The 2023 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix was one of the messier races I've seen in a long time, with more drivers getting five-second penalties for exceeding track limits than I could count. Ferrari once again seemed confused about tire strategy, several drivers made contact during overtaking in turn four, and Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton was ratting out every other driver he saw exceeding track limits. However, despite all the mess, Red Bull's Max Verstappen couldn't be stopped.
Almost frustratingly, Verstappen was perfect throughout the Austrian GP. While he didn't lead every lap, breaking his streak of leading laps since the Miami GP almost a month ago, it took Red Bull telling him to pit to knock him out of first place. After his first pit stop, Ferrari's duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were ahead of Verstappen, with the former in the lead and the latter playing defense in an attempt to keep Verstappen at bay. However, the Dutchman made quick and easy work of dispatching both Ferrari drivers, retaking the lead in just a few short laps.
Leclerc also raced a clean race, and did his absolute best to try and hold onto his lead, but the combination of Red Bull's superior car and Verstappen's brilliance proved unstoppable. So much so, in fact, that Red Bull bet on both his skill and the skill of the pit crew in the final two laps, so Verstappen could snag the fastest lap, in addition to first place.
While leading by 23 seconds in the final two laps, Red Bull pit Verstappen for fresh soft compound tires, which would only leave a three-second gap between him and Leclerc. One mess up between either the pit crew or Verstappen and Lecrec would have won the race. However, the pit stop was perfect, and the fastest of the day for Red Bull, but Verstappen was able to use the fresh tires to get fastest lap and still win the race, earning him a total of 26 points on the day.
It was more interesting of a race than the final results might suggest, though. The questionable tire strategies of several teams, drama between Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff, and the near-constant track limit penalties that were doled out kept things from getting boring, as the usual drivers took control of the race. The next F1 grand prix is next week, July 9, at Silverstone.
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