Max took a stunning second consecutive Austrian Grand Prix victory, overcoming a troubled start to rise from seventh at the end of lap one to first at the flag thanks to incredible pace and a series of brilliant trademark overtaking moves in the closing stages of the race. Pierre added to the team’s home race points haul with a battling drive to seventh place.
Max’s march to his sixth career win, the Team’s 60thand the first for power unit partner Honda in 13 years didn’t get off to the easiest of starts however.
When the lights went out the Dutchman’s RB15 bogged down and he was immediately swamped by the cars around him on the grid. As polesitter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari powered away in the lead ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, Max dropped to P7, just ahead of Pierre.
In the opening laps Max found himself behind the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel who was chasing down the McLaren of Lando Norris. Both Max and Vettel got past the McLaren with relative ease and within a handful of laps they had also passed Alfa’s Kimi Räikkönen who had made good early progress from P6 on the grid.
After a dozen laps, Leclerc was a healthy three seconds ahead of Bottas, with Hamilton a further 2.7 seconds back in third. Vettel was now fourth, 4.5s behind Hamilton, while Max was a similar distance behind Vettel. Pierre, meanwhile, was still pushing to get past Norris who was battling Räikkönen for sixth place.
Ahead of the first round of pit stops Leclerc had built an almost five-second advantage over Bottas, who triggered what would be for most of the leading pack a single pit stop.
Bottas made a clean stop but there was no such luck for Vettel. The Ferrari driver’s crew were not ready with a set of hard tyres and the German was forced to sit stationary for six seconds as a front left wheel was located and fitted.
Leclerc made his stop at the end of the following lap and he emerged in P3 behind new leader Hamilton and Max.
Hamilton was now suffering with degradation to his opening medium tyres and as Max closed an eight-second gap to just over five seconds, the Mercedes driver pushed too hard and damaged his front wing. At the end of lap 30 he pitted for hard tyres and a new wing.
The stop saw Hamilton stand still in his pit box for 11 seconds. The Team wisely responded and brought Max in for a set of hard tyres and he emerged four seconds clear of Hamilton, in fourth place.
And it was then, with hard tyres on board, that the race began to come to Max.
The Dutch ace quickly began to close up to third-placed Vettel, banging in a sequence of fastest laps as he did so. And on lap 47 he closed to within DRS range of the Ferrari driver.
The slower Vettel initially offered clever and well-placed resistance but there was no denying Max and, on lap 50, after closing up under DRS on the approach to turn 3, the Dutchman simply powered around the outside of the Ferrari on entry to turn 4 to take third place.
Max now had Bottas in his sights and with pace in abundance he quickly closed to within DRS range of the Finn, who was now 4.4s behind leader Leclerc. And on lap 56 Max moved into second place, dismissing Bottas effortlessly with a move down the inside into turn 3 under DRS. Leclerc was now just five seconds up the road.
With 10 laps to go Max was just 3.8 seconds behind the race leader and five laps later the Red Bull driver arrived on the Ferrari’s gearbox.
What followed was a titanic battle between the two 21-year-old stars. With four laps remaining Max attempted to pass down the inside of the Ferrari and appeared to have the position but Leclerc fought back, regaining top spot as the pair went side-by-side on the run to turn 4, where Max attacked again.
Leclerc defended well but again Max was not to be denied. On the next lap he tried another move down the inside into turn 3. This time the pair went alongside each other in the corner and banged wheels. Leclerc went wide on the exit of the corner and Max was through.
Max them powered away from the Ferrari driver to take a remarkable victory ahead of Leclerc and Bottas. Max’s perfect afternoon was added to with an extra point for fastest lap, a 1:07.475, set on lap 60. Max’s overtaking move on Leclerc was put under investigation by the stewards, but it was eventually judged to have been fair and Max’s win stood.
Vettel had also been on the move during the closing stages and he passed Hamilton to take a solid fourth place after starting from P9. Hamilton was left with fifth place ahead of Norris and Pierre crossed the line in P7 to score his seventh points finish of the season to date. Eighth place was taken by Carlos Sainz who finished ahead of the Alfa Romeo cars of Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
OUR RACE IN NUMBERS:
6 – Career grand prix victories for Max.
60 – Wins in Formula One for the Team and our first since Max’s win in Mexico last year.
13 –Years since Honda’s last Formula One win, at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
5 –Career fastest laps for Max and his first of the season.
Austrian Grand Prix - Race Result Top 10:
1. MAX VERSTAPPEN
2. Charles Leclerc
3. Valtteri Bottas
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Lewis Hamilton
6. Lando Norris
7. PIERRE GASLY
8. Carlos Sainz
9. Kimi Räikkönen
10. Antonio Giovinazzi