Mercedes endured a nightmare afternoon as both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas retired from the Austrian Grand Prix, allowing Sebastian Vettel to take the lead in the drivers’ standings.
Max Verstappen delivered a home victory for Red Bull but it is the race’s significance in the context of the championship battle that will dominate the headlines.
It was a frustrating outing throughout for Hamilton. After Bottas retired with a hydraulic problem 15 laps in, Mercedes were forced to apologise for opting against pitting the Briton under the Virtual Safety Car – a decision that ultimately cost him the lead.
When Hamilton did eventually stop, he emerged ahead of fifth-placed Vettel but was soon overtaken by his championship rival, before falling victim to the blistering issues that affected several drivers during Sunday’s race.
After stopping for another set of fresh tyres, Hamilton suffered a loss of power, pulling over to retire from a race for the first time since Malaysia in 2016.
Verstappen, whose team-mate Daniel Ricciardo dropped out with a “loss of gear sync”, held off the Ferraris in the closing laps to claim his first win of the season in front of banks filled with thousands of Dutch fans.
Despite running with Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel in second and third respectively, Ferrari opted against switching their drivers, leaving Vettel with a slender one-point lead over Hamilton in the championship.
Romain Grosjean finished fourth for his first points of the season, ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen, with Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson completing the top 10.
Win number four for Max
And Red Bull’s first triumph on home turf #AustrianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/xvBfmYpIws
— Formula 1 (@F1) 1 July 2018
NO-SWAP COULD PROVE COSTLY
There is no doubting that swapping drivers in the closing stages of a race has been an unpopular move over the years.
Who can forget Rubens Barrichello making way for Michael Schumacher to win this race in 2002 – a move that was branded a “disgrace”.
Team orders have since been made legal in F1 and this was surely a scenario where they could have been put to good use.
Second place would only have increased Vettel’s haul by three points but we will only know how valuable they could have been come the end of the season.
MERCEDES DOUBLE DNF BRINGS BACK BAD MEMORIES
Mercedes’ double retirement was their first since the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, when Hamilton and eventual champion Nico Rosberg took each other out on the first lap.
The race also brings to an end a 22-race streak for the team having at least one driver on the podium, as well as a 33-race points-scoring streak for Hamilton – the longest such run in F1 history.
Second- and third-place finishes for Ferrari see them go 10 points clear of Mercedes in the constructors’ standings.
THREE, TWO, ONE
After coming in for his fair share of criticism this season, Verstappen is beginning to redeem himself with recent results.
His reckless driving made him an unpopular figure earlier in the campaign, as onlookers longed for a return to the exciting form with which he burst onto the scene a few years ago.
After finishing third in Canada and second in France, this first win of 2018 lifts Verstappen to fifth in the drivers’ standings, just three points short of team-mate Ricciardo.
The Australian’s future will again come into focus following a third retirement of the season.
It’s the same podium line-up as Max’s first win, Spain 2016
Coincidentally, that was the last time Mercedes scored a double-DNF #AustrianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/iaJyue7HQd
— Formula 1 (@F1) 1 July 2018
IN THE POINTS
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +1.504 seconds
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +3.181
4. Romain Grosjean (Haas) +1 lap
5. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1 lap
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 lap
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 lap
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 lap
9. Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +1 lap
10. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1 lap
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 146
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 145 (-1)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 101 (-45)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 96 (-50)
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 93 (-53)
1. Ferrari 247
2. Mercedes 237 (-10)
3. Red Bull 189 (-58)
4. Renault 62 (-185)
5. Haas 49 (-198)
Lewis Hamilton will not need any added motivation to bounce back at the next race – his home grand prix at Silverstone next weekend.