Max scored a 2021 Red Bull Ring double and the first grand slam of his career thanks to a dominant Austrian Grand Prix win that saw the Red Bull driver lead every one of the 71 laps from pole, to take victory and the extra point on offer for fastest lap.
The Dutchman was faultless throughout, and after maintaining the lead at the start and managing a restart following a short safety car period due to Alpine’s Esteban Ocon’s lap one crash, Max effortlessly controlled the following 68 laps to finish almost 18 seconds ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris. Nursing a damaged car, Lewis Hamilton finished in P4.
It was a more difficult afternoon for Checo though however, he incurred two five-second penalties as a result of separate collisions with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and finished in sixth. The Mexican missed out on P5 by just 0.7s after he narrowly failed to stretch a 10-second gap to the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz in the closing stages.
When the lights went out, Max made a good start to maintain his lead from pole position, ahead of Norris and Checo who made a good start from third place on the grid.
The race was soon neutralised, however, when Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was hit by the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and the Frenchman pulled over off track on the run down to turn four. The Safety Car was immediately deployed.
When racing resumed at the start of lap four, Checo piled the pressure on Norris and attacked as they went down to turn four. The Mexican tried a bold move around the outside of the McLaren, but as Norris held his line, Checo was forced off into the gravel and he dropped to P10 behind the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.
The soft tyre starters then began to pit. That boosted Sergio back up the order and on lap 20 he found himself in P7 behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and within DRS range of the Ferrari. At the front, Max was 8.6s ahead of Norris, but then the McLaren driver was hit with a five-second penalty for causing the collision with Checo. His pain was increased when moments later he was passed by Hamilton.
The Mercedes driver’s move past Norris made little immediate impact on Max’s march, however, and by lap 24 the Red Bull driver was 10.2 seconds clear of his title rival.
Norris and Bottas sparked a round of pit stops for the leaders on lap 31 and during his stop Norris served his five-second penalty. That allowed Bottas to exit the pit lane ahead of him, in third place.
Hamilton was the next to pit, on lap 32. On the following lap, Max made his switch to hard tyres and when the order shook out, Max found himself more than 13 seconds ahead of the Mercedes driver.
Checo made his first stop on lap 34, attempting to undercut Leclerc, and despite a slow stop caused by a problem with his front left wheel, Checo was able to find the pace on his out laps to steal the place from Leclerc when the Ferrari driver pitted on lap 35.
Wedged between Ricciardo and Leclerc, Sergio tried to reel in the McLaren even as Leclerc put the pressure on from behind. On lap 41 Leclerc attacked, around the outside in turn four, and the Ferrari and Red Bull made contact. Leclerc went off track but re-joined and Checo was swiftly handed a five-second time penalty for forcing another driver off track.
The battle between the two flared again on lap 46. Leclerc once again got into DRS range and attacked into turn four. This time the battle continued through the following corner, but in turn six Checo held a wide line and Leclerc was forced off track a second time. The Mexican soon received another second five-second penalty.
Hamilton began to report that he was struggling with damage to his Mercedes and with Norris once again looking competitive in P4, Mercedes opted to allow third-placed Bottas to pass his teammate. Hamilton then fell back towards Norris and on lap 53 the young McLaren driver powered past the Mercedes man in turn six. Hamilton then pitted to take on another set of hard tyres.
At the front, Max had an almost 30-second advantage over Bottas and the Team took the precaution of pitting him for another set of hard tyres.
He emerged with more than seven seconds in hand over Bottas and on lap 62 he then grabbed the fastest lap of the race and an extra point with a time of 1:06.200.
From there it was a cruise to the flag for Max and after 71 laps he grabbed his 15th career win and the Team’s 70th F1 victory.
Behind him Bottas took second, while Norris scored the fourth podium finish of his career. Hamilton had to settle for fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who managed to pass Leclerc.
With two five-second penalties to take at the flag, Checo needed to eke out a 10-second advantage over the sixth-placed driver, but as Sainz rose through the order with pace, Checo ended up missing out by just 0.7s and had to settle for sixth.
With Ricciardo seventh and Leclerc eighth respectively, ninth place went to Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly. The final point on offer went to Alpine’s Fernando Alonso after he came out on top of an enthralling battle that denied Williams’ George Russell a first F1 point.
Max’s fifth win of the season and his fastest lap mean he has 182 points and leads the Driver’s Championship by 32 points from Hamilton. Checo holds onto third place on 104 point, just three clear of Norris. In the Constructors’ Championship, the Team has 286 points, 44 clear of Mercedes.
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