SPIELBERG – Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen dominated the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday to win back-to-back races for the first time in his career.
With a good start from pole position, the Red Bull driver denied Lewis Hamilton an early attack and he remained in the lead throughout the race, beating rival Mercedes by more than 35 seconds.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third ahead of Sergio Perez as Red Bull and Mercedes occupied the top four places for the second time in a row.
“The car was on fire,” Verstappen said on team radio after crossing the finish line.
Verstappen won Hamilton a few tenths in most laps and was already more than three seconds ahead of Hamilton after 10 laps.
“I immediately felt a good balance in the car,” he said. “It was good to manage the tires from the start. We just kept going, trying to hit our lap times and it worked really well today. “
It was Verstappen’s 14th career victory and fourth of the season, bringing his lead over the seven-time world champion in the drivers’ standings to 18 points after eight races. A race victory is worth 25 points.
Having no chance of overtaking Verstappen, Hamilton again pitted on the penultimate lap and managed to beat Perez’s fastest time at that point, earning him a point. bonus although Verstappen’s deficit increased to over half a minute.
“It was a bit of a lonely race, really. I was trying to keep up with these guys, but the speed they have… They’ve obviously made some big improvements over the last couple of races, ”said Hamilton. “It was impossible to follow. I don’t know where we are wasting all this time.
Losing 0.25 seconds to Verstappen in the straights left Hamilton with few options. He pushed and cut the deficit on some laps, but then had to be more careful on others to protect his tires from overheating.
Racing at their home track in the Austrian Alps, Red Bull extended their winning streak to four races, as Hamilton’s expectation for his 99th career win reached the seven-week mark.
The last time Hamilton failed to achieve a victory in four consecutive races was over three years ago, covering the last three races of 2017 and the first three of the following season.
Red Bull squandered a potential 1-3 with a slow pitstop for Perez, which lasted nearly five seconds due to a problem with the left rear tire.
Williams driver George Russell, who is a Mercedes candidate from 2022 if Bottas were to leave the team, had to retire after two-thirds of the race due to an engine problem.
The Austrian GP on the same track is scheduled for next Sunday.
More AP auto races: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.