Verstappen wins the Austrian Grand Prix after both Mercedes retire

By T.C. / Photo:  Verstappen takes the win in Austria and Sebastièn Vettel reclaims the leadership of the classification by one point ahead of Hamilton after Mercedes suffers one of its darkest days with the retirement of both its drivers. The tough AustrianGP also saw the withdrawal of Hulkenberg (Renault), Ricciardo (Red Bull), Hartley (Toro Rosso) and Vandoorne ( McLaren).

Not even in his wildest dreams would have Vettel imagined that he was going to take back the lead from Hamilton after a grid penalty sent him back to the sixth starting position. This is the fifth time that the leadership has alternated between the two drivers and, by the look of things, it is not going to be the last. Both Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel finished in second and third position respectively and both Haas drivers, Grosjean and Magnussen in fourth and fifth. Pérez and Ocón from Force India, as well as Leclerc and Ericsson from Sauber, finished in points just as Fernando Alonso who managed an eight position.

A visibly pleased Verstappen climbed up the podium at the Red Bull Ring after an unexpected but well-deserved victory. The Belgian driver executed an impeccable race, showing great pace and control, particularly in the management of his tyres, when most other drivers where suffering blistering problems. This was his fourth victory overall and the first of the year. He also won the honour to be the first Red Bull driver to win in their home circuit. It was, however, not only his skill that took him to the top. In this dramatic and eventful race, the mistakes of his rivals also contributed to his great fortune.

Mercedes’ drama

Pole holder Valtteri Bottas had to retire in lap 14 due to issues with his hydraulic pressure, triggering the chain of events that would lead to his team-mates’ demise. While both drivers from Ferrari and Red Bull took advantage of the virtual safety car to go to boxes, Mercedes’ team, in a fatal miscalculation, decided to keep Hamilton out, where he had the lead. Both Ferraris and Red Bulls came out of boxes 13 seconds behind Hamilton but on fresher tyres.

Hamilton had to pit later on under normal driving conditions coming out in fourth place behind Verstappen, Ricciardo and Raikkonen and right in front of Vettel whom very soon passed him. In an effort to catch up with his rivals, the Briton overworked his tyres and had to pit for a second time.

The race was lost at that point just as James Vowles, Mercedes’ chief strategist, admitted to Hamilton over the radio, acknowledging their mistake and urging their hero to “give them the best he had” but Hamilton could not even control the damage as his car finally stopped on lap 63 after losing pressure in the fuel system.

The German Scuderia is increasingly aware that this type of mistakes can cost them the title, particularly as they are faced with an increasingly strong Ferrari. They have now the task to put themselves together to give it all at Silverstone in a weeks’ time.

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