Honda annexes first F1 win in hybrid era

Unlike the race before it, there was plenty of excitement and drama at the Austrian Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen put together one of the best drives of his young career to bring Honda its first victory in the Formula 1 World Championship since Jenson Button won in Hungary in 2006.

Thrilling legions of orange-clad Dutch fans, Verstappen overcame a rough start that dropped him to seventh place after the opening lap to claim his sixth career F1 win. The Red Bull driver came from 14 seconds behind and executed a perfectly-timed pass of Charles LeClerc’s Ferrari with three laps to go to earn the victory at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

Max Verstappen points to the Honda logo on his driver’s suit after winning Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix. Behind him is a dejected Charles LeClerc of Ferrari who placed second after leading most of the way.

While he qualified second on the grid, Verstappen had a horrible start – at one point dropping down to seventh. “It was a shame at the start as I triggered anti-stall… From there onwards the pace was really good, I stayed calm and kept pushing hard.”

Starting on the medium Pirelli tires, Verstappen was able to make his rubber last 10 laps longer than his competitors, ensuring that he would have fresher tires at the end of the 71-lap event. He made full use of the better tires, passing Sebastien Vettel for third on Lap 50, powering past the Mercedes of Vallteri Bottas on Lap 56, and then going to battle with LeClerc.

The Dutchman ran down the young Ferrari driver and the pair had a wheel-to-wheel battle through Turn 3 on Lap 68, before Verstappen made the pass in the same spot one orbit later, taking the lead after side-to-side contact exiting the turn. The contact initiated a post-race review by the race stewards, but after much deliberation no penalties were given and the Red Bull Honda kept its spot at the top of the podium.

Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly qualified 8th and also made up some positions with late-race passes, getting by Kimi Raikkonen and Carlos Sainz Jr. to secure a seventh-place result, marking his fifth consecutive points-paying result.

Honda Motor Co. CEO and director of Honda F1 Takahiro Hachigo said, “It is a great pleasure for us to win once more in Formula 1, especially because getting to this point has not been straightforward since our return to the sport in 2015. First of all, I would like to thank Max and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing for this victory. Of course, we must also thank Scuderia Toro Rosso and all the drivers who have given so much support to the project, as well as all the suppliers and related parties. I want to thank all our fans. With their support, we will keep challenging as we strive towards our ultimate goal, which is to win the world championship, taking this victory as a first step. Any future success we have is also thanks to our fans who are really a part of our team.”

The Red Bull Toro Rosso Hondas had a tougher day as both car reviews started deep in the field. Alex Albon gridded 18th after a penalty for an engine change while Daniil Kvyat started a luckless 19th after having to lift to avoid competitors on his last lap of Q1. The pair battled through the scorching hot day, with the rookie Albon finishing 15th while Kvyat wound up 17th.

The victory, along with an extra point for running the fastest lap, allowed Verstappen to vault Vettel for third place in the championship, leading the Ferrari driver with three points after nine races. Gasly’s finish kept him in sixth place and widened his gap to 13 points over McLaren’s Sainz.

The series will have a week off to celebrate the victory before heading to Silverstone for the Rolex British Grand Prix July 14.

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