Max Verstappen took advantage of diving into the pits during a safety car period on lap 15, along with a double Mercedes retirement Sunday to give Red Bull Racing their first home win in the team’s history in the Grand Prix of Austria at the Red Bull Ring.
Kimi Raikkonen came on strong at the end of the race, finishing just 1.5 seconds behind the Dutchman, while Sebastian Vettel took third and now leads the world championship by one point over Lewis Hamilton.
“It was amazing,” Verstappen said afterward to ESPNF1. “It was very hard to manage the tires as well. We really had to look after them – there was a lot of blistering. We managed to hang on until the end. It’s amazing to win here with Red Bull at the Red Bull ring and with so many Dutch fans. It’s incredible.”
Verstappen took the lead in the race following the early laps domination by Hamilton. Valtteri Bottas suffered a rare gearbox failure on lap 15, which brought out the virtual safety car. This gave many drivers including Verstappen, a chance to make an early tire change. But Hamilton, who had up to this point a 22 seconds lead, chose not to pit when the racing resumed one lap later.
Hamilton pitted on lap 26, and came out in fourth, setting some fast lap times. But Hamilton’s tires were beginning to blister from the high track temperatures, and along with a power unit problem, retired from the race on lap 64. Red Bull were down to one car when Daniel Ricciardo pulled off the track at turn two with like Bottas, gearbox issues. Verstappen was well ahead with 10 laps to go, but decided to look after his tires, and cruised the last ten laps, while the two Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel increased their pace. But luck was on the Dutchman’s side, and Verstappen just came through with his fourth win of his career, by just under two seconds over Raikkonen.
The American Haas F1 Team had their best finish in their 50-race history, placing Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, in fourth and fifth, respectively. Force India had their drivers place in sixth and seventh, courtesy of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, while Fernando Alonso made a great recovery from starting in the pit lane to take eighth. Sauber made it the third team on this day to earn double points, finishing Charles LeClerc in ninth and Marcus Ericsson in tenth.
The win now puts Verstappen in fifth place in the championship, ahead of his teammate Ricciardo. This was something that the Dutchman has hoping for.
“I need to catch up with the points, so today was definitely a very good day for me and I just hope we can continue like this.” Verstappen concluded.