Supreme Verstappen sails to third successive race win to extend F1 championship lead

Max Verstappen fans may now be starting to believe it is indeed the Dutchman’s year after the Red Bull ace notched up his successive race victory of the season to extend his championship lead to 32 points over Lewis Hamilton.

Seven-time champion Hamilton was never really in a position to mount a serious attack on his rival, and even worse had to settle for fourth position behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and compatriot Lando Norris.

Sergio Perez recovered from a controversial early collision with Norris to finish fifth ahead of Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo as Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top ten.

“Incredible to be honest,” said race winner Verstappen afterward. “The car was on rails, every tyre set we put on it was really enjoyable to drive and pretty insane. I’m a bit amazed myself how today went. I didn’t expect it to be like this. So an incredible job by everyone to deliver something like this.

“Of course when you go into the weekend, and everyone sees you as the favourite it’s never easy to deliver what we did today. So a great effort from the team, these two weeks especially here has been incredible.”

It was another interesting start, Verstappen maintaining his start off the line as behind the leaders Esteban Ocon found himself the loser in a sandwich between Antonio Giovinazzi and Mick Schumacher, the Alpine driver forced off into the gravel and bringing about a first Safety Car.

Upon the restart there was more drama, Sergio Perez sliding off into the gravel under pressure from Norris as Hamilton fended off Bottas for third. It led to a five second penalty for the McLaren man, seemingly putting him out of contention for another podium.

With Verstappen serenely making his way into the distance, Norris was still doing a supreme job of holding off seven-time world champion Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly and Tsunoda in pursuit.

Yet with the Alpha Tauri duo starting on the faster wearing soft compound Pirelli tyres and the rest of the top ten on mediums, the strategy certainly favoured the yellow-banded starters.

Bottas was the first of the front runners to roll the dice, diving into the pits for a set of hard compound tyres to take him to the end, quickly followed by Norris, Hamilton and Verstappen.

When the dust settled after the first series of stops it was Verstappen who continued to lead from the Mercedes duo with Norris keeping the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz behind. It led to a frantic second half of the race, Perez and Leclerc dicing for position, the Ferrari almost going into the gravel in the fight for position.

Suddenly it was Norris who was the man on the move, his tyres coming back to him as he repassed Hamilton for third, leading to the defending champion taking an extra pit stop for hards.

Out front, Verstappen still had plenty in hand, stopping again with ten laps to go. And it proved more than sufficient to head home Bottas and the outstanding Norris, who also gained the respect of the significant amount of ‘Orange Army’ fans in the crowd.

“Firstly I want to say a big thanks to everyone, all the fans,” said Norris. “It was exciting but I’m disappointed because we should have been second place. In thought lap 1 was just racing, really. He (Perez) tried to go around the outside which was a bit stupid, and he ran off the track himself. I didn’t even push him. So I’m frustrated but I’m also happy with P3.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.