Ocon taking first victory after chaos on opening lap

Esteban Ocon won an incredible Hungarian Grand Prix by beating Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton to score a top result for Alpine.

The first crash at Turn 1 was the major issue in this race and it was caused by Valtteri Bottas, whose mistake sliding into the back of Lando Norris impacted both Red Bull cars and left Max Verstappen battling back to eventually finish the race in P10.

At the initial start, Hamilton and Verstappen made good getaways on the damp track after rain had fallen steadily in the 30 minutes before the start, which meant all the cars lined up on inters, while Bottas dropped down several places leaving the line.

But worse was to come from the Mercedes driver as he appeared to completely misjudge his braking for the first corner, having been passed by Sergio Perez and Lando Norris, with Bottas locking up and sliding straight into the back of the McLaren.

This had two knock-on effects, with Norris sent shunting into Verstappen’s right-hand side, the Red Bull’s right-front wheel somehow staying on, while Bottas, his left-front broken, continued sliding and clattered into Perez on the far outside, with all four sent into the runoff beyond Turn 1.

Bottas retired there while Verstappen led Norris and Perez away, around the debris of a second Turn 1 shunt that was triggered by the out-of-control Lance Stroll going onto the grass on the inside of the right-hander and then careering into Charles Leclerc, who had been set to move up to second behind Hamilton.

Stroll’s error broke his left-front against the Ferrari, which in turn was knocked wide and hit Daniel Ricciardo, who had been edging up Leclerc’s outside – the McLaren sent spinning to the back of the reduced pack.

The debris field at Turn 1 initially led to a safety car being called, under which Red Bull pitted Verstappen, while Esteban Ocon was the main beneficiary of the chaos as he ran second behind Hamilton and ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Verstappen lost his right barge board as he exited the pits, just before the race was stopped to allowed the track to be cleared and because Perez, whose car was smoking heavily from the hit from Bottas, had stopped on the short straight between Turns 11 and 12 at the start of the final sector.

The field returned to the pits, where Red Bull worked to fix Verstappen’s car, and McLaren had to retire Norris as a result of the damage sustained his hit from Bottas.

After a near 30-minute delay, Hamilton led Ocon, Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda and Nicholas Latifi back to the grid as the top six for a second standing start, where Verstappen would have lined up P13.

But in near-farcical circumstances, Hamilton was the only driver not to come in at the end of the second formation lap – the race’s third lap of 70 – and he took the standing start alone while all the rest came in to swap their inters for medium slick tyres, as the track had dried under sunny skies during the red flag.

Hamilton duly shot down to Turn 1 solo, where Ocon was remarkably led out of the pitlane by George Russell, who had been eighth under the red flag but jumped up the pitlane queue thanks to Williams position at the end of pitlane.

But as Russell came up towards Hamilton as the mediums proved to be much faster than the inters on the rapidly drying track, he was ordered to give back the positions he had gained in the pitlane, which meant Ocon moved into a clear lead when Hamilton stopped for mediums at the end of lap four – the first full racing lap completed in the race.

Over the next five laps, the Alpine driver built up a 1.4-second gap over Vettel, while Latifi held up the pack behind in third, as Verstappen battled Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi on the fringes of the top ten – with Hamilton catching the battle after re-joining in 14th and last after his stop.

Ocon continued to run just ahead of Vettel, with the race lead battle soon becoming a two-driver contest as Latifi continued to fall away.

Back in the pack, Verstappen worked his way ahead of Gasly and then chased Schumacher for 10th place for several laps as his damage meant he could not bring Red Bull’s usual pace advantage to bear, and behind Hamilton was also frustrated by the time it took him to pass Giovinazzi and then Gasly.

On lap 14, Verstappen attacked Schumacher at Turn 1 but had to go wide on the exit, and then the Red Bull went around the outside of the long, downhill left of Turn 2, getting ahead on the exit where the two cars briefly touched as they raced side-on racing towards the fast right of Turn 3.

Five laps later, with Ocon now running just over a second ahead of Vettel up front, Mercedes called Hamilton in from behind Gasly in 11th, switching from the mediums to the hards.

His sensational out lap pace meant he jumped ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo, who had been running just up the road, when they came in on the next lap to try and cover Hamilton.

Several rivals, including Russell, pitted shortly afterwards, which aided Hamilton’s path up the order, but he continued to lap much faster than the rest – setting a string of fastest laps between the 20th and 30th laps.

Over this part of the race, Ocon came under severe pressure from Vettel before then edging his lead up again, reaching 2.3s by the halfway mark.

With Verstappen stuck behind Ricciardo as they caught the drivers yet to make first green flag stop – including Schumacher again – Hamilton roared clear and passed Latifi shortly after the Williams pitted from third on lap 23.

Hamilton then surged up to Tsunoda, who had undercut past Latifi by stopping a lap earlier, and passed the AlphaTauri around the outside of the fast left of Turn 4 on lap 32.

Once Hamilton was up to fifth, Ferrari then pitted Sainz, who had requested to be left out when Tsunoda and Latifi came in earlier so he could run in clear air, which he used to carve into the large gap behind Vettel.

That ended Hamilton’s charge, just as the focus switched back to the front of the race when Vettel was called in to go from mediums to hards on lap 36.

A 3.3s stop thanks to a slow left rear change meant that when Ocon came in for hards at the end of the next lap, despite Vettel charging on his out lap as he fired the white-walled rubber up to temperature, the Aston could not get alongside the Alpine as it came out of the pits and headed into Turn 1.

Ocon then resumed lapping around a second ahead of Vettel over the next phase of the race, but Sainz and Hamilton – who was soon complaining about the state of his tyres – were soon only six seconds off the lead as they lapped in the low one minute, 21 seconds and the leaders set high one minute, 21 seconds and low one minute, 22 seconds.

Fernando Alonso cycled through to first when the two leaders pitted, but he came in to make the switch to hards at the end of lap 40.

After this, the race settled down for a time as Hamilton was stymied behind Sainz and Ocon remained in control ahead of Vettel – other than a moment at the start of lap 48 where Vettel came close to contact with the Alpine’s rear as Ocon lapped Antonio Giovinazzi at Turn 1.

The lap before this, Mercedes had called Hamilton for a second green flag stop, putting him back onto the mediums and setting up a thrilling charge for the final third of the race, as he had a 22.6 seconds gap to Ocon to close.

The world champion – much like he did here to win against Verstappen in 2019 – set a fierce pace as he re-joined in clear air behind Alonso and seven laps after he came in, he was under ten seconds off the lead and right with the second Alpine.

On the next tour, lap 55, Alonso locked up lapping Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1, which gave Hamilton the chance to attack around the outside of Turn 2, where Alonso aggressively held the inside line to remain ahead, and also shrugged off Hamilton’s advances at Turn 4 a few moments later.

The battle raged over the next ten laps, with Hamilton attacking in similar circumstances at Turns 2 and 4 on several occasions, frustrated by Alonso’s fierce defence, all the while his former teammate was closing on Sainz and then running in the Ferrari’s dirty air.

On lap 65, though, Alonso’s defence crumbled when he locked his left-front again at Turn 1 and went deep, which allowed Hamilton run alongside on the exit and then blast past using DRS on the run to Turn 2.

Hamilton then immediately caught Sainz, who resisted the Mercedes driver’s first attack, but could not stop Hamilton moving up to third as they raced down the pit straight on lap 67 while lapping Ricciardo.

Alonso’s stout defence meant Hamilton only caught the leaders right at the end, with Ocon ending his race-long charge ahead of Vettel to win by 1.8 seconds, with Hamilton a further 0.8 seconds adrift.

Gasly took sixth behind Sainz and Ocon after being allowed past Tsunoda approaching the final third, with Tsunoda then spinning at Turn 2 late on, which meant he came home well adrift of his teammate.

Latifi and Russell scored Williams’ first points since 2019 with seventh and eighth – the former closing in on Latifi throughout the second stint after being held up by Schumacher after his sole green-flag stop.

Russell also had to resist Verstappen’s attentions at the end as the Red Bull ended up just 1.1 seconds behind in P10, after he had been pitted with 30 laps to run in a successful bid to get ahead of Ricciardo, who had been holding station ahead since their unsuccessful attempt to stop Hamilton’s undercut.

Verstappen passed Ricciardo with a bold move around the outside of Turn 4 with ten laps remaining and set about closing on Russell to the finish.

Raikkonen – who was given a ten seconds time penalty for being released into Nikita Mazepin’s path when the field piled into the pits on the second formation lap, with the ensuing contact breaking the Haas’s right-front suspension and making him the race’s only other retirement in addition to those eliminated as a result of the Turn 1 chaos – also passed Ricciardo late-on to finish P11.

Schumacher came home P13 ahead of Giovinazzi, who was also penalised ten seconds, this for speeding in the pitlane – the Italian’s gamble to stop for slicks on the first formation lap not paying off because of the red flag.

So a crazy race with so many cars wiping out on the opening lap at Turn 1. This gave the opportunity for Alpine to win and Esteban Ocon resisted the pressure from Sebastian Vettel to take his first victory. Fernando Alonso did the perfect job in playing the team game by holding off Lewis Hamilton too.

Hungarian Grand Prix, race results:

1 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 2:04:43.199
2 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1.859s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +2.736s
4 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +15.018s
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +15.651s
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +63.614s
7 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +75.803s
8 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +77.910s
9 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +79.094s
10 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda +80.244s
11 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
– Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari DNF
– Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes DNF
– Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda DNF
– Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes DNF
– Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF
– Valtteri Bottas Mercedes DNF

Hamilton heads Mercedes front row at the Hungaroring

Lewis Hamilton heads up a Mercedes front row in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, with title rival Max Verstappen ending up in third position behind Valtteri Bottas.

The Mercedes and Red Bull cars will head into the race on split tyre strategies after Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez – who missed setting a final Q3 lap at the back of the queue as the Red Bulls trailed behind the slowly touring Mercedes drivers on the final warm-up lap – used the soft tyres to set their best times in Q2, where Hamilton and Bottas got through on the mediums.

After Verstappen had topped Q1 and Q2, Hamilton led the way after the opening runs in Q3, with a one minute, 15.419 seconds, as his title rival was unable to match his best time from the middle of qualifying.

The 0.565 seconds gap Verstappen faced to Hamilton left Bottas with the chance to slot in ahead in second, which he did.

Ahead of the second and final Q3 runs, Verstappen emerged from his garage right behind Hamilton, who drove very slowly down the pitlane and early and then late in the final warm-up tour as he stayed ahead of the Red Bull.

With the clock ticking down as a result of the slow preparation-lap driving, Verstappen only just made it across the line to start a second Q3 flier, while Perez missed out but held onto to fourth in any case.

But the slow warm-up lap tactics backfired for Mercedes in terms of its drivers improving on their second goes, as Bottas, who led Hamilton around, did not go quicker and nor did the world champion.

But while Verstappen did improve to a one minute, 15.840 seconds, it wasn’t enough to get him ahead of either Mercedes car, with Hamilton’s pole secure ahead of his teammate.

Pierre Gasly beat Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc to fifth for AlphaTauri, with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso eighth and ninth for Alpine.

Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top ten after running an off-set Q3 strategy, completing his one minute, 16.750 seconds on a single run in the middle of the final segment.

In Q2, where Verstappen went quickest after switching to the softs, Sebastian Vettel’s late improvement knocked out Daniel Ricciardo, who’s personal best on his final lap in the middle segment was not enough to get him through to Q3.

Lance Stroll took P12 for Aston Martin to finish ahead of Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi – who was given a reprimand for impeding Gasly in FP3, while his team was fined €5,000 for the incident where Giovinazzi clipped Stroll’s right-rear while exiting the pitlane in final practice.

The other driver eliminated in Q2 was Carlos Sainz, who lost the rear of his Ferrari running through the final corner on his first timed lap in the opening segment, with the car sliding sideways across the runoff area and hitting the barriers side-on.

He was able to drive away as the session was red flagged, but soon stopped after his front wing broke off and became trapped under the car.

Although Sainz did pull away again after sitting in his car for a few minutes, but he eventually turned the engine off and climbed out, ending Q2 in P15 without a time set, and after Sainz had appeared to impede Gasly late in Q1, with the Ferrari taking to the kerbs at Turn 1 in a bid to get out of the way of the rapidly approaching AlphaTauri.

In Q1, Yuki Tsunoda set a personal best on his final lap in the opening segment but could not improve enough and was eliminated, as was George Russell, who lost his perfect record of escaping Q1 at every race so far in 2021 for Williams.

Russell appeared to go deep at Turn 2 and then ran wide exiting the Turns 6/7 chicane, kicking up dust as he pushed on with his final Q1 lap, but wound up behind Tsunoda in P17, ending his run of Q3 appearances at two.

Nicholas Latifi also set a personal best on his final Q1 lap as he took P18 in the second Williams, with Nikita Mazepin P19 for Haas.

Mick Schumacher could not take part in qualifying as a result of his red-flag-causing FP3 crash, with Haas unable to repair the car in time after changing its gearbox to get the rookie out to set a time in Q1.

So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in achieving his 101st career pole position in Formula 1. Starting on the front row is a bonus on this twisty circuit where overtaking is tricky. Can championship rival Max Verstappen fight back despite qualifying in third? Bring on the race.

Hungarian Grand Prix, qualifying results:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.419
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.734
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:15.840
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:16.421
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:16.483
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.489
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.496
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:16.653
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:16.715
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:16.750
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.871
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:16.893
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 1:17.564
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:17.583
15 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari –
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:17.919
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:17.944
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:18.036
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:18.922
20 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari –

Hamilton wins dramatic British Grand Prix despite clashing with Verstappen

Home crowd favourite Lewis Hamilton won a dramatic British Grand Prix from Charles Leclerc at Silverstone, following an opening lap clash with Max Verstappen which put the Red Bull driver out of the race.

Hamilton was penalised for the controversial incident at Copse corner, just after which Leclerc had surged into the lead before the race was red flagged.

Leclerc led the majority of the restarted race, including while managing an intermittent engine problem, but was unable to resist Hamilton’s late charge back to the front following his lengthy pitstop, where he had served his 10-second time penalty.

Unlike in the sprint race, Hamilton made the better getaway at the first start and was alongside polesitter Verstappen as they raced into Abbey, with the Red Bull hanging on around the outside – nearly going into the runoff area – to lead at the race’s first braking point – Village.

The battle continued, the pair running so closely side-by-side they appeared to touch, down the Wellington straight, at the end of which Hamilton surged ahead on the outside line, with Verstappen then skating over the inside kerbs and to stay ahead, even though it took him wide on the exit.

Verstappen’s tighter entry through Luffield meant Hamilton was able to surge into his slipstream on the national pit straight, diving to the inside and very close to the barriers after Verstappen had moved to cover the inside line for Copse.

There, with Hamilton a long way alongside, the pair collided as they ran through the rapid right-hander, with Hamilton’s left-front clipping Verstappen’s right-rear and popping it off the car, which was spun around at high-speed and sent into the barriers in the outside.

Verstappen hit the tyre wall side on, where he gingerly climbed from the wreckage after the race had been red flagged, from an initial safety car intervention. The Red Bull driver was later taken to a nearby hospital “for further precautionary checks”, per an FIA spokesperson.

Leclerc led at this point after the Ferrari had surged past Hamilton, who had lost speed in the clash with the Red Bull, exiting Copse.

The race was suspended for nearly half an hour, during which Red Bull and Mercedes presented their opposing viewpoints to race director Michael Masi, as the stewards investigated the incident.

At the standing restart on the race’s third lap of 52, Leclerc stayed ahead of Hamilton off the line, while Lando Norris passed Bottas identical fashion to Leclerc at the initial start to run third ahead of the second Mercedes.

Leclerc surged to a 1.2-second lead at the end of the first lap and he kept Hamilton – who had been told to push after being handed a 10s time addition for the incident with Verstappen – at arm’s length for the next phase of the race – where they traded fastest laps in the high one minute, 32 seconds.

Ferrari informed Leclerc that it was switching him to “Plan B” – a one-stopper with an elongated first stint – as Hamilton struggled to make progress following in the dirty air.

But the world champion was able to close in and run in DRS range approaching lap 20 after Leclerc suffered a series of engine power “cuts”, with Ferrari hurriedly having to tell him to alter the power unit’s settings.

The issue appeared to be rectified (although Leclerc reported the issue on an additional occasion before being told to avoiding upshifting if the cut occurred again) and so the Ferrari driver was able to pull out his advantage again as Hamilton reported blistering on both his front tyres, after he had pushed to try and take advantage of Leclerc’s power problem.

Leclerc’s pace was so strong that Ferrari kept him out until lap 29, two laps after Hamilton had stopped to switch his medium tyres for hards – and one lap after Carlos Sainz had lost over 10 seconds with a slow left-front change.

But Leclerc had no such problem and started his stint on the hards with a lead of 7.7 seconds over Bottas, which he quickly set about extending.

Hamilton ran behind Norris after his long stop, the McLaren having fallen behind Bottas as a result of his own pitstop delay as a result of a slow right-rear change that cost him around four second.

The Mercedes driver quickly closed in on Norris and passed him on the run to the inside of Copse on lap 31, at the end of which Leclerc led Bottas by nearly 10 seconds and was 13.5 seconds in front of Hamilton.

Over the next ten laps, as Leclerc managed his pace in the mid one minute, 31 seconds up front, Hamilton charged up to his teammate with a series of laps in the mid-high one minute, 29 seconds, with Mercedes ordering Bottas not to hold the world champion up and then let him by at Stowe on lap 40.

That left Leclerc with 7.6s lead to defend over the final 12 laps, with Ferrari ordering him to “full push to the end”, as Hamilton continued to eat into his advantage.

The Mercedes driver regularly took up to a second a lap from Leclerc, reaching DRS range with just over three laps remaining, where Leclerc was struggling with lapped traffic.

On lap 50, Hamilton once again looked to the inside at Copse, with Leclerc desperately trying to hang on around the outside.

But the Ferrari driver had to catch a snap of oversteer and went wide over the exit kerbs and ran off, rejoining just behind Hamilton, who surged clear to victory by 3.8s.

Bottas finished 11.1 seconds off the lead in third, with Norris fourth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who defied Sainz to the finish.

Fernando Alonso was another driver who suffered a slow pitstop, before which he had briefly battled Bottas when the Mercedes came out of the pits from its only stop, and he eventually came home seventh after passing Lance Stroll following the slow service.

Stroll took eighth ahead of Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine, with Yuki Tsunoda claiming the final point in 10th.

Pierre Gasly had to pit late on with a puncture and finished P11 ahead of George Russell.

Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez clashed late on – an incident that will be investigated after the race.

So a dramatic British Grand Prix with the two title contenders colliding on lap 1 at Copse corner. Max Verstappen lost out with Lewis Hamilton receiving a time penalty but got the speed to win the race at Silverstone.

British Grand Prix, race results:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:58:23.284
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 3.871
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 11.125
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 28.573
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 42.624
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 43.454
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault  1:12.093
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:14.289
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:16.162
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:22.065
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:25.327
12 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari  +1 lap
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes  +1 lap
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari  +1 lap
16 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda   +1 lap
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari   +1 lap
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari    +1 lap
– Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes   +1 lap
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda   +1 lap

Verstappen wins sprint to pole position

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won Formula 1’s first sprint qualifying race at Silverstone, beating home favourite Lewis Hamilton after taking the lead from the Mercedes driver with a better start.

Valtteri Bottas finished in third position ahead of Charles Leclerc, while an early-race spin and then late retirement cost Sergio Perez badly in the other Red Bull.

When the five red lights went out for the 17-lap race, Verstappen made the better getaway – his initial movement putting out a fire on his left-front brake – and was immediately alongside Hamilton as they raced away from the grid.

Verstappen swept in Abbey in the lead and defend first place with a series of weaves down the Wellington straight and then rebuffed Hamilton’s attack around the outside of Copse.

That move cost Hamilton momentum and Verstappen opened up a 1.1-second at the end of the opening tour – on which Fernando Alonso used his soft tyres (Bottas, Esteban Ocon and Kimi Raikkonen were the only other drivers to start on the red-walled rubber, with the rest on mediums) to gain six places from 11th on the grid to run sixth.

The two leaders quickly opened up a gap over Bottas, who took a few laps to join them running in the 1m30s bracket, with Verstappen and Hamilton exchanging fastest laps during the early tours.

By the halfway point, Verstappen had built a two second advantage, as he and Hamilton lapped in the low 1m30s and continued to pull away from Bottas, who was being chased by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Alonso had been holding up the pack behind, having steamed around the outside of several rivals at the race’s first corner, then taken advantage of the two McLarens and Perez battling on the opening lap, but was overtaken by Lando Norris on lap six and Daniel Ricciardo on lap nine – the first McLaren getting by with a dive to the inside of Village, while the other got by with a better exit from the tight right hander in their respective moves.

With Verstappen and Hamilton continuing to trade fastest laps up front, the gap between them fluctuated ever so slightly, as they both had to cope with their right front tyres blistering heavily.

Although the tyre issue did not have any major impact on their pace, Red Bull instructed Verstappen to avoid the kerbs in the closing laps – which dropped his lead from a maximum of 2.8 seconds to 1.4 seconds at the flag – where he sealed pole for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

The decision to start Bottas on softs did not pay off for Mercedes, as he finished 7.5 seconds behind Verstappen, albeit solidly head of Leclerc, who was a further 3.7 seconds to maintain fourth on the grid for the main race.

Norris and Ricciardo chased the Ferrari home but were well behind after their battles with Alonso, who was given a warning for weaving down the straights as he held off Sebastian Vettel to the finish to take seventh – the Alpine driver having also been trying to break the tow when defending from the McLarens earlier on.

George Russell finished ninth for Williams ahead of Esteban Ocon, but Russell faces a post-race investigation into a lap one clash with Carlos Sainz at Brooklands.

The Williams driver locked up at the sweeping left-hander and ran into the side of the Ferrari, which was forced off and Sainz dropped to 18th before recovering back to 11th and 0.4s behind Ocon at the finish.

The race’s big loser was Perez, who will start tomorrow’s race from last place after retiring on the final lap.

The Red Bull driver had been running 18th after losing the rear of his RB16B running behind Alonso and Norris on lap five as they charged through Chapel – Perez going through a full 360-degree, high-speed spin and shooting through the grass and a gravel at the top of the Hanger straight.

He rejoined after just keeping his car from hitting the wall.

The race’s other major incident involved the Haas duo on the opening lap, with Nikita Mazepin spinning after glancing the right-hand sidepod of teammate Mick Schumacher’s car, which looped the Russian driver around, and he eventually came home 9.4 seconds behind Schumacher.

So congratulations to the championship leader with this ‘victory’ in this qualifying race to pole. Bonus three points is valuable to Max Verstappen in his quest for the 2021 championship. Bring on the main Silverstone race.

Sprint qualifying results, British Grand Prix:

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 17 laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.430
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 7.502
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 11.278
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 24.111
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 30.959
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 43.527
8 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 44.439
9 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 46.652
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 47.395
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 47.798
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 48.763
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 50.677
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 52.179
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 53.225
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 53.567
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 55.162
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:08.213
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:17.648
20 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda Red Bull 16 laps

Home crowd favourite Hamilton in P1 in Friday qualifying

The British Grand Prix home crowd favourite Lewis Hamilton will start Formula 1’s first sprint qualifying race from first position ahead of title rival Max Verstappen.

The Mercedes driver led the pack after the first runs in Q3 with a one minute, 26.134 seconds, with Verstappen – who had commandingly led the sole practice session on Friday – trailing and unhappy with his Red Bull understeering around Silverstone.

On the final runs, Hamilton looked set to improve the fastest time with purple sectors in the opening two thirds of the lap, but a lurid slide exiting the first part of the final sequence of Turns at Club cost him, and he did not go quicker.

But although Verstappen cut the gap to his title rival to 0.075-seconds from 0.172 seconds after the first runs, the championship leader ended up second – to the delight of the packed Silverstone crowd.

Valtteri Bottas took third, with Charles Leclerc fourth after Sergio Perez lost his best and final lap in Q3 for running too wide out of Stowe, which shuffled the Red Bull driver behind the Ferrari.

Lando Norris pipped Daniel Ricciardo to sixth, reversing the order between the McLaren teammates through Q1 and Q2.

George Russell ran an offset Q3 programme after sensationally making it through to the final segment, running solo with over four minutes on his sole run in the third part of qualifying.

His one minute, 26.971 seconds was cheered all the way around by his home fans, with that time putting him ahead of Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel, who lost his first Q3 time for a track limits infringement at Stowe, at the end of the top ten.

In Q2, Russell’s lap jump to reach Q3 for the second race in a row knocked out Alonso, as Norris also slotted in just ahead of the Alpine driver late on and left him P11.

Pierre Gasly took 12th ahead of Esteban Ocon, who was the only eliminated driver not to set a personal best on their final laps in the middle segment.

Antonio Giovinazzi could not reproduce his fastest time from Q1, where he was P12, as he finished Q2 in P14 for Alfa Romeo, ahead of Lance Stroll, who did find time compared to his best lap in the opening part of the session, but not enough to gain him any places for the sprint qualifying race grid.

In Q1, Yuki Tsunoda could not set a personal best time on his final lap in the opening segment as he wound up P16 and eliminated in the second AlphaTauri.

Kimi Raikkonen and Nicholas Latifi did set their best times on their last laps but could not find enough time for Alfa Romeo and Williams respectively, as they ended up P17 and P18.

The Haas pair took the final two places, with Mick Schumacher leading Nikita Mazepin, who half-spun late-on in Q1 after losing the rear of his car putting the power down exiting Turn 3, Village.

All the running on Friday night took place on the soft tyres – per the rules of the sprint qualifying race weekend format – with no need to take the rubber used in Q2 to start the British Grand Prix on Sunday.

All teams will therefore be free to pick the tyres they want to start on for both the sprint qualifying race and the main race.

Qualifying times, British Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.134
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:26.209
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:26.328
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:26.828
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:26.844
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.897
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.899
8 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:26.971
9 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:27.007
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:27.179
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:27.245
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:27.273
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renaul 1:27.340
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:27.617
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:27.665
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:28.043
17 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:28.062
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:28.254
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:28.738
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:29.051

Dominant Verstappen victorious again at the Red Bull Ring

Max Verstappen produced a dominant display in the Red Bull by winning the Austrian Grand Prix with a solid drive in the RB16B. The championship leader finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Lando Norris, while Lewis Hamilton dropped back after picking up damage.

Verstappen’s advantage was so great that he had enough time to pit for a second time and put the fastest lap bonus point target out of sight for the rest, while Bottas benefitted from being allowed by Hamilton in a Mercedes team order and Norris got by too to claim a podium despite picking up a penalty for an early incident with Sergio Perez.

At the start, Norris got a slightly better getaway, which forced Verstappen to swing across from pole and cover the run to the uphill right of Turn 1, where he consolidated first place and shot clear.

In the pack behind, Hamilton pressured Perez for third position at the long, downhill right of Turn 4, shortly before racing was suspended as the safety car was called out due to Esteban Ocon stopping with a broken right front on the run between Turns 3 and 4 after he was caught between Mick Schumacher’s Haas and Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi at the tight uphill right of Turn 3.

The race restarted on lap four of 71, where Verstappen waiting until he was well clear of the final corner before firing back up to full speed allowed Perez to get a run on Norris of the outside of the first corner.

The Mexican driver took to the run-off exiting the turn and dropped back behind Norris, with the Mercedes cars swarming as they shot back up to Turn 3.

Perez attacked Norris around the outside of Turn 4 but was edged out wide and into the gravel, for which the McLaren driver was later given a five second time addition, as the Red Bull fell to 10th and Hamilton and Bottas powered by.

Verstappen was 1.9 seconds clear at the end of the first full lap of racing and he quickly extended his lead to almost 10s with a string of fastest laps in the low 1m09s, as Norris repelled Hamilton’s attentions until lap 20.

The Mercedes driver had closed in again after Norris initially kept him at bay despite McLaren’s concerns that his pace in the mid one minute, 09 seconds was hurting his left rear tyre, and Hamilton got by using DRS to blast ahead on the run down to Turn 4, after initially attacking at the outside of Turn 3.

Verstappen continued to extend his lead to over 12 seconds by the time Hamilton pitted at the end of lap 31, where the Mercedes switched from the mediums to the hards, which Red Bull did for Verstappen the next time by.

After emerging comfortably in the lead, Verstappen continued to build his gap at the start of the second stint, which quickly became a considerable advantage as Hamilton began to struggle for rear grip as a result of damaged sustained to the left-rear aerodynamic surfaces of his car, which Mercedes suggested to Bottas was due to running over the kerbs exiting the final corner.

As Verstappen stroked clear to a lead of over 23 seconds, Hamilton came under pressure from Bottas, who had jumped ahead of Norris when the McLaren driver served his time penalty when the pair stopped for hards the lap before Hamilton.

Mercedes initially ordered Bottas not to attack his teammate while the situation was reviewed, but as the final 20 laps began, Valterri was told he was free to race, with Norris looming just over a second behind.

Then Mercedes decided it would swap the order of its cars, with Hamilton allowing Bottas to the inside of Turn 3 on lap 52, while Norris closing on the world champion as Bottas ran clear.

Norris attacked Hamilton two laps later with a look to the outside of Turn 4, but was repulsed there before he nipped ahead at the inside of the fast, sweeping left of Turn 6 to rise back to a podium position, with Hamilton then pitting for a second time at the end of that tour.

Red Bull called Verstappen in for a second stop at the end of lap 60, with the Dutchman taking them to the fastest lap on a 1m06.200s, having already held the accolade even before his second stop during a brief exchange of times with Carlos Sainz and Hamilton just before coming in for his second set of hards.

Norris chased Bottas to the end, but wound up 2.0 seconds behind, with Verstappen enjoying a final winning margin of 17.9 seconds.

Hamilton came only a lonely fourth, ahead of Perez, who took fifth on the road but ended up sixth after picking up a pair of 5 seconds penalties for twice clashing with Charles Leclerc in similar circumstances, and on the first occasion at the same place, as his incident with Norris.

The second incident between Perez and Leclerc happened with the Ferrari attempting to go by around the outside of Turn 6 before he was edged into the gravel, after which Perez ran clear and passed Daniel Ricciardo.

Perez tried to build enough of a gap to hold onto fifth despite his time additions come, running reasonably close to Hamilton by the finish, but Carlos Sainz’s late charge after running long on the hards from P10 of the grid meant he was just within the 10s margin to claim fifth at the flag.

Sainz had been allowed past Leclerc after the Monegasque driver had failed in several bids to pass Ricciardo, with the McLaren driver taking seventh and Leclerc eighth.

Pierre Gasly was the lead two-stop runner in ninth, while Fernando Alonso took the final point to deny George Russell, who had lost several places on the opening lap having started eighth.

Russell resisted for several laps in a thrilling duel before Alonso got by with three laps left – using DRS to get the inside of Turn 4 after going deep defending at Turn 3.

On the final lap, Russell’s 11th place was also under threat from Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, who was also charging on a two-stopper.

When Russell and Raikkonen locked up at Turn 4, Vettel brought his Aston Martin alongside and ahead of his former teammate, who ran into the German’s left-hand side as Russell ran clear.

Both Raikkonen and Vettel speared off into the gravel behind Turn 5, where they retired.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen with this commanding victory at the team’s home track. Red Bull Racing are on a roll with wins and leading both championship is a bonus. Silversone is next and it will be interesting if Mercedes can strike back.

Austrian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:23:54.543
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 17.973
3 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 20.019
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 46.452
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 57.144
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 57.915
7 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:00.395
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:01.195
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:01.844
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +1 lap
11 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
15 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes DNF
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
– Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault DNF

Verstappen scores pole position with Norris taking an excellent second

Championship leader Max Verstappen achieved his third successive pole position, beating Lando Norris in the McLaren to take P1 at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez slotted into third for Red Bull Racing, while the Mercedes drivers trailing in fourth and fifth position after they were unable to improve on their final Q3 laps.

As was the case in last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, Verstappen set pole on his first run in the final part of qualifying with a time of one minute, 03.720 seconds.

Max led the pack for the final fliers but was down throughout the opening two sectors and despite setting a purple third sector Verstappen ended up fractionally down on his best time.

Norris had been second after the opening Q3 runs and held onto to take his best Formula 1 career qualifying spot, just 0.048 seconds down on Verstappen after recording the fastest time in the first sector on his final flying lap.

Perez jumped to third with his final lap, which bumped Hamilton and Bottas down, as neither Black Arrows driver went faster on their second attempts in Q3.

They were followed by AlphaTauri pair Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, with birthday boy Sebastian Vettel taking eighth but now faces a post-qualifying investigation for appearing to impede Fernando Alonso at the end of Q2.

George Russell took a sensational ninth for Williams in his first Q3 appearance for the team, which got a car through to the final part of qualifying for the first time since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix.

Russell only had one attempt in Q3, but managed to beat Lance Stroll to ninth position.

The Ferrari duo stayed on the medium tyres throughout Q2 but were knocked out by Russell’s final effort, as the Williams driver made it through to the final segment on the yellow-walled tyre along with the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers and Norris.

Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc in P11 and P12, with Daniel Ricciardo unable to find enough time on his final run after switching from the mediums to the softs to avoid elimination in P13.

Alonso ended up P14 after his final Q2 lap was spoiled by encountering Vettel going slowly on the racing line ahead of the last corner as the Alpine approached at high speed.

Vettel appeared to step on the gas when Alonso came up behind him but the damage to the two-time champion’s lap was done as he had to lift off heading through the fast right-hander.

The drivers had been warned ahead of FP3 not to drive slowly between the final two corners via an update to race director Michael Masi’s event notes, with Vettel therefore likely to take a penalty over the incident, which infuriated Alonso, who gestured angrily at the Aston Martin driver after passing by on the pit straight, with Vettel – who was left without enough time to start a final flying lap in Q2 – waving back in apology as they went through Turn 1.

Antonio Giovinazzi could not replicate his strong FP3 form and finished P15 after progressing through from Q1.

In the opening segment, Russell’s last-gasp improvement to continue his impressive record of progressing to Q2 in 2021 knocked out Kimi Raikkonen, who set his personal best lap on his final lap but did not improve enough to go through.

Esteban Ocon had been at risk of elimination throughout the first phase of qualifying and while the Alpine driver did find time on his final Q1 run he was shuffled down the order as others improved at the end and the Alpine driver ended up P17.

Nicholas Latifi took P18 for Williams, ahead of Haas pair Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

So an excellent qualifying session for the orange crowd with Verstappen taking pole position and McLaren grabbing a front row start thanks to Norris. Bring on the race!

Austrian Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:03.720
2 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:03.768
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:03.990
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.014
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:04.049
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:04.107
7 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:04.273
8 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:04.570
9 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:04.591
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:04.618
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:04.559
12 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:04.600
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:04.719
14 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:04.856
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:05.083
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:05.009
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:05.051
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:05.195
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:05.427
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:05.951

Masterclass victory from Verstappen

Max Verstappen dominated the Styrian Grand Prix from start to finish and the Red Bull driver extends his lead in the championship. Rival Lewis Hamilton had to settle with second while Mercedes Valtteri Bottas finished in third position, just ahead of Sergio Perez.

At the start, Verstappen and Hamilton leapt off the line together, with the Red Bull driver coming across to cover the inside line into Turn 1.

As the leading duo raced clear up front, Sergio Perez put Lando Norris under huge pressure for third position through the opening corners, but the McLaren driver was able to resist the Red Bull and even had a look around the outside of Hamilton at the downhill long right of Turn 4.

Verstappen raced to a 0.9-second lead at the end of the first lap and the next time by was already out of DRS range from Hamilton behind, with the Max’s advantage reaching nearly three seconds by the end of the first ten laps of 71.

The top two quickly pulled well clear of Norris, who initially kept Perez and the chasing Valtteri Bottas at bay with good straightline speed through the Red Bull Ring’s three DRS zones.

But on lap ten Perez dived to Lando’s inside at the tight uphill right of Turn 3 and moved into third as the McLaren driver offered little defence against the move, which Bottas essentially copied on the following lap.

By the end of the race’s first 15 laps, with Perez 15s off the lead in third, Verstappen edges over the three second mark ahead of Hamilton, as he was regularly able to lap in the high one minute, 09 seconds bracket as the chasing world champion swung between matching Verstappen and logging times in the low one minute, 10 seconds.

Over the next 13 laps Verstappen gradually worked his lead up to nearly six seconds before the pitstop phase kicked off.

Perez was the first of the leading four cars to pit when he came in at the end of lap 26, to switch his starting softs for hards, but was delayed by a slow left-rear change.

That allowed Bottas to jump ahead into third when he came in at the end of following tour to go from the mediums to hards, which Hamilton did as well one tour later at the end of lap 28.

Red Bull duly brought Verstappen in to make his own switch to the hards one lap after Hamilton and he easily retained the lead, albeit with his advantaged reduced to 4.4 seconds by the time the stops had shaken out.

Mercedes instructed Hamilton to push to close the gap, which came down to 4.0 seconds as he set a then fastest lap at the end of lap 34, before Verstappen was able to edge his lead out again over the next part of the race as the leaders made their way through traffic.

Verstappen’s lead was back to nearly six seconds at the end of lap 46, with Bottas nearly 30 seconds adrift in third as the final phase of the race approached.

The only problem Verstappen encountered from there was what he called a “random” brake pedal issue Red Bull advised was being caused by him braking on the Turn 9 exit kerbs ahead of the final corner.

His margin of victory at the finish was 35.7 seconds, with Hamilton reporting he spotted his right-front tyre blistering in the closing stages, as although the weather clouded over in the final ten laps, the rain stayed away.

Behind the top two, Bottas held on to finish third, but only just ahead of Perez after Red Bull called him for a surprise second stop on lap 55.

Perez had a near 20 seconds gap to close, having been running just behind Bottas for the opening phase of the Mercedes driver’s second stint, and he quickly scythed into that advantage – sometimes taking over two seconds a lap back.

But as they also negotiated the traffic the leaders had already passed and Perez’s new mediums began to wear, the gap came down at slower rate, with Bottas eventually taking the final spot of the podium by just 0.5 seconds, with Perez unable to get close enough to make a move in time.

Norris came home in a solid, if lonely, fifth place, ahead of the Ferrari duo led by Carlos Sainz.

Sainz’s progress from P12 on the grid came via running deep into the race on the medium tyres and overcutting a big group of cars that had run ahead of him in the early stages, then moving up to sixth by passing Lance Stroll shortly after his pitstop by using DRS to blast by on the inside out of Turn 3 on lap 45.

Charles Leclerc’s race to seventh behind his teammate was rather more adventurous, as he had to stop at the end of the first lap after clouting Pierre Gasly on the run up to Turn 3 on the opening lap, which gave the AlphaTauri a left-rear puncture and damaged the right side of the Ferrari’s front wing.

Leclerc made two stops on his way back up the order, showing strong pace and making a series of bold overtakes – twice going down the inside of Antonio Giovinazzi and Turn 3 and passing Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso around the outside at Turn 4 – with the former pass occurring at the turn-in point for the corner and with the Alfa Romeo’s front wing picking up a bit of damage as the cars briefly came together.

A final stint charge helped Leclerc recover to surpass Stroll for seventh, with Alonso finishing just behind and himself only just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who took the final points-paying place in P10.

Raikkonen was 11th ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, who had made an excellent start to run in the top ten early on before falling back dramatically on lap seven, when he reported he had “low power”.

Although Ricciardo’s power level returned, he ran in the pack from there and ended up P13 ahead of Esteban Ocon in the Alpine.

Gasly retired as a result of the puncture he picked up on lap one, with the Frenchman also making contact with Giovinazzi – spinning the Alfa at Turn 3 just a few moments after his clash with Leclerc – as he fought to control his damaged car.

In the runoff beyond Turn 3, Gasly also touched Nicholas Latifi (who eventually finished P17 between the two Haas drivers) and gave the Williams a puncture before limping back to the pits with his left-rear destroyed.

The other DNF was George Russell, who was running strongly behind Alonso in the early stages as they headed a train of cars looking to take seventh place, boosted up the order by Leclerc and Gasly’s clash.

But Russell was warned of a reliability problem ahead of his stop, where he was stationary for nearly 20 seconds as Williams had to top up the pneumatic pressure in his power unit, and he then had to come in again immediately for the process to be repeated.

Although Russell returned to run at the rear of the pack for a while, he was called in and retired on lap 39.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen in winning at the Red Bull Ring. That’s his fourth victory of the season and he extends his lead in the championship over Lewis Hamilton. The next race is at the same track. Can Mercedes strike back?

Styrian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:22:18.925
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 35.743
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 46.907
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 47.434
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +1 lap
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +1 lap
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
11 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +3 laps
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +3 laps
– George Russell Williams-Mercedes DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF

Verstappen secures back-to-back pole, beating title rival Hamilton

Max Verstappen claimed his back-to-back pole position with a solid qualifying performance at the Red Bull Ring, finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who made a mistake on his final Q3 lap.

Verstappen will start alongside Hamilton on the front row as Bottas will take a three-place grid penalty for his FP2 pitlane spin, with the trio the only top ten drivers getting through Q3 on the medium compound, with which they will start the main race.

At the end of Q3, Verstappen set two laps that were good enough for pole, but it was his one minute, 03.841 seconds time from his first run that clinched it.

The Red Bull driver ran at the rear of the queue for the final Q3 fliers, but ended up posting a one minute, 03.919 seconds with his last effort.

Bottas improved to second with his final run, but the 0.194 seconds difference to Verstappen meant the championship leader was the only driver to brake the one minute, 04 seconds bracket.

Hamilton unusually had three goes in Q3 as he took the track almost immediately after the final segment began, posting a one minute, 04.208 seconds.

He came into the pits and then joined the usual sequence for two further runs, with his middle effort – a one minute, 04.067 seconds – ending up being his best, when he posted the fastest time in the first sector, as Verstappen came away with the best times in the first two thirds of the lap from his first run.

Hamilton followed Verstappen out of the pits ahead of the final runs and completed a much faster out-lap where he overtook a gaggle of cars touring slowly through the final turns and waiting to begin their laps.

The world champion ended up following Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who ended up P7, and was 0.2 seconds down on Verstappen’s first run time at the end of the first sector, which became 0.45 seconds down after the middle third was complete.

Hamilton then had to catch an oversteer snap as he ran through the penultimate corner and was sent wide, the time being deleted for a track limits offence even though he ended up posting a lap over two seconds slower than his personal best.

Lando Norris took fourth ahead of Sergio Perez, with the duo each to be boosted one spot up the grid on Sunday by Bottas’s penalty.

Pierre Gasly was sixth, with his teammate Yuki Tsunoda ending up behind Leclerc but facing a post-qualifying investigation after appearing to hold up Bottas at Turn 4 during the Finn’s first flying lap in Q3.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso took ninth ahead of Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll, who made it into Q3 despite having his final lap in Q2 deleted for a track limits infringement by running to wide at the final corner.

At the end of Q2, George Russell ended up P11 and just 0.008 seconds from a first Q3 appearance for Williams after Alonso’s last-gasp improvement knocked the Briton out.

Carlos Sainz lost his best time in Q2 – the one minute, 04.711 seconds he set on his final run in the middle segment – for running too wide out of the penultimate corner, but he would have been behind Russell in any case.

Daniel Ricciardo was only P13 for McLaren, ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who lost an identical time to Sainz’s deleted effort on his final lap in Q2, but the German driver had his taken away for running to wide at the final corner.

Antonio Giovinazzi made it through to Q2 for Alfa Romeo, but ended up P15 and last of the Q2 runners.

In Q1, Nicholas Latifi and Esteban Ocon were shuffled down the order as other drivers improved on their final laps, with the latter a shock exit despite setting a personal best on his last effort for Alpine.

Kimi Raikkonen also set a personal best on his final flier but was dumped out in P18, The Iceman also skating through the gravel at Turn 4 – the long, downhill right at the end of the track’s third long acceleration zone – at the end of the runs in the middle part of the opening segment.

Mick Schumacher abandoned his final Q1 run after catching an oversteer snap and taking to the runoff at the exit of the first corner, but his previous best effort still kept him ahead of his Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin, who brought up the rear of the field.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen with pole position. Starting at the sharp end of the grid at the team’s home race is an advantage. Lewis Hamilton is next to him on the front row but can challenge his rival to the title? Bring on the race.

Styrian Grand Prix qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing-Honda 1:03.841
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:04.067
3 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:04.120
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing-Honda 1:04.168
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:04.035
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:04.236
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:04.472
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:04.514
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:04.574
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:04.708
11 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:04.671
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:04.800
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:04.808
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:04.875
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:04.913
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:05.175
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:05.217
18 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:05.429
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:06.041
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:06.192

Verstappen overcame first lap error to win French Grand Prix

Max Verstappen made a penultimate lap overtake to beat his title rival Lewis Hamilton, with an aggressive and unexpected two-stop strategy key to his victory at Paul Ricard.

Verstappen had earlier lost the lead by running off track ahead of the race’s second corner, before gaining first position back when the power of the undercut caught out Mercedes at the first pitstops.

But, with all the drivers struggling more with tyre degradation than had been expected in what were cooler conditions at Paul Ricard on race day compared to the rest of the weekend, this time it was Red Bull that gave up track position for the second half of the race to set up another grandstand finish along the lines of the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix and the 2021 race in Spain.

At the start of the French Grand Prix, Verstappen led Hamilton away from the front of the grid and looked in command as he ran through Turn 1, but as he swept around the fast left-hander and began to move towards the Turn 2 right, the Red Bull driver had to catch a sudden slide.

Verstappen was suddenly heading right when he should have been positioning his car to the left ahead of Turn 2 and had to run off track as he caught the slide, keeping tight to the bollards on the inside of the second corner.

As Verstappen was catching his slide and running off, Hamilton steamed around Turn 2 and the Red Bull inside kerbs to easily move into the lead.

From there, Hamilton built a 1.4-second lead by the end of the first lap, despite having to catch his on lurid slide coming onto the pit straight at the end of lap one of 53.

The leaders quickly dropped Sergio Perez, running in P4 in the second Red Bull, as Hamilton ran untroubled up front and Bottas pressured Verstappen’s second place – dipping in and out of DRS threat towards the end of the opening ten laps.

The three leaders were the only cars able to lap regularly in the low-mid one minute, 39 seconds throughout the opening stint, where Hamilton calmly built a solid lead over Verstappen.

The gap had just about reached three seconds when Mercedes brought Bottas in at the end of lap 17 to switch his starting mediums for hards, after drivers who had stopped earlier and were running in the pack – Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo – made gains with an undercut.

Red Bull reacted by bringing Verstappen in at the end of the following lap and the Dutchman was able to return comfortably in net P2, now also on the hard tyres.

Hamilton made the same switch a lap later, but Verstappen stunned him by making into Turn 1 ahead as the Mercedes, which was stationary for a tenth of a second less at its stop compared to the Red Bull, was still getting back to speed.

Verstappen was back in front by under immense pressure from both Mercedes, who ran in DRS range behind the net leader (Perez led until he stopped at the end of lap 24 having cycled to the front when the runners in front came in).

For the ten laps after Verstappen retook the lead, Hamilton was able to run within a second, but, as the leaders discussed the possibility of turning their expected one-stop strategies into two stops, the gap began to edge out.

By lap 32, Verstappen led by 2.2 seconds as he was able to stay in the one minute, 37 seconds bracket, while the following Black Arrows cars slipped beyond that into the mid one minute, 38 seconds, but at the end of that lap Red Bull called the leader in to go back to the mediums.

Once he had completed his out-lap, Verstappen had an 18 seconds gap to close back to the lead and he began to carve into that advantage by around two seconds a lap as he ran in the mid one minute, 36 seconds versus Hamilton’s mid one minute, 38 seconds.

Perez waved Verstappen by at Turn 11 on lap 35, with Mercedes telling Hamilton the catch would depend on how long it took his title rival to battle by Bottas and if Verstappen could keep his mediums in better shape than most drivers managed in the first stint.

Verstappen reached Bottas with ten laps to go, his rate of catching the two Mercedes cars slowing after his initial onslaught, with Hamilton in particular getting back to regularly lapping in the one minute, 37 seconds, as they all had to make their way through backmarker traffic.

On lap 44, Verstappen closed on Bottas with DRS down the first half of the Mistral Straight, and when the Mercedes defended to the inside of the first part of the Turns 8/9 chicane Bottas ended up losing momentum.

That allowed Verstappen to get alongside on the run down the rest of the straight and he retook second as they swept through Turn 10, Signes, which gave Verstappen 5.1 seconds to close on Hamilton over the final nine laps.

The gap initially only came down in small bursts, but as Hamilton toured back in the one minute, 38 seconds as the distance to go ticked under five laps, Verstappen was able to gain the best part of a second a lap as the traffic between the leaders disappeared.

At the start of the penultimate lap, Verstappen was finally within DRS range – the gap at 0.7 seconds – and he seized the lead back at the first opportunity, heading into the chicane on the Mistral Straight.

Verstappen had closed in rapidly with DRS, and although Hamilton defended to the inside, the Red Bull as able to get alongside on the left-hand side approaching Turn 8 and Verstappen sealed the lead at the apex of the first part of the chicane/

He pulled clear over the final lap and a third, winning by 2.9 seconds, with Perez coming home third ahead of Bottas as the Mexican driver was able to bring his offset one-stopper tyre life advantage to bear in the closing stages.

Perez took third sweeping around the outside of Signes on lap 49, with Bottas furious he had not be switched to a two-stopper.

Lando Norris was another driver to make late stop on the one-stopper work to his advantage, as he climbed the order to finish fifth and ahead of teammate Ricciardo.

Pierre Gasly finished seventh ahead of Fernando Alonso, with Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll coming home in the final points paying positions after starting on the hards – Stroll from the last row of the grid – and running deep into the race before coming in.

Leclerc, the first driver to pit in the race, tumbled down the order as his hards wore out, and he was eventually put on a two-stopper, which left him down in P16.

Carlos Sainz Jr also struggled for tyre life in his Ferrari, finishing 11th having started fifth, with George Russell beating the pitlane-starting Yuki Tsunoda to P12.

So excellent race to victory from Max Verstappen. After giving away his lead on the opening lap with a slide, the Red Bull strategy played a major part in strategy and Max’s speed was so awesome and to pass championship rival Lewis Hamilton on the lap 52 was great. Really enjoying this title fight this season.

French Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:27:25.770
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2.904
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 8.811
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 14.618
5 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 64.032s
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 75.857s
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 76.596s
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 77.695s
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 79.666s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 91.946s
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 99.337s
12 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
17 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +1 lap