F1 is set for an interesting season following Austrian GP

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Red Bull driver dominates from pole position to stretch his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen comfortably won the Austrian Grand Prix to further cement his position at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ table, with a 32-point lead over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

For the second week in a row, Verstappen led from pole position and rarely looked threatened throughout the race. Unlike last week, when Hamilton nicked the fastest lap with a late pit-stop for fresh tyres, the Dutch driver got the clean sweep and claimed the point for quickest lap.

In the same weekend that Hamilton announced a two-year extension to his Mercedes contract, he suffered a frustrating race. Running second and in damage-limitation mode, the British driver ran wide at the final corner, damaged his floor and slipped behind both his team-mate Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris, eventually ending up fourth.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fifth, doing just enough with two quick laps at the death to jump ahead of Sergio Perez, the Red Bull driver having suffered two separate five-second penalties for clashing with Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver ended up eighth. Daniel Ricciardo was seventh, ninth for Pierre Gasly and 10th for Fernando Alonso.

What do Mercedes do next?

It’s easy to be over-dramatic, but it’s clear that Hamilton and Mercedes need to make some significant developments if they’re to break the current Red Bull stranglehold. But will they get any? Team principal Toto Wolff has said the team is switching its attention to 2022, when significant rules changes are introduced, rather than pushing this year’s car.

The one ray of light is that the next race is at Silverstone in two week’s time, a Mercedes/Hamilton fortress. But if they can’t beat Verstappen there, you have to wonder what hope the current champions have for the rest of the season.

Norris brings some cheer

Like Verstappen, Norris had another excellent weekend. He qualified an incredible second, held off Hamilton for the first chunk of the race, and then managed to grab the final podium spot, just a couple of seconds behind Bottas at the flag.

The one blot in his copybook was an aggressive defensive move against Sergio Perez at the start of the race, which earned him a five second penalty and an extra two points on his licence. It means he’ll spend a significant chunk of the season with eight points – 12 leads to a ban.

Russell misses out again

For the second race in a row, George Russell gets a special mention: Because for the second race in a row, he came agonisingly close to scoring a point for Williams. Qualifying a stunning ninth, and managing that on the slower medium tyre compound to boot, Russell was running in 10th in the final period of the race. But Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was closing and ready to spoil the party – Russell managed to hold him off for 10 laps, before the Spaniard nipped past with three laps to go.

Russell’s hunt for his first points for Williams goes on.

Piers Ward

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