AUSTRIAN--Red Bull's Formula One leader Max Verstappen took his fifth win in a row on Sunday in an extraordinary Austrian Grand Prix that ended up with nearly half the 20-car field punished for failing to stay on track.
The Dutch driver won from pole position and with the fastest lap as the reigning champions celebrated a 10th successive victory and ninth in as many races this season. Verstappen, who also won Saturday's 100km sprint race and leaves Spielberg's Red Bull Ring with a maximum haul, stretched his lead over third-placed Mexican team mate Sergio Perez to 81 points. It was also the Dutch driver's seventh win of a dominant campaign, accelerating him ever closer to a third Formula One crown. Charles Leclerc was second, 5.155 adrift, for Ferrari's milestone 800th podium while Perez battled back from 15th at the start.
"Amazing race, the car was on fire today," said Verstappen after his 42nd career win took him above the tally of late Brazilian great Ayrton Senna. Behind the top three, the outcome was thrown into confusion after stewards upheld a protest by Aston Martin and reviewed more than 1,200 potential track limits breaches before applying retrospective penalties. The final results saw Ferrari's Carlos Sainz drop from fourth to sixth with McLaren's Lando Norris and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso moving in the other direction to fourth and fifth respectively. Mercedes seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton slid from seventh to eighth, behind team mate George Russell, while Aston Martin's Lance Stroll moved up to ninth and Alpine's Pierre Gasly fell to 10th. Sainz, Hamilton, Gasly, Williams' Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, Alpine's Esteban Ocon, AlphaTauri's Nyck de Vries and Yuki Tsunoda and Haas's Kevin Magnussen were all handed penalties, some twice.
The drivers had made sure stewards were kept busy by pointing out over the radio during the race whenever they saw a rival exceeding the limits. "Perez completely off at turn 10, has he got a penalty yet?," enquired Hamilton after getting the first of two five second penalties. "If they're dishing these things out they might as well know." Unprecedented Situation Stewards accepted in upholding Aston Martin's appeal that there had been so many breaches that some drivers had not been penalised when they should have been. "Due to the specifics of the circuit layout and the propensity of many drivers to repeatedly drive outside of the boundaries of the track, an unprecedented situation arose," said an FIA spokesman. He said the FIA would recommend that the circuit, which has a contract to 2030, add a gravel trap at the exit of turns nine and 10 for future races. Verstappen fended off a feisty challenge from Leclerc at the start, with the safety car deployed for marshals to collect debris from a collision between Tsunoda and Ocon. Nico Hulkenberg's retirement on lap 14 triggered a virtual safety car, the German pulling over in his smoking Haas, and a flurry of pitstops but Verstappen and Perez stayed out. The champion then came in on lap 26, ending a phenomenal run of 249 successive race laps led dating back to the Miami Grand Prix in May, and dropped to third.
Verstappen hit the front again on lap 35 of 71 after despatching Sainz and then slashing the seven second gap to Leclerc, timing his pass to perfection to prevent the Monegasque from hitting back with DRS. At the end the 25-year-old had so much time in the bag that he pitted on the penultimate lap for soft tyres to seize the fastest lap bonus point from Perez. The move could have backfired badly but the pit crew responded impeccably. A minute's silence was held before the start in respect for 18-year-old Dutch driver Dilano van't Hoff who died in a junior series race at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Saturday. The race was also the first in Austria since the death of Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz last October.