The dominant performance by Max Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring in Austria was similar to what we’ve come to see from Lewis Hamilton in recent years.
The Dutch driver was simply unstoppable from the practice sessions, through to qualifying and the race to secure Red Bull’s fifth win of the season and completed victory with a massive margin over the Mercedes of Hamilton.
The seven-time world drivers’ champion opted for the soft compound rubber near the end dutifully claiming the fastest lap of the race to add an extra point to his afternoon.
The result in the Styrian Grand Prix saw the energy drink team increase their lead over Mercedes to 40 points. The 23-year-old Dutchman now has a gap of 18 points over Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.
Mercedes finished with two drivers on the podium after Valtteri Bottas expertly held off Sergio Perez in the closing laps of the race.
Toto Wolff, Mercedes team principal told F1.com: “It’s not a bad result, but what’s tough is that it’s been the first race really in eight years where you are just lacking the pace.”
There were good performances from Lando Norris (5th) and Carlos Sainz (6th) for McLaren and Ferrari, respectively.
What to Expect in Austria
The paddock will have a rare opportunity to make amends for their performance last Sunday as the Red Bull Ring hosts this weekend’s race. George Russel in the Williams will hope the team has sorted out its power unit issues that saw him drop from a strong points-scoring position.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was good value for 10th place and finished behind double world champion Fernando Alonso.
Red Bull and Verstappen remain favourites heading into Sunday’s race with the Honda power unit performing at its optimum to provide prodigious straight-line speed, particularly helpful at tracks like the Red Bull Ring.
Looking at the weekend, it’s clear that the gap in qualifying is perhaps too big for Mercedes to close in one week, and Wolff confirmed Mercedes won’t update their power unit ahead of the race.
Red Bull will run Pirelli’s softer compounds for this weekend and that should make them even faster on one of the sport’s fastest tracks.
The only way Mercedes and Hamilton stand a chance is if it rains on Sunday, and with a 90% forecast, it’s probably going to. However, Mercedes relying on the weather in order to be competitive in Grand Prix is something we’d never thought we’d see, especially in the turbo era.