Max Verstappen took his first victory of the season in a dramatic Austrian Grand Prix as both Mercedes drivers retired.
Polesitter Valtteri Bottas dropped to third behind teammate Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen at the start, but retook second place around the outside of his fellow Finn at Turn 4. From there it looked set to be a comfortable race for Mercedes, but the drama started on lap 14 when Bottas was forced to retire with a loss of hydraulic pressure.
Bottas stopped on the outside of Turn 4, necessitating a Virtual Safety Car that also had major repercussions on the race. Mercedes inexplicably failed to pit Hamilton from the lead while both Red Bull and Ferrari drivers came in for soft tires, allowing them to gain time while the race was being run at a reduced pace.
Mercedes strategist James Vowles took to team radio to personally apologize to Hamilton, with the race leader’s pit stop dropping him to fourth. Verstappen was then leading after passing Raikkonen via slight contact on the opening lap, with Ricciardo second and Raikkonen in third after the second Red Bull made his way through at Turn 4.
Hamilton was critical of the team over radio and complained they had thrown away a victory — to which Vowles replied it was his fault the win was slipping away — and insisted he would be unable to overtake the cars ahead. Vettel soon proved that wasn’t quite true as he forced his way past Hamilton on the inside of Turn 3, squeezing his title rival to the outside of the track under braking.
The drama was not over yet, however, with much higher track temperatures than seen throughout the rest of the weekend resulting in tire preservation issues. Ricciardo suffered heavy blistering on his left rear tire and came to pit for a second time on lap 37, fitting supersofts after being overtaken by Raikkonen.
While Raikkonen set about closing the seven-second gap to Verstappen, Hamilton struggled to keep pace with the Ferraris due to suffering similar blistering and entered the pits on lap 52 to follow Red Bull’s lead of switching to supersoft tires. While he rejoined behind Ricciardo, Hamilton soon regained the position when Ricciardo pulled off the track on the exit of Turn 1 after smoke had been visible from the rear of his car.
With Verstappen and the two Ferraris trying to manage their tires to the end of the race — the Scuderia not struggling to the same extent as its rivals — Hamilton was told to turn his engine down. However, with just nine laps remaining the championship leader reported a loss of power and was told to stop his car, retiring on the exit of Turn 3 to give Mercedes its first double-DNF since Barcelona 2016.
Amid those retirements, Raikkonen was closing in quickly on Verstappen — who also had concerns over blistering — but the Dutchman had enough pace in hand in front of a huge number of supporters to hold on by 1.5 seconds. Vettel crossed the line third as Ferrari opted against switching its drivers, and that was still enough for the German to regain the championship lead with Hamilton’s retirement.
After a less eventful race, Haas finally picked up the big result it had been threatening with Romain Grosjean finishing fourth ahead of Kevin Magnussen in fifth. Grosjean had pit under the VSC and also had to nurse his tires to the end of the race, telling his team afterward it wouldn’t believe the state his rears were in.
Magnussen pulled an impressive move around the outside of Esteban Ocon at Turn 4 to ensure both Haas drivers beat the two Force Indias, with Ocon yielding to Sergio Perez later on. There was a similar story at Sauber, where split strategies saw both Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson running together and climbing into the points with moves on Pierre Gasly late on, and Ericsson got ahead of his teammate before having to switch positions as they finished ninth and tenth.
Coming home eighth — between Ocon and Leclerc — was Fernando Alonso, who produced a strong recovery drive from the pit lane to score points. Alonso was 19th early on and radioed his team to say it had to try something different strategically as “I will not do 71 laps here,” and soon made progress as those ahead of him retired.
After Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg suffered a spectacular power unit failure on the pit straight and dropped out of ninth place, while Carlos Sainz also suffered what Renault described as “massive blistering” and took a second pit stop. That stop proved to be slow, however, leaving the Spaniard 12th at the flag to complete a miserable day for Renault.
With Alonso and the two Saubers getting ahead of Gasly, there were no points for Toro Rosso either, with Brendon Hartley retiring on lap 55 after going off track with an apparent mechanical issue.
The fallout from the Red Bull Ring sees Vettel regain the championship lead by one point from Hamilton, with Raikkonen moving up to third in the standings, 45 points behind his teammate. Ricciardo drops to fourth, 50 points off the lead, with Verstappen three points further back in fifth as his race engineer ended the victory lap by stating: “We are back in the game.”
In the constructors’ standings, Ferrari takes a 10 point lead over Mercedes, with Red Bull 58 points off the Scuderia in third place. Haas is the big moved in the midfield, with its haul of 22 points moving it ahead of McLaren into fifth place, 13 points adrift of Renault.
POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 71 1:21:56.024 25
2 7 Kimi Raikkonen FERRARI 71 +1.504s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 71 +3.181s 15
4 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 70 +1 lap 12
5 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 70 +1 lap 10
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 8
7 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 70 +1 lap 6
8 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 70 +1 lap 4
9 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 70 +1 lap 2
10 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 70 +1 lap 1
11 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 70 +1 lap 0
12 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 70 +1 lap 0
13 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 69 +2 laps 0
14 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 69 +2 laps 0
15 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 65 DNF 0
NC 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 62 DNF 0
NC 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 54 DNF 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 53 DNF 0
NC 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 13 DNF 0
NC 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 11 DNF 0