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Rediff.com  » Sports » Verstappen wins as Hamilton draws a blank in Austria

Verstappen wins as Hamilton draws a blank in Austria

July 02, 2018 00:38 IST

IMAGE: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Austrian Grand Prix alongside second-placed Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and third-placed Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Max Verstappen won Red Bull's home Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday while Lewis Hamilton suffered his first race retirement since 2016 and lost the Formula One championship lead to Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

On a bleak day for Mercedes, who suffered a double mechanical retirement for the first time since their return as a constructor in 2010, Verstappen and his 20,000-strong army of orange-shirted Dutch fans led the celebrations.

The victory was the 20-year-old driver's first of the season, and fourth of his career.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished a close second, with team mate Vettel third against expectations after a grid penalty had demoted him to sixth on the grid.

The German, whose team did not invoke team orders for Raikkonen to cede position as might have been expected, clawed back the overall lead by a single point from Mercedes rival Hamilton.

IMAGE: Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Austrian Grand Prix, at Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, on Sunday. Photograph: Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Hamilton's retirement with eight laps to go, and while in fourth place, ended a record run of 33 successive scoring finishes.

"It was amazing, very hard to manage the tyres, lot of blistering, but we managed to hang on," said Verstappen of Red Bull's first win at the circuit they own.

"It was amazing to win at the Red Bull Ring with so many Dutch fans here."

Vettel now has 146 points to Hamilton's 145 after nine rounds and with the Briton's home race at Silverstone next weekend.

Ferrari meanwhile took over at the top of the constructors' standings, 10 points clear of Mercedes.

 Hamilton had already been on the back foot before he stopped, his car suffering lost fuel pressure, after a glaring strategy error by Mercedes had cost him the lead.

The reigning champions had not been beaten in Austria since the race returned to the calendar in 2014 and seemed to be heading for a one-two when Valtteri Bottas retired with an hydraulics failure on lap 14.

The Finn had started from pole, his first of the season, but lost out to Hamilton at the start and dropped to fourth before fighting back to second.

"The luck I'm having this year feels like a bit of a bad joke at the moment," said Bottas, who had collided with Vettel at the start of the previous race in France.

Verstappen hit the front after Mercedes kept Hamilton out on track during a virtual safety car period that followed Bottas's retirement, with the other contenders pitting for fresh tyres.

When Hamilton did pit, he came back out in fourth place.

Mercedes's chief strategist James Vowles came on the radio as the bearer of bad news, admitting his error as Hamilton struggled to comprehend what the team had done.

"We have thrown away the win," said Hamilton, with Vowles replying: "This is James, I have thrown away the win today", before the retirement made it immaterial.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen's team mate who was celebrating his 29th birthday, was in a podium position but heavy rear tyre wear took its toll and he retired with a broken exhaust.

France's Romain Grosjean scored his first points of the season with a bang, finishing a lapped fourth for the U.S.-owned Haas team, who also had Denmark's Kevin Magnussen taking the chequered flag in fifth.

The points moved Haas up to fifth overall after the team's 50th race.

Esteban Ocon was sixth for Force India, ahead of Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, with McLaren's Fernando Alonso completing a remarkable afternoon with eighth place after starting in the pit lane.

Sauber duo Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson finished ninth and 10th.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was the first retirement, with his engine spewing a cloud of smoke and flames.

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