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Verstappen opens 32-point lead over Hamilton after triple-header clean sweep

Verstappen opens 32-point lead over Hamilton after triple-header clean sweep

F1 News

Verstappen opens 32-point lead over Hamilton after triple-header clean sweep

Verstappen opens 32-point lead over Hamilton after triple-header clean sweep

Max Verstappen strengthened his grip on this season's F1 title race by clinching his fourth win in five grands prix by taking the chequered flag in Austria.

From pole position, Verstappen enjoyed another lights-to-flag triumph, as happened a week ago in the Styrian GP at the Red Bull Ring, with championship rival Lewis Hamilton a lowly fourth by his standards to dampen the celebrations surrounding the signing of his new two-year contract.

It means heading into his home race of the British Grand Prix in a fortnight's time, Hamilton is now 32 points adrift of Verstappen, and with his hopes of a record-breaking eighth title triumph fading as the Dutch driver is in the ascendancy.

Verstappen crossed the line 18 seconds ahead of Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with McLaren's Lando Norris a superb third for the third time this year, and fourth time in his F1 career, a further two seconds down.

After losing out in Baku to a tyre blowout, Verstappen has now won the last trio of races, sweeping F1's first triple-header of the season, and has also claimed the first 'grand slam' of his F1 career with pole, race win, fastest lap and the lead of every lap.

Hamilton collides with a sausage kerb

Hamilton was not helped by the fact he damaged the rear floor of his car after running over a sausage kerb at one stage in the middle part of the race, dropping him back into the clutches of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Initially, Bottas was informed not to race Hamilton after closing to within two seconds but Mercedes ultimately changed its game plan and allowed the Finn to ease by into second place 20 laps from home.

With Hamilton struggling, Norris also soon swept by Hamilton, who immediately took on a fresh set of tyres to claim the fastest lap point.

But even that failed as a buoyant Verstappen added that to his tally to the delight of a capacity crowd, the vast majority supporting him.

It was another cruise for Verstappen who has now won five races in total this year, and it is now odds-on he will finally clinch his first title if this form continues.

Norris hit with a penalty

Following a clean start as the leading seven on the grid maintained position through the first few corners, at the rear heading into turn three, Alpine's Esteban Ocon was clipped on the exit by Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi.

Despite there appearing to be minimal contact between the two, the impact broke the front-right suspension on the A521, leading to Ocon pulling over on the straight between turns and three and four and the introduction of the safety car.

After two laps under safety car conditions, racing resumed on lap four and delivered a scrap between Norris and Red Bull's Sergio Perez for second place.

The Mexican attempted to overtake around the outside of turn four and as the duo emerged through the downhill sweep towards turn five, Perez had no room and took to the gravel, relegating him seven places down to 10th.

It promoted Hamilton and Bottas into third and fourth, but while the latter dropped back, the seven-time champion set off in pursuit of his fellow Briton.

It was not until lap 20, however, that Hamilton finally managed to ease by into turn four, moments after the FIA confirmed a five-second time penalty for Norris for forcing Perez off track, which appeared to be harsh given the footage available.

Even Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described what he saw as "a racing incident".

That left Hamilton, who had declared of Norris over the radio "Such a great driver Lando", 10 seconds adrift of runaway leader Verstappen.

After 30 laps, Norris pitted, with Bottas under instruction to do likewise if he saw the McLaren coming in to take advantage of the five-second penalty, allowing him to jump into third.

After Hamilton and Verstappen completed their first stops, the former soon bemoaned issues from which point his race unravelled.

Perez hit with TWO penalties

Behind the leading quartet, Perez, on the occasion of his 200th grand prix, was twice involved with scuffles with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

On both occasions, at turns four and six, Perez forced Leclerc off the track, earning him two five-second penalties.

Despite finishing fifth on track, the penalties resulted in Perez dropping behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to end up sixth.

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo climbed his way up from 13th on the grid to seventh, with the second Ferrari of Leclerc winding up eighth.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly claimed ninth, with Alpine's Fernando Alonso 10th, that after claiming the final point from Williams' George Russell with a move into turn four.

It leaves Williams still searching for its first points since the 2019 German GP.

On the final lap, Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in his Aston Martin were involved in a collision that took both out of the race.

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