Max Verstappen picked up his first win of the season with victory in the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. It’s the first time that Red Bull has come out on top at the eponymous Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.

Red Bull’s delight had also been somewhat tempered by Daniel Ricciardo ending his birthday outing prematurely with a retirement caused by a broken exhaust issue.

Lewis Hamilton had looked to be on course for a win until a hydraulic issue for pole sitter Valtteri Bottas triggered a Virtual Safety Car early in the race. Mercedes didn’t bring Hamilton in under a VSC when they had the chance and he dropped to fourth before suffering a mechanical failure of his own in the closing laps.

Austrian Grand Prix – Race result

Pos Driver Team Gap Stops

1
Max Verstappen
Red Bull
71 laps – 1:21:56.024s
1

2
Kimi Räikkönen
Ferrari
+ 1.504s
1

3
Sebastian Vettel
Ferrari
+ 3.181s
1

4
Romain Grosjean
Haas
+ 1 lap
1

5
Kevin Magnussen
Haas
+ 1 lap
1

6
Esteban Ocon
Force India
+ 1 lap
1

7
Sergio Pérez
Force India
+ 1 lap
1

8
Fernando Alonso
McLaren
+ 1 lap
1

9
Charles Leclerc
Sauber
+ 1 lap
1

10
Marcus Ericsson
Sauber
+ 1 lap
1

11
Pierre Gasly
Toro Rosso
+ 1 lap
1

12
Carlos Sainz
Renault
+ 1 lap
2

13
Lance Stroll
Williams
+ 2 laps
2

14
Sergey Sirotkin
Williams
+ 2 laps
2

15
Stoffel Vandoorne
McLaren
+ 6 laps
2

16
Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes
DNF
2

17
Brendon Hartley
Toro Rosso
DNF
0

18
Daniel Ricciardo
Red Bull
DNF
2

19
Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes
DNF
0

20
Nico Hülkenberg
Renault
DNF
0

When the lights went out, the Mercedes pair got a decent start but it was Kimi Raikkonen who got the best launch off the second row, inserting himself between the two Silver Arrows into the first corner. Pole sitter Valtteri Bottas lost out as Raikkonen ran wide, which released Hamilton to take the lead of the race on the inside line.

Raikkonen ran wide again in the next corner, putting him side-by-side with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. As the pair duelled for position, Bottas kept his cool and timed his response perfectly to pass them both to reclaim second.

As Raikkonen lost his battle with Verstappen and slipped back to fourth, there was better news for his Ferrari team mate. Sebastian Vettel had lost two places in the opening corners but was soon up to speed, passing both Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen to move back up to sixth place behind birthday boy Daniel Ricciardo.

At the other end of the field, Stoffel Vandoorne suffered front wing damage in a collision to Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly at turn 3. He was forced to pit at the end of the first lap, dropping him behind team mate Fernando Alonso who had been required to start from pit lane after repairs to his MCL33 sustained in Saturday’s qualifying session. The pair were joined at the back by Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, who had been handed a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change and who had compounded the setback by running off into the gravel on lap 3.

Having been handed the lead in the first corner, Hamilton was putting it to good use. Putting in a number of fastest laps, he soon moved out of DRS range of his pursuers. Bottas was safely in second ahead of Verstappen, while Raikkonen was fretting about damage to his car after reporting contact with the Red Bull.

Lap 12 saw the first retirement of the race when Nico Hulkenberg suddenly lost power in his Renault. By the time he pulled over by the side of the track there was plumes of smoke and bursts of flame erupting from the back of the car. Marshalls were swiftly on hand to take care of the fire and it was game over for the German.

Moments later he was followed into retirement by none other than Valtteri Bottas. The team reported a loss of hydraulic power on the W09. Unable to continue he pulled over to the side of the track in turn 4 which forced race control to declare a Virtual Safety Car to take care of the retrieval.

Fearing an ambush from Red Bull playing a split-strategy, Mercedes opted to keep Hamilton out. Meanwhile other teams reacted by calling in their drivers for an opportunistic pit stop. Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Vettel all came in and switched to soft tyres to make it to the finish. The first three maintained their respective positions on track behind Hamilton, while Vettel briefly dropped behind Magnussen. He quickly put that situation to rights when the VSC was rescinded.

By staying out, Hamilton’s lead had been extended to 13 seconds. However that wasn’t enough for him to make his deferred stop under green flag conditions. The Red Bull pit wall was beginning to sound decidedly upbeat about their chances, especially when Ricciardo made a nice pass on Raikkonen to move into third.

Hamilton finally pitted on lap 25. As feared, he didn’t have the gap needed to retain the lead and found himself emerging from pit lane sandwiched between the two Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel. Hamilton’s chastened race engineer confirmed that he was now in fourth place: “Yeah, entirely on us,” he added. Hamilton had no option but to get his head down and work on closing the gap to Raikkonen to put himself back on the podium.

The top five were now over 20 seconds ahead of Grosjean in sixth, followed by Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Renault’s Carlos Sainz. Magnussen was running in ninth while the yet-to-stop Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten while his Sauber team mate was still trying to recover from his earlier misfortune with a spirited and ultimately successful joust with Williams’ Lance Stroll for 14th.

Now the question was whether everyone would be able to make it to the finish without a further additional pit stop. The biggest question mark was over Ricciardo, who was suffering from blistering on the left rear even before the midway point of the 71-lap race. It meant that while Verstappen was pulling away at the front, Ricciardo was backing up to the chasing pack, and just 3.3s covered second to fifth.

By lap 39, Ricciardo could no longer resist the pressure from Raikkonen and was forced to cede second place to Raikkonen. Shortly afterwards the Red Bull pitted, which came at an awkward moment for Hamilton who appeared to check up slightly in response. It opened the door for an impressive move by Vettel who muscled his way past the curiously off-colour Mercedes going through turn 1 to claim third place.

“We’ve thrown away the win today,” a despondent Hamilton said over the team radio as he reported blistering on his own tyres to add to his woes. The reply from Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles was bluntly apologetic: “No Lewis, I’ve thrown away the win,” he admitted. “But you can still do this … You have the pace to get back through. We trust and believe in you.”

Ricciardo had returned to the track down in fifth place, 20 seconds behind but on fresh tyres and with the hope that Hamilton – and maybe others ahead of him – would be similarly forced to make an additional stop in the remaining 30 laps.

The plan seemed to pay off when Hamilton was forced to pit on lap 53. He came back out behind the Australian but on fresher tyres and poised to attack. It turned out that he didn’t need to – the Red Bull became the latest casualty of a host Austrian afternoon and suffered an exhaust issue that forced him to pull over with a haze of smoke leaking from the back of the RB14.

Ricciardo’s retirement put Hamilton back to fourth and additionally meant that both cars of the junior Toro Rosso team were in the top ten – but only for a few moments. Brendon Hartley became the next retirement on lap 58 with an apparent gearbox issue of his own, the Kiwi’s third DNF of the season.

Verstappen was also starting to grow concerned about his tyres but toughed it out to ward off the threat of the Ferraris. Hamilton was too far back to pull off a late-race charge and looked on course to settle for a disappointing fourth when suddenly his car lost power in lap 63 and he was forced to pull over and retirement just like his team mate earlier in the afternoon. It’s Mercedes’ first double DNF since Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took each other out of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, and puts an end to Hamilton’s 33-race points-winning run.

Hamilton’s exit promoted Grosjean and Magnussen to fourth and fifth place albeit a lap down, while Esteban Ocon took sixth place just ahead of his Force India team mate Sergio Perez. Alonso pulled off a remarkable recovery from his pit lane start to take eighth place while Leclerc and Ericsson rounded out the top ten when Pierre Gasly’s pace fell off a cliff in the closing laps, dropping the Toro Rosso to 11th ahead of Sainz who had been compromised by a slow pit stop.

The two Williams of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin were two laps down at the chequered flag, while McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne was classified despite no longer running at the finish.

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