Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen took a flawless lights-to-flag Styrian Grand Prix victory, beating Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by 35 seconds as Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes car kept hard-charging Sergio Pérez in the second Red Bull at bay in the closing stages to take third place.
At the start of the race, Verstappen made the perfect getaway and he took the lead ahead of Hamilton, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Pérez as the field streamed through Turn 1.
Behind them AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly tangled with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in Turn 1 and as the pair rejoined Leclerc’s front wing tagged the left rear of Gasly’s car. The Frenchman sustained a puncture. Then in Turn 3 he collided with the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi. The collisions left Gasly with heavy damage at the left rear corner of his car and he limped back to the pits to retire as Leclerc also pitted for repairs.
By lap 10 of the short and fast Red Bull Ring Verstappen had managed to eke out a three-second gap to Hamilton, while behind him Pérez was closing on Norris. The Mexican got the job done in Turn 3 of the same lap, diving down the inside of the McLaren driver to steal the podium place. Bottas pulled off a similar move on the McLaren but Pérez’s pace was strong and by lap 15 he had already extended the gap to the Finn to 3.5 seconds.
Pérez was the first of the leaders to make a pit stop. The Mexican headed for the pits on lap 27 but when he stopped on his marks there was a problem with the rear left wheel and he spent a costly 4.8 seconds stationary before being released with a set of new hard tyres.
The delay prompted Mercedes to pit Bottas at the end of the next lap and after a clean switch to hard tyres the Finn rejoined in third place ahead of Pérez.
Hamilton was the next of the leaders in and he too made a good stop of 2.2s as he sought to undercut Max. The Team responded, however, and after a brilliant stop of two seconds dead, the Dutchman rejoined in the lead, over four seconds clear of his championship rival.
Pérez then began to chip away at the gap to Bottas and by lap 42 he was just 2.8s behind the Finn. At the front Verstappen was managing the pace well and the gap to Hamilton remained stable at 4.4s.
At the front, Verstappen slowly but surely began to pull away from Hamilton and on lap 48 the gap had stretched to 6.5 seconds. Pérez, meanwhile, was still trying to find a way past Bottas. He steadily chipped away at the Finn’s advantage and on lap 49 was just 1.6s behind the Mercedes man.
He could find no way past, however, and at the end of lap 55 the Team brought the Mexican into the pits for a new set of medium tyres.
He quickly began to set purple laps and with 10 laps to go had turned a 20s deficit to the Finn to a gap of just 11 seconds. Five laps later and the gap was under six seconds.
With just a few laps remaining, the race to overhaul Bottas was always going to be close and despite a heroic effort in the end Pérez missed out by a tiny margin, crossing the line in fourth place, just 0.5s behind the Finn.
Verstappen was in cruise control at the front of the pack. With 15 seconds in hand over Hamilton in the final stages, Mercedes went into damage limitation mode.
On the penultimate lap Hamilton headed for the pits and took on a set of soft tyres. He claimed the race fastest lap on the final lap and reduced the damage caused by Verstappen to seven points.
After crossing the line 35s ahead of Hamilton to claim Red Bull’s third victory at its home track after Austrian Grand Prix wins in 2018 and 2019, Verstappen now leads the Drivers’ championship on 156 points, 18 ahead of Hamilton. Pérez, in third place, now has 96 points, 10 ahead of Norris.
In the battle for the Constructors’ championship crown Red Bull Racing now have 156 points, 40 ahead of Mercedes.
Behind the top four, Lando Norris took 10 valuable points for McLaren with fifth place. The result keeps McLaren in third in the Constructors’ Championship, on 120 points, 12 clear of Ferrari.
After a difficult build up to the race the Scuderia enjoyed a profitable afternoon with Carlos Sainz working a long stint well to rise up the order and eventually claim sixth place after starting from P12. Team-mate Charle Leclerc pitted at the end of the first lap following his clash with Gasly and dropped to the rear of the field. The Monegasque driver made an excellent comeback, however, to finish seventh ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. The final point on offer was taken by AlphaTaauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
2021 FIA Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 71 1:22'18.925
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71 1:22'54.668 35.743
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 71 1:23'05.832 46.907
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 71 1:23'06.359 47.434
5 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 70 1:22'24.281 1 lap /5.356
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 70 1:22'31.243 1 lap /12.318
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 70 1:22'43.757 1 lap /24.832
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 70 1:22'59.121 1 lap /40.196
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 70 1:23'00.099 1 lap /41.174
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 70 1:23'00.774 1 lap /41.849
11 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 70 1:23'03.208 1 lap /44.283
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 70 1:23'08.210 1 lap /49.285
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 70 1:23'09.506 1 lap /50.581
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 70 1:23'10.959 1 lap /52.034
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 70 1:23'17.947 1 lap /59.022
16 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 69 1:23'01.861 2 laps /42.936
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 68 1:22'22.430 3 laps /3.505
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 68 1:22'30.819 3 laps /11.894
- George Russell Williams/Mercedes 36 44'25.454 Power Unit
- Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1 2'03.661 Collision