Austrian GP: Verstappen wins as Mercedes self-destructs

Baku, July 2, AZERTAC

Max Verstappen claimed a shock first win of the 2018 Formula 1 season at Red Bull’s home race as Mercedes’ challenge imploded in a dramatic Austrian Grand Prix, according to motorsport.com.

Verstappen headed the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, who stole the championship lead from Lewis Hamilton by one point after Mercedes turned a one-two in qualifying into a double DNF.

Poleman Valtteri Bottas retired with a gearbox problem while a strategy error under the ensuing virtual safety car ruined Hamilton’s race and a loss of fuel pressure consigned him to a late retirement.

Hamilton and Raikkonen jumped Bottas on the run to Turn 1, with the leaders three-wide, before Raikkonen tucked into Hamilton’s slipstream and attacked into Turn 3 but locked up and ran wide.

That allowed Verstappen to challenge him on the run out of the corner but the Dutchman was rebuffed aggressively and Bottas was able to re-pass both on the outside of Turn 4.

Verstappen got inside Raikkonen two corners later and a slight nudge on the Finn’s left-rear wheel pushed him wide and allowed the Red Bull driver to sneak through.

Bottas offered no threat to Hamilton before slowing on lap 14 and retiring on the escape road at Turn 4 with a loss of hydraulic pressure.

That triggered a virtual safety car under which the frontrunners all stopped except for Hamilton, a mistake that Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles came on the radio to apologise for.

Verstappen rejoined from his pitstop 13 seconds behind Hamilton, who ran 10 laps without being able to eke out the gap and eventually stopped.

That dropped him to fourth, handing Verstappen the lead, but Hamilton’s misery continued a few laps later when Vettel forced his way past on the grass on the way up to Turn 3 and aggressively ran Hamilton wide on the entry to corner.

Hamilton was gifted a place back just after mid-distance when Daniel Ricciardo had to pit to change tyres after battling a blistering left-rear.

He gave chase to Vettel after receiving another apology from Vowles over the radio but then had to make his own forced stop for the same reason as Ricciardo on lap 52.

Hamilton’s race lasted just another dozen laps before a loss of fuel pressure forced him off the road at Turn 3 and into retirement on the left-hand side of the circuit on the run down to Turn 4.

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