Verstappen earns maiden grand slam in Austria

MAX Verstappen sealed a dominant end to Formula One’s first triple-header of the 2021 season, extending his lead over championship Lewis Hamilton to 32-points. 

The Dutch driver took victory in the Austrian Grand Prix after leading every lap in the race, starting on pole, and taking the fastest lap.

Reigning world champion Hamilton slumped to a fourth-place finish with car damage after taking too much kerb on turn 10.

Verstappen led into the first corner and soon stretched out his lead to five seconds as a battle ensued behind his Red Bull. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, in his 200th race, battled with McLaren’s Lando Norris on lap one which cleared the way for Verstappen to pull away on his way to his 50th podium.

Perez and Norris’ battle would earn Norris a 5-second penalty for forcing Perez into the gravel, sending him into 10th place. The Briton produced an immaculate drive to take his papaya McLaren into third in Austria for his fourth career podium. Perez, for all his misfortune, would earn two 5-second penalties for similar infractions with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc further on in the race. 

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Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas – who traded positions twice on the opening lap – would both benefit from Norris’ skirmish with Perez. Hamilton swooped past Norris into second on lap 20, whilst Bottas benefitted from Norris extended pitstop. Bottas would maintain his positions until the chequered flag.

Hamilton was 9 seconds away from Verstappen when he received radio that damage to his car was costing him performance – hindering the rest of his race. With Hamilton’s lap time suffering he was soon caught by his teammate, and Norris soon after.

Carlos Sainz benefitted from a superb overcut to take his Ferrari from 12th into fifth – finishing ahead of Perez. Daniel Ricciardo found a groove leaping from 13th into 7th. The McLaren driver powered past four drivers on his opening lap – then fended off attacks from Leclerc – who finished a frustrating 8th- to maintain track position.

AlphaTauri – who opted for a two-stop strategy for both cars- had one car finish in the points in the form of Pierre Gasly in ninth. Alpine Racing’s Fernando Alonso claimed the last points position – finishing in 10th.

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The two-time world champion brought a heartbreaking end to Williams’ driver George Russell’s race who – in the hunt for a first career Formula One point – was overtaken in the closing stages of the race.

The race was not without drama throughout, and ended on the same note as former world champions – and former teammates at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raïkkonen – collided on lap 70. The incident brought up a double waved yellow flag – which eight drivers were suspected to disobey. 

The drivers (Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, Nikita Mazepin, and Nicholas Latifi, along with Antonio Giovinazzi) were summoned to the FIA stewards after the race.   

Mazepin and Latifi were both judged not to have slowed sufficiently in the sector where double-waved yellow flags were shown whilst the remaining drivers were cleared of any wrongdoing.

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