Max Verstappen wins Austrian Grand Prix, increasing the gap with Lewis Hamilton
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Max Verstappen wins Austrian Grand Prix, increasing the gap with Lewis Hamilton

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Max Verstappen (Red Bull Honda) won the Austrian Grand Prix, the ninth stage of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship season, on Sunday.

The Dutch pilot won easily, reaching the finish ahead of Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and Lando Norris (McClaren), with title rival Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) in fourth place.

Verstappen also won the bonus point for the best lap time (1:06.200).

The event began without major incident, with the hierarchy of the qualifications confirmed after the first laps. However, Esteban Ocon (Alpine) pulled out during the inaugural lap after a brush with an Alfa Romeo, forcing the safety car to come onto the track.

Shortly after the safety car left, Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) drove onto the exit kerb after trying to overtake Lando Norris on a turn. The Mexican pilot, who was then in third place, dropped to 10th. The two Mercedes drivers, Hamilton and Bottas, were closing in at the time on Lando Norris. The Finn lost a bit of ground, which left the Mercedes leader to fight it out with Norris.
Their tussle benefitted championship leader Verstappen, who shot forward, already three seconds’ ahead of Norris after seven laps, with the Dutch pilot consistently bettering his own lap record.

At the 20th lap, Lando Norris learned that he had been hit with a five-second penalty for his manoeuvre on Perez. This led him to stop trying to contain Hamilton, who moved up into second place, a few seconds behind Verstappen.

Norris served out his penalty at the first tyre change, which benefitted Valtteri Bottas, who also stopped at the stand, and who regained his third-place slot. Hamilton, and then Verstappen, also had their tyres hardened, with no change in their respective places as they emerged from the stands.

By mid-race, the Dutch pilot had a 14-second advance on Hamilton.

At the 42nd lap, Sergio Pérez received two five-second penalties for cutting in twice on Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton then had a technical issue on the flat bottom of his single-seater, which allowed team-mate Bottas and Lando Norris to catch up with him, and both men easily passed the British champion. The placings at the head of the race remained this way until the end of the 71st lap.

The gap between the leaders has now widened, with Max Verstappen 32 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The Brussels Times