Amid the clouds of smoke from his Oranje fans, the invincible Max Verstappen rolled onto the next lap of honor at the Red Bull home game. With his 42nd career win, the Formula 1 World Champion in Austria surpassed motorsport legend Ayrton Senna and is racing towards the title hat-trick at breakneck speed.
"I'm just enjoying the moment and driving this car," enthused Verstappen after the seventh win in the ninth round of the season.
With another dominant gala drive, the 25-year-old increased his lead in the overall standings in Spielberg to 81 points ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez. Because of his huge lead, Verstappen even made an extra pit stop at the end and was able to secure the additional point for the fastest race lap with fresh tires. "I'm very happy about this weekend," said Verstappen. The day after first place in the sprint, the Dutchman also scored the most points in the main race.
Fifth success in a row
Verstappen relegated Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Perez to second and third place. It was his fifth success in a row: the defending champion just can't be stopped. Around 50,000 Dutch people among more than 100,000 fans in the stands celebrated their hero with orange smoke pots and deafening noise. Nico Hülkenberg had long since finished his working day. The Haas driver from Emmerich had to retire on lap 14 due to hydraulic damage.
After the race, the Aston Martin racing team lodged a protest against the classification. According to a document from the racing series, the team claims that several cars were not penalized despite having illegally driven outside the track markings at times. Therefore, a hearing was scheduled at the racetrack. It was initially unclear how long this would take and whether the result might have to be changed.
Shortly before the start, the field of drivers had thought of the young driver Dilano van't Hoff who had died in an accident. The 18-year-old Dutchman van't Hoff died after an accident during a race in the European junior series Formula Regional on the Grand Prix circuit in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. "I didn't know him personally, but he was a young Dutch driver and had the same dreams that we had when we wanted to get into Formula 1," compatriot Verstappen had previously said.
The defending champion was in a class of his own all weekend. The pole position for the main race followed the best time in practice. On Saturday he secured pole position for the sprint, which he won with a huge lead over Perez.
And the Dutchman also determined the Grand Prix on Sunday from the start. Only four racing drivers have won more times than Verstappen in Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton (103 wins), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51).
At the start, Verstappen easily fended off the attacks of Ferrari star Leclerc in the first corners. Then the safety car came out because Yuki Tsunoda, a bit cocky, spread parts of the front wing of his Alpha Tauri over the asphalt in the turmoil. After the brief cleanup, Verstappen quickly pulled away from his pursuers.
Hulkenberg with bad luck
Once again, it was significantly worse for Hulkenberg. As is so often the case on Sunday races, the Rhinelander could not keep up for long in his inferior car. In the sprint, the 35-year-old had fought brilliantly for sixth place in changeable conditions and won three World Championship points. The main race was over for him after 14 laps.
Shortly after his first pit stop, Hulkenberg rolled off the track. "Up to curve three, it suddenly went bang, I think something hydraulic because the power steering didn't work anymore," Hulkenberg told Sky TV.
This time the race control opted for the virtual safety car, the majority of the field opted for a tire change. The Red Bull duo Verstappen and Perez, on the other hand, continued and only got fresh sets of tires ten laps later.
Lots of warnings
The race stewards also had plenty to do. Again and again there were warnings because drivers allowed themselves to be driven next to the prescribed lines in curves. Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz even received five-second time penalties in the fight for a podium place.
On lap 35, Verstappen ended Leclerc's short time at the top. After his pit stop, the champion quickly conceded Sainz and then lap by lap reduced Leclerc's lead. Even the Ferrari equipped with fresh components could not keep up with the superior Red Bull. Alone, Verstappen headed towards his next triumph.