Dominant Verstappen Driving – and Sounding – Like a Champion | Sports activities Information
By JEROME PUGMIRE, author of AP Auto Racing
SPIELBERG, Austria (dpa) – Max Verstappen drives as dominantly as Lewis Hamilton for so long.
And he’s even starting to sound like him.
“When you go into the weekend and everyone sees you as a favorite, it’s not easy to deliver,” said Verstappen after his fifth win of the season at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
He extended his lead in the Formula 1 championship to 32 points over Hamilton. He leads the defending champions 5-3 for wins; 5-2 in pole position.
“I enjoy it, but I’m very focused for the rest of the season,” said the 23-year-old Verstappen after his 15th career win and 50th podium. “It’s still a very long time.”
Hamilton dropped from second to fourth late after going too far in a corner and rolling over a curb and damaging the floor of his car.
“Of course it’s frustrating to lose so much downforce at the rear of the car and not be able to keep second place,” said Hamilton. “Lost a lot of points today.”
Disappointment for Hamilton, who has not won for two months, exhilaration for the Dutchman Verstappen in front of his enthusiastic fans in the orange shirt after another clinical trip.
“I’m a little amazed at how it went today,” he said. “The car was on rails.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished second ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, who took his fourth career podium on the same track where he finished first last year.
The top three finish in 2020 made Norris the youngest British rider on a podium and the third youngest overall behind Lance Stroll and Verstappen. The extremely consistent Norris is the only driver to have scored points in every race this season.
He could have finished second but was given a five-second time penalty on lap 1 due to an incident with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
“It was exciting. I’m disappointed because we should have finished second,” said Norris. “We had a good pace. It’s nice to know that we can be there and race. Hopefully next time we can keep doing what you’re doing.”
Hamilton hasn’t won since the Spanish GP on May 9, a grim streak of five races for the defending champion aiming for an eighth F1 record. Everyone went to Red Bull, Perez took the other one.
This was another devastating achievement for Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring, his team’s home track and with thousands of Dutch fans cheering on his 15th career win. Here, too, he won the Styrian GP last weekend.
“Even better than last week,” said Verstappen. “The car was unreal.”
Verstappen took his third pole in a row on Saturday and came back cleanly to another start-to-finish victory, as Hamilton has done so often.
A great day for him was rounded off with a bonus point for the fastest lap.
Meanwhile, Hamilton is waiting for a 99th Formula 1 victory and is hoping for a turning point at the British GP at Silverstone in two weeks.
Verstappen jumped into the arms of his mechanics and engineers as the legions of his compatriots celebrated in the stands.
“To see so many fans here and so much orange here is just amazing,” he said.
The safety car came on the first lap after an incident with Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, who was trapped in the back between two Haas cars and had to retire with a broken wheel bar.
When the race resumed on lap 4, Verstappen pulled away.
Perez tried to overtake Norris on the outside but was hit by gravel off the track and came in 10th. The incident went to the stewards and Norris was given a time penalty.
Verstappen drove the fastest laps when he cleared while Hamilton was on Norris’ back.
In the Battle of the British – Young Gun Norris vs. Veteran Hamilton – 21-year-old Norris Hamilton held up until the 21st round.
“Such a great driver, Lando,” said an impressed Hamilton on team radio.
Norris’ excellent defensive skills matched Verstappen.
He was now almost 10 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Bottas followed Norris for new tires on lap 31 and Hamilton came a lap later for a quick 2.2-second tire change, with Verstappen switching shortly thereafter.
All changes went smoothly, and so Verstappen’s lead remained at a healthy 14 seconds until the middle of the 71-lap race.
Perez received a five-second penalty for nudging Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and finished sixth behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. Jr.
In Hamilton’s driving style, mistakes creep in, also because Verstappen increases the pressure.
When Hamilton began to lose speed due to his damaged ground, Mercedes traded him with Bottas and then Norris overtook him to move up to third place.
A day to forget for Hamilton, a day to remember for Verstappen.
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