by Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the Styrian Grand Prix with a big lead this Sunday and opened an 18-point lead against Lewis Hamilton in the Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship.
Verstappen won end-to-end at Austria’s Red Bull King, with seven-time world champion Hamilton in second for Mercedes.
The Brit was 35s743 behind on the checkered flag, after a stop at the end to put on new tires to add an extra point with the fastest lap.
It is the first time since 2013 that the mighty Mercedes has gone four straight races without a win and also the first time since then that Red Bull has celebrated four consecutive victories.
“Unbelievable. The car was on fire today,” Verstappen said over the team radio, following the 23-year-old Dutchman’s fourth win in eight races this season, the second in a row and the 14th of his career.
“You never know how it’s going to end, but right away I felt a good balance in the car,” he added, after getting out of his vehicle. “I managed the tires well from the start. I felt that in the end I still had tires.”
Valtteri Bottas took third place for Mercedes, narrowly holding Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez, who had newer tires, for just 0.527.
Everyone took a lap from Verstappen, who started from pole position and has now won more races than anyone else this year, with Red Bull emerging as the biggest threat to Mercedes since the start of the V6 turbo hybrid engine era in 2014.
“It was the most dominant victory we’ve had so far this year,” said Red Bull team manager Christian Horner.
Red Bull is now 40 points ahead of Mercedes in the Constructors’ World Championship.
“It was a bit of a lonely race actually,” Hamilton said. “I was trying to keep up with the guys, but the speed they were at, they’ve obviously improved a lot in the last few races and it’s impossible to keep up.”
“I think they’re a little better on the long straights… I feel like we lost a little bit on the straights.”
The picturesque Spielberg circuit will host another race next weekend, the Austrian Grand Prix.
McLaren’s Lando Norris finished fifth, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc sixth and seventh respectively.
Canadian Lance Stroll was eighth for Aston Martin, ahead of Fernando Alonso, from Alpine. Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda took the last point for AlphaTauri.
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