It looks like there’s no stopping Max Verstappen this season in Formula One as the Red Bull driver cruised to victory in the Austrian Grand Prix.
Sunday was the 23-year-old Dutch driver’s third successive grand prix win following his French and Styrian GP victories as Verstappen extended his lead over world champion Lewis Hamilton in the world drivers’ standings.
Hamilton finished way back in fourth, with his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas taking second, while Lando Norris clinched an impressive third despite being penalized for forcing Sergio Perez off the track.
After nine races of the 2021 season, Verstappen has accumulated 182 points, 32 more than Hamilton.
“Incredible to be honest, the car was unreal,” said Verstappen, who led from start to finish – just as he had done at the Styrian GP.
“On every tyre set we put on, it was really enjoyable to drive. A great effort by the whole team. These two weeks here have been incredible.”
After running over exit kerbs, Hamilton suffered damage to his car, but of far greater worry to the 36-year-old Briton is the dominance of Verstappen’s Red Bull car.
“We’re miles away from them [Red Bull],” Hamilton told the F1 website. “They’ve brought a lot of upgrades and we haven’t so we’ve got to bring some.
“I already said before the race that it would be hard to beat Max. But it’s very frustrating to lose so much downforce at the rear and lose second today.
“I wasn’t driving over the kerb any more than anyone else. [Without the damage] I would have been second, it would have been an easy second today.”
However, Mercedes CEO and Team Principal Toto Wolff delivered a more upbeat assessment, declaring: “This one isn’t over.”
“The damage was done on the outside of Turn 10, [Hamilton] wasn’t running particularly hard on the kerb so we need to find out why that happened,” Wolff told the F1 website.
“We could see the improvement from last week to here was actually understanding the car a little bit, we are going to progress and be in the race again.”
The next F1 race is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 18.
“Mercedes have been so strong at Silverstone for years, so they will be mighty there. And the sprint race as well, there’ll be a different dynamic,” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner told the F1 website, referring to the new sprint qualifying format.
“But if we carry this momentum into Silverstone, there’s nothing to fear.”
Silverstone will be the first of three races this season to feature the sprint qualifying format.
Run over 100 kilometers during grand prix weekends, sprint qualifying will give the winner three points down to one point for third.
The new format will be also be used at the Italian Grand Prix and the Brazilian Grand Prix later in 2021.