F1: Verstappen takes commanding Styrian GP win on Red Bull home soil
Updated: Jun 28, 2021
Red Bull's extraordinary win streak continues in the first of two races round the Red Bull Ring as Championship Leader Max Verstappen gave his team victory on home soil as the Dutchman took a commanding win ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton.
After securing his second back-to-back Pole Position to give Red Bull their best start at their home race, Max Verstappen kept the lead heading into the first corner after sharing the front-row with title rival Lewis Hamilton. Behind the top two, their team-mates, Sergio Perez and Valterri Bottas were locked in combat with McLaren's Lando Norris who brillantly disrupted the status quo.
RACE START: The top half of the top ten escaped the first few corners without incident but that couldn't be said for Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc behind
Starting from third, Norris battled Perez at the start but managed to muscle his McLaren ahead of the superior Red Bull. As Verstappen and Hamilton broke away, Norris kept Perez at bay until the Brit allowed the Mexican through to run his own race. Bottas was next and right under the rear wing of the McLaren driver and he eased through to run fourth.
McLaren faced a dilemma heading into the race; Norris had qualified an excellent fourth but was promoted to third after Bottas's grid penalty. The team's main battle is with old-time rival Ferrari who under-performed in qualifying so McLaren's aim was to gain as many points as they could.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY: Norris is still the only driver this season to have finished all eight races in the points with seven of them being top five finishes
Trading fastest laps, the top two were easily the class the of the field and in no time at all, they had a pit-stop buffer to their team-mates running behind.
Suffering some heavy degradation on his Soft tyres, Perez blinked first but his Red Bull pit-crew weren't up to scratch. His left-rear tyre was slow to come off which led to a three second pit-stop. He trundled out of the pits and now Mercedes urged Bottas to push. Despite being on the Medium tyre, the slow stop for Perez had allowed the Finn to close the gap. Diving into the pits, Bottas pitted on his marks, exited after a good stop and the move was made as he came out on track ahead.
A few laps later, Hamilton dived into the pits but with a gap of nearly four seconds back from Verstappen, the power of the undercut was not going to be enough for the Brit to leapfrog his rival. Covering off Hamilton's stop, Verstappen reacted and pitted. The Dutchman appeared ahead and his lead had been maintained.
Verstappen's lead slowly increased by each lap as on the Mercedes pit wall, Hamilton was being told to kepep his tyres in check as this was a crucial stage if the Brit wanted to go to the end of the race. A two-stop race was debated, but with the tyre wear round the Red Bull Ring being so low, a two-stop wouldn't have been benefical enough.
Perez kept Bottas within touching distance as Norris held fifth. A resurgent Carlos Sainz Jr stayed out longer and was able to jump the likes of Alpine's Fernando Alonso and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda. Sainz had overtaken Aston Martin's Lance Stroll for sixth and now his next target was his former McLaren team-mate in fifth.
Also on the move was Sainz's team-mate, Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver sustained front wing damage at the start of the race after making contact with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly. Gasly was forced to retire with broken suspension meaning his rookie team-mate, Tsunoda, was running solo.
Pitting onto the Hard tyre, Leclerc made his way through the pack, overtaking the Haas's and the Alfa Romeo pair of Antonio Giovianzzi and Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen was left unimpressed with the Ferrari's overtake as into the braking zone of Turn 4, Leclerc swiped infront of the Alfa Romeo and a piece of the Finn's front wing was dislodged.
RECOVERING WELL: Despite pitting on the opening lap and running last, Leclerc showcased Ferrari's superb race pace to finish inside the points
Upfront, there was slight concern on the Red Bull pit wall when Verstappen radioed in with an issue with his brake-by-wire. The issue would be managed if the Dutchman kept off the kerbs at Turns 9 and 10. However, this did not phase the championship leader as his lead continued to grow.
If Mercedes weren't brave enough to do a two-stop, Red Bull were. Perez pitted in the hope of taking the fastest lap and springing a surprise on Bottas come the end of the race. It would be close as the gap of 18 seconds started to fall as Bottas started to hit lapped drivers.
Managing his pace, Verstappen's gap was extending and it had broken the 10 second barrier as Hamilton asked for an update. The response was simple, he was going to the end and praying that Verstappen's tyres would significantly degrade.
On the penulimate lap, Hamilton pitted in the aim of re-taking the fastest lap back from Perez. With enough of a gap to team-mate Bottas behind, the Brit reappeared on the Soft tyre and had one final shot of securing an extra point.
Bottas now had Perez behind him for a second time this race who had closed the gap and was now within striking distance as they headed onto the final lap.
As Verstappen rounded the final corner, he slowed as he came up to the finish line and with a margin of 35 seconds, he treated his team on the pit wall and the fans watching from the stands to a burn-out as he took a very commanding win.
FOUR ON THE BOUNCE: Red Bull have now taken victory in the last four races with both of their drivers reaching the top step; they now hold a 40 point lead in the championship
Some 35 seconds behind, Hamilton had done enough to snatch the fastest lap of the race back from Perez to cross the line in second.
Switching to the battle for third, Perez was just too far behind to launch a challenge into Turn 3. He got closer as they headed round the end of the lap but there was no space and Bottas positioned his car perfectly. As they crossed the line, they were less than half a second apart.
WINNING FEELING: For a fourth time in eight races, Verstappen crossed the line first and it now means he has one more victory than his title rival this season
For the seventeenth time, Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas all made appearances on the podium to extend the record of the trio.
A second back-to-back win meant that a fourteenth career victory and 49th podium was his. His lead in the championship increased over Hamilton to 18 points.
For Bottas, being back on the podium is a welcome feeling with the Finn last appearing in the top three since the Spanish GP on the 9th of May. Although he is yet to finish higher than third, this will hopefully give him a confidence boost as he aims to try and fight back and get amongst the title fight.
All Verstappen has to do next weekend, is repeat the process as F1 returns to the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian GP.