Austria’s picturesque Red Bull Ring is a home track for the energy drinks brand, but it had never won at the 10-turn track in the Styrian mountains…
Until 2018, when Max Verstappen took his first win of the year, and fourth overall: making the most of a rare Mercedes’ double retirement, his rivals’ blistering tyres and a pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car.
At lights out Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen got a golden start from third on the grid, going three-wide with the two Mercedes into Turn 1, forcing polesitter Valtteri Bottas back to fourth behind Verstappen.
Into Turn 3 Räikkönen tried to take Hamilton for the lead, but went wide – allowing Bottas back to third, behind Verstappen, before retaking second into Turn 4. The top-five after Lap 1: Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, who barged past a resurgent Räikkönen at Turn 7 and Daniel Ricciardo.
Out front, Hamilton set a string of fastest laps, as Bottas began to reel him in, holding him to just over 2-seconds by Lap 12, when disaster struck, first for Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, who retired from ninth with a turbo failure…
Then, just three laps later, for Bottas in second place with hydraulic failure – forcing the Virtual Safety Car to be deployed… but while both Red Bulls and Ferraris pitted, Hamilton stayed out despite being able to stop…
The pressure was then on Hamilton to build a 21-second gap to retain his lead but the Brit couldn’t, the 13.2 second gap ensuring he dropped down to fourth when he stopped on Lap 25 for the softs.
Ricciardo in second struggled with blisters on the softs from Lap 34, forcing him to stop five laps later for the supersofts – while Vettel passed Hamilton for fourth into Turn 3.
Five laps later Ricciardo, on his 29th Birthday, retired from fourth with a cooked gearbox – followed by Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley with an unspecified issue.
…and, incredibly, Hamilton, who retired on Lap 63 – despite taking a second pit stop just 11 laps earlier – the Brit losing fuel pressure.
And while Verstappen took heat from both Ferraris in the remaining laps, the Dutchman stayed cool to the flag for his first win since Mexico 2017.