Reigning Formula One champion Max Verstappen continued his relentless march toward a third straight world title with another dominating win at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Verstappen started from pole position for the fourth straight race and notched his fifth straight win and seventh in nine races so far this season. He increased his championship lead to 81 points over his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

“I think our stints were perfect so a great day, I enjoyed it a lot,” Verstappen said. “I am just enjoying driving this car and racing for this team.”

So much so that he even got his way to come in two laps from the end for a shot at the fastest lap, despite his team’s reluctance to take the risk. Typically, he got the bonus point for it on the final lap to complete a perfect weekend after his victory from pole in Saturday’s sprint race.

“I saw the gap and said ‘We have to pit,’” Verstappen said. “From the outside maybe it looks like a big risk, but when you’re in the car it doesn’t feel like a risk at all.”

The victory also took the 25-year-old Dutchman onto 42 F1 wins overall, one ahead of the late Ayrton Senna and alone in fifth place on F1’s all-time list of winners.

Charles Leclerc — last year’s winner here — finished 5.2 seconds behind Verstappen in second place with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez placing third, 17.2 behind.

But Verstappen’s winning margin was shortened by his late pit stop, and it was another comfortable victory on his team’s home track in Spielberg.

Making a clean start from pole, he held off Leclerc on Turns 2 and 3 and easily regained the lead from him following a pit stop at the halfway point of the 71-lap race at the Red Bull Ring.

“Most important to me was lap one, stay in front after that (so) we could do our own race,” Verstappen said.

It was only Leclerc’s second podium of the season, but put him in optimistic mood.

“The upgrades we brought made me feel better. It’s looking good for the future,” Leclerc said. “Obviously, there’s still a lot to do, Max and Checo (Sergio) have a lot of pace.”

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and several other drivers received five-second time penalties for going off track limits.

Perez started 15th and passed Sainz with 10 laps left to collect his first podium since his second place two months ago.

“It’s a good comeback,” Perez said. “It’s been a bit of a rough patch for me so now hopefully we are back and we can keep that consistency now.”

Sainz was fourth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in sixth, Hamilton in seventh and his teammate George Russell in eighth.

Red Bull has won all nine races, all 11 when including the two sprint races with Verstappen’s victory following Perez’s success in Azerbaijan.

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll completed the top 10.

After a safety car came out briefly at the end of Lap 1, Verstappen got away cleanly on the restart.

Hamilton, who had started well and was fourth in the early going, began struggling to control his car and began going off track limits.

“I can’t keep it on the track, the car won’t turn,” said Hamilton said, who was issued repeated warnings.

When a virtual safety car came out on Lap 15 after Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg went off the track, most teams opted to make another tire change to take advantage of pit stops costing them less time as cars on the track are forced to reduce speed.

But Verstappen and teammate Perez stayed out.

“I could see already a few laps before the (VSC) that we were pulling out quite a gap so I knew I would get it back,” Verstappen said. “Just following our own plan was the best way forward.”

Drivers kept going wide of track limits on the 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) circuit that is known to be particularly difficult to stay within the white lines.

“Has he got a penalty yet?” Hamilton asked about Perez, and continued complaining about other drivers going wide after his own penalty, forcing team principal Toto Wolff to intervene.

“The car is bad, we know, please drive it,” Wolff said.

Perez was warned by his team with 15 laps left to respect the track limits. He was right behind Sainz at that point and could not afford a time penalty.

Minute’s silence

Drivers lined up on the grid for a minute’s silence in memory of 18-year-old Dutch driver Dilano van ’t Hoff, who died on Saturday after a crash at the Formula Regional European Championship at the Spa-Francorchamps track in Belgium.

F1 holds a race in Belgium on July 30.

Source: Euronews

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