Max Verstappen took his first victory of the season and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s first ever victory at the Red Bull Ring as the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team suffered a double retirement.
The Dutchman capitalised on a mistake in strategy from Mercedes to take over the lead from Lewis Hamilton, and despite a blistered tyre, one of many across the grid to suffer the same fate, he was able to close out for the victory, the fourth of his career.
Scuderia Ferrari finished second and third, Kimi Räikkönen ahead of Sebastian Vettel, while there was joy for the Haas F1 Team, with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finishing fourth and fifth, the best ever result for the youngest team on the Formula 1 grid.
More bad luck for Bottas
Hamilton managed to take the lead into turn one, holding off the charging Räikkönen, with both getting inside of pole sitter Valtteri Bottas. Räikkönen then got a run on the new race leader heading into turn three but ran out wide, allowing Verstappen to attack him on the following straight, but as the Finn tried to defend from the Dutchman, the delay as the two ran side by side saw Bottas able to reclaim second place heading into turn four.
Further around the lap, Verstappen tapped the left rear wheel of Räikkönen at turn seven and upset the Finn enough to take over third position, with the Ferrari driver then coming under attack from the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
Lap twelve saw the demise of Nico Hülkenberg, who saw his chances of a points finish disappear in a puff of smoke as the engine in the back of his R.S.18 let go exiting the final turn. He managed to get the car off the track in the run off at turn one, but the Renault Sport Formula One Team driver became the race’s first retirement, with the stoppage also his third Did Not Finish of the season.
Unfortunately for Bottas, his race was also over just two laps later when he lost hydraulics and the gearbox on his W09, the problem seeing him slow on the run down to turn four, with his stoppage causing a virtual safety car to be deployed.
Verstappen, Räikkönen, Ricciardo and Vettel all pitted under the VSC, both Red Bull and Ferrari double stacking their cars, but Hamilton stayed out, much to his chagrin, meaning that when he made his pit stop on lap twenty-five, he fell down to fourth, with the Dutchman inheriting the lead to the delight of the thousands of Dutch fans that had made the trek to the circuit this weekend.
Tyre Concerns and High-Profile Casualties
Having made a great move for third, Ricciardo began to struggle with his rear soft compound tyres, and on lap thirty-eight, he found himself re-passed by Räikkönen on the run down to turn four, with the Australian then pitting to switch to the Supersoft at the end of the lap.
Lap thirty-nine saw Vettel pass Hamilton into turn three, with the German getting a good run exiting turn one and edging ahead of his championship rival. Hamilton found his left rear tyre beginning to blister, just as Ricciardo was suffering with, while race strategist James Vowles was heard over the radio apologising to the Briton for the decision to pit behind the VSC that saw him lose track position.
Hamilton was forced to pit a second time as the blisters became too much for him, and the Briton re-joined behind Ricciardo, but the Australian was out of the race a lap later after a puff of smoke exited the back of his RB14 at turn four. The Red Bull driver pulled over, complaining about the gearbox, on the main straight as Hamilton took fourth back.
It was a bad couple of laps for the Red Bull family, with Brendon Hartley’s tough weekend ending with a mechanical gremlin of his own approaching the final turns. He managed to re-join the circuit but at reduced speed, and then pulled over to retire at turn two. He had yet to make his pit stop and was running eleventh behind Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda team-mate Pierre Gasly when the problem struck.
Hamilton’s race was over on lap sixty-three when he joined team-mate Bottas in retirement, pulling off the track with another mechanical problem, meaning Mercedes suffered their first double retirement since the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, and the first double retirement in the Hybrid era caused by mechanical issues.
Conservation on the Run to the Flag
Despite blisters on his tyres, Verstappen was able to pace the field, and despite the lap record tumbling as Räikkönen attacked for the victory, the Dutchman was able to hold on by 1.504 seconds, while Vettel moved back into the championship lead with the final spot on the podium. The result also saw Ferrari jump Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship heading into next weekend’s British Grand Prix.
The jubilation was not reserved just for those on the podium, as the Haas team took their best ever results in Formula 1, with Grosjean finally scoring his first points of the season at the ninth time of asking. In his three years with the team, he has scored good points at the Red Bull Ring, but this was his best result since joining the team in 2016, which will give him a huge boost to his confidence.
Team-mate Magnussen confirmed Haas as the best of the rest with fifth, with the twenty-two points earned moving the team up to fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship, jumping ahead of both the McLaren F1 Team and Sahara Force India F1 Team at the same time.
Esteban Ocon was classified sixth for Force India after team-mate Sergio Pérez allowed him to re-pass him on the final lap after the Mexican was allowed through originally to try and catch and pass Magnussen, but with the Dane unruffled and untroubled ahead of the two pink cars, the positions switched back again on the final tour.
Fernando Alonso managed to claim eighth place for McLaren despite running at the very back of the field early on, remnants of his pit lane start following his front wing change ahead of the race that broke parc ferme regulations. The Spaniard found the pace when it mattered to jump ahead of his rivals to score his first points since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
Another team that will be celebrating will be Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, who saw both Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson secure points. Much like what happened at Force India, Leclerc allowed Ericsson to overtake him so the Swede could attack Alonso across the final laps, but when it was clear the Spaniard was out of reach, the positions switched back again, but it gave Sauber their first two-car points finish since the Chinese Grand Prix of 2015!
Gasly had been running eighth for Toro Rosso but lost out to both Sauber drivers in the closing stages to finish eleventh, while Carlos Sainz Jr. had his worst result of the season for Renault, finishing twelfth, with his race starting with a reprimand for a first lap tussle with Ocon.
The two Williams Martini Racing drivers threatened the top ten in the early laps as the pit stops unfolded, but neither Lance Stroll or Sergey Sirotkin were genuine contenders for points, with both finishing two laps down to race winner Verstappen in thirteenth and fourteenth.
Stoffel Vandoorne was the last of those classified, having been forced into a first lap pit stop after breaking his front wing at turn three against the rear wheel of Gasly’s Toro Rosso. The stewards decided there were no need for an investigation, but the pit stop for the Belgian, coupled with a delay in getting away, left him almost a lap behind after just a couple of laps, and by lap five he was down a lap to the race leader. With him being unable to get anywhere near any of his rivals, he pulled into the pits with a handful of laps to go to retire, but was still classified fifteenth.
A mechanical problem for a Mercedes is a rare occurrence in Formula 1, but to see both Bottas but more importantly Hamilton retire with issues will be a concern to the German marquee, particularly as it is only race two of their new specification power unit. With a front row lock out, the team had already shot themselves in the foot with their strategy calls under the Virtual Safety Car, but ultimately that meant nothing as Hamilton’s car gave up on him.
Vettel inherits the championship lead as a result of his third place and Hamilton’s retirement, but he will be left rueing the grid penalty he suffered on Saturday for baulking Sainz during Qualifying that saw him start sixth as opposed to third. He was forced to battle with drivers from Haas and Renault in the opening laps that left him unable to be in a position to fight with his team-mate for second when it mattered. Those three points could mean a lot come the end of the season.
Verstappen’s victory means he moves up ahead of the unfortunate Bottas into fifth place in the championship standings, just three points behind team-mate Ricciardo, and with three consecutive podium finishes for the first time in his Formula 1 career, the momentum within the Milton Keynes-based team has seemingly swung to the Dutchman, not particularly great timing for the Australian as he bids to lock down his Formula 1 future.
Talking of futures, Grosjean should now have less pressure on his after a starring role in Austria, while Haas can be positive now they have taken the big result that should have come in the opening race of the season where both the Frenchman and team-mate Magnussen both retired whilst running inside the top six due to failed pit stops.
Austrian Grand Prix Race Result
[table id=3167 /]