is the current championship leader. Hamilton crossed the line in second. Bottas finished in third, only a half second ahead of Perez.

With this win, both Verstappen and Red Bull increased their leads in the driver’s and constructors’ standings, located here. This is the first time since 2014 that Mercedes has failed to win a race in four attempts. The next race is once again at the Red Bull ring next week for the Austrian grand prix. Based on this race, expect Red Bull and Verstappen to be favorites to win as Formula 1 concludes its triple header in a season that continues to bring excitement with its twists and turns.