F1: Red Bull's Verstappen gets in shape for new season
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Max Verstappen has put a whole race win in front of him and his closest title rival Lewis Hamilton in the driver’s standings as he extended his lead to a massive 32 points thanks to victory at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Verstappen, who started on pole position, had a rather lonely race as he crossed the line 18 seconds ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Lando Norris in third for McLaren.
The home crowd was heard roaring on the Dutchman as he crossed the line to pick up his third win in a row, with an F1 race hosting a full capacity crowd for the first time since the pandemic began.
“Incredible to be honest… the car was on rails,” said Verstappen. “Every tyre set we put on it was really enjoyable to drive, Pretty insane.
“I’m a bit amazed today how today went, I didn’t expect it to be like this.
“Incredible job by everyone to deliver something like this.
“When you go into the weekend everyone sees you as the favourite but it’s never easy to actually deliver what we did today. A great effort by the whole team and the whole package.
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“These two weeks especially here have been incredible, I had to be awake at the start. I had a little bit of a gap. I knew if I could go fast on lap one and the restart, I could do my own race. You always have to do that first. Today has been incredible.”
The grandstands were full of Verstappen fans dressed in orange supporting the 23-year-old at Red Bull’s home circuit.
And the Dutchman said it gave him extra encouragement to win.
“It was insane today to see all the fans here, there’s so much orange it’s just incredible,” added Verstappen.
“It’s a great motivation. Especially the last lap and the in-lap, there was a lot of orange all over the track, thank you very much for coming.”
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Hamilton found himself behind Valtteri Bottas meanwhile after the seven-time world champion struggled on track due to damage on his W12.
The Briton finished off the podium in fourth place, after reporting he was struggling for pace with performance loss at the rear of his car.
Bottas was told he was “free to race” Hamilton for second place, before the team asked for a switch of drivers, despite Hamilton sitting second in the driver’s standings.
The Finn swept past his team-mate, followed by Norris in the Mclaren, as Hamilton pitted from fourth for a new set of hard tires, eventually finishing fourth on the track.
It meant that Red Bull were only able to extend their lead in the team standings to 44 points.
“For me personally, one place better than last weekend and I started from fifth,” explained Bottas.
“As a team, we got some decent points considering the gap we had to Red Bull in terms of pure pace.
“For me, it’s nice to be on the podium again in second place. I think it was the maximum we could get today.”
Norris, meanwhile, came back from a five-second time penalty to finish one place behind where he qualified ahead of the race on Sunday.
The Brit sealed his fourth McLaren podium of his career by finishing behind only Verstappen and Bottas.
“I want to say a big thanks to everyone, all the fans,” Norris said.
“It was a lot of fun, a good race – It was exciting but I’m disappointed because we should have been second place.
“I thought lap one was just racing really. He tried to go round the outside which was a bit stupid.
“He ran off the track himself, I didn’t even push him, I don’t know, I’m frustrated but I’m also happy with P3.
“We had very good pace and I’m happy.”
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