SPIELBERG (Austria) • Max Verstappen was the toast of the Red Bull team yesterday when he clinched his first victory of the season at the Austrian Grand Prix - the team's home race.
But the race turned from frustration to disaster for defending world champion Lewis Hamilton, who was forced to retire on lap 63 with a fuel pressure problem.
With the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in second and third, Hamilton surrendered his title lead, with a 15-point swing in favour of the German, who now leads by a single point.
It is the first time Red Bull have won their home meeting and Verstappen, 20, ran his race to perfection, running with exemplary control, pace and skill while managing his tyres, where others were hampered by blistering.
"This is amazing," he said. "In front of all the fans at the Red Bull Ring and in a Red Bull."
Vettel started from sixth after a grid penalty and what began as damage limitation turned into a major advantage over his title rival. Raikkonen too was superb, also running his tyres well and charging after Verstappen in the final stages.
AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX
1 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1hr 21min 56.024sec
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari +1.504sec
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +3.181
4 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas +1 lap
5 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas +1 lap
6 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India +1 lap
7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +1 lap
8 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren +1 lap
9 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber +1 lap
10 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber +1 lap
1 Vettel 146 points 2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) 145 3 Raikkonen 101 4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) 96 5 Verstappen 93
1 Ferrari 247 pts 2 Mercedes 237 3 Red Bull 189 4 Renault 62 5 Haas 49
For Mercedes, it was a different story. Valtteri Bottas, who started on pole, had further bad luck in a season marked by ill fortune, a loss of hydraulic pressure forcing him to retire on lap 14.
Hamilton fared little better. The team's decision not to pit him under the safety car cost him the lead and then he was unable to challenge with heavy rear tyre wear that ultimately forced him to go into the pits twice.
Mercedes face grid penalties later in the season as they have to replace power unit components.
The pit-strategy error is not the first for Mercedes this season. It compounded a software miscalculation that cost Hamilton a win in Australia and the very similar decision not to pit him under the safety car in China that led to a Red Bull victory for Daniel Ricciardo.
Asked whether he could have vetoed his team's call to stay out on track during the early safety car period, Hamilton told Sky Sports: "There are things you can do. You can decide to stay out but the guys on the pit wall, you have to put 100 per cent faith in. You can't see much when you're out on the track.
"We've got to understand how we went wrong at both ends. We were the quickest. We've got to keep working hard."
Verstappen's first win this year could not have come at a better time as he has faced questions about his driving style after being involved in a series of incidents this season. The victory will go a long way to silencing his critics.
Red Bull made the most of their chances on a track that should have favoured Mercedes and Ferrari and it will be a huge boost, especially as Mercedes employed their first major aero upgrade in Austria.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: "A dream result, Red Bull Ring, Red Bull car, and Max driving an unbelievable race. The tyres were so crucial but he managed to keep those temperatures down. A very mature drive."