AUSTRIA: Max Verstappen continued his impressive winning streak at the Austrian Grand Prix, securing his fifth consecutive victory of the 2023 season. The race was filled with thrilling overtaking action and marred by controversial track limit penalties that affected the final results.
Verstappen held onto his lead from Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at the start of a tightly contested race.
However, Lewis Hamilton made a strong start to jump ahead of Lando Norris into fourth place. The early stages saw Ferrari display solid pace, with Leclerc pressuring Verstappen for the lead.
As the race progressed, Sergio Perez delivered an outstanding recovery drive from 15th on the grid to claim the final podium position. Meanwhile, McLaren’s Lando Norris capitalized on their upgraded package to secure the team’s first top-five finish of the season.
However, the race results took a dramatic turn hours later when eight drivers, including Sainz, received post-race time penalties for multiple track limit breaches that were not initially investigated during the race.
The race started with a moment of silence in memory of Dilano van ‘t Hoff, a teenage racer who tragically lost his life in an accident during a FRECA race at Spa the day before. Verstappen made an excellent start, successfully defending his lead against Leclerc’s early challenges.
Fernando Alonso, starting on hard tires, made a move on his teammate Lance Stroll to secure sixth place. Yuki Tsunoda suffered damage after colliding with Esteban Ocon, leading to a Safety Car period.
Verstappen capitalized on the restart, extending his lead over Leclerc. Sainz expressed frustration as he believed he had the pace to overtake his teammate but was instructed to hold his position.
Meanwhile, Perez embarked on a remarkable recovery, passing George Russell and Alex Albon to enter the points positions. Hamilton received a black and white flag for exceeding track limits, citing handling issues with his car.
Nico Hulkenberg’s race ended prematurely due to a power unit problem, triggering a Virtual Safety Car period that caught Ferrari off-guard during their pit stops.
The penalty saga continued as several drivers, including Hamilton and Tsunoda, received time penalties for track limit violations.
Sainz, after a disappointing strategy and team order, charged through the field on fresh medium tires, overtaking Hamilton and Perez to reclaim a podium position.
Verstappen, who had remained on track during the VSC period, eventually pitted and found himself behind both Ferrari drivers. He swiftly passed Sainz to regain second place. Norris capitalized on Hamilton’s brake issues and overtook him for fourth.
Amidst the battle for positions, penalties for track limits continued to be issued, affecting Sainz, Alpine drivers, Lance Stroll, and Alex Albon. Verstappen made an impressive move on Leclerc to reclaim the lead at the halfway mark.
In the closing stages, Perez and Sainz engaged in a thrilling duel for the final podium spot. Perez eventually overtook Sainz after intense wheel-to-wheel racing. Verstappen, with a comfortable lead, opted for a late pit stop to secure the fastest lap bonus point.
In the end, Verstappen crossed the finish line, clinching victory at the Austrian Grand Prix. However, the race was not without controversy, with over 1,200 instances of track limit breaches being investigated by the FIA after the race, resulting in time penalties for eight drivers.