MEDIA RELEASE/McLaren Formula 1 Team - Main Photo: Supplied The McLaren Formula 1 team have…
Max Verstappen and Oscar Piastri signaled their intentions as the cars lined up for the race start. The Oracle Red Bull angled towards Piastri’s side of the circuit with the McLaren similarly angled towards the pole sitter.
As the lights went out it was Verstappen who held the advantage and slowly cut off Piastri’s run up the inside. In doing so he left the door open for Lando Norris to make a move for the lead on the outside of the track. Verstappen reacted to the move and eased back across towards the apex of Turn 1 and into the lead from Norris, Piastri, Leclerc, Sainz and Alonso.
It wasn’t all plain sailing further down the field. Carlos Sainz jinked right down the main straight which pushed Sergio Perez into the side of Lewis Hamilton. All three continued though Perez stopped at the end of the lap for a new nose, while Hamilton was reported to have suffered minor damage to the right barge board.
The congestion was even worse back in the pack with contact between Ocon and Bottas sending the Alfa Romeo into the side of Alex Albon. Unlike the other incidents, this had more significant consequences for all three with Albon pitched off the ground and suffered floor damage as the Williams thudded back onto the ground. Bottas and Guanyu both had front wings damage, while Ocon also had some minor damage to his Alpine.
A Safety Car was immediately dispatched as large pieces of front wing and carbon-fibre shards lined the approach to Turn 1. Perez was fortunate to miss one such piece on his return to the circuit following his nose change. In doing so he was judged to have committed a Safety Car infringement on his entry to the pitlane and was issued with a 5 second time penalty. It probably mattered little as he languished back in 15th place.
The race resumed on Lap 5 with Verstappen quick to seize a break on the field at the green flag resumption. Verstappen continued to edge away from the McLaren duo behind, with a small gap to the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz. Alonso held sixth place as Hamilton and Russell traded places for seventh ahead of Lawson and Stroll.
One began to wonder if the race could get any worse for Perez, who tagged Kevin Magnussen at the hairpin and spun the Haas. Perez damaged yet another front wing in the contact. He stopped at the end of the lap for another nose and to serve his time penalty, which dropped him down to 19th place. He was told by the Oracle Red Bull engineers to retire the car on Lap 15.
Piastri was the first of the leaders to make his stop on Lap 14. The Virtual Safety Car was then called as the McLaren driver approached his pit bay. It was an opportune moment for the Australian who would have gained an advantage over his rivals.
The race resumed once more before the leader had a chance to pit under the VSC. Verstappen made his stop on Lap 17 and returned to the circuit in fifth place, just 2.6 seconds ahead of Piastri. Norris stopped a lap later and fell five-seconds behind his teammate on his return to the circuit.
Ferrari gambled on a different tyre strategy to the other front team and elected to use a second set of medium tyres for the middle stages of the race. They quickly re-established themselves in fourth and fifth position behind the Oracle Red Bull and the two McLaren cars.
By half race distance Verstappen held an 11 second lead over Piastri, while Norris had recorded the fastest lap of the race as he closed to within a half second of his teammate. Leclerc sat a further 4.9 seconds behind in what look likely to be another Verstappen win and McLaren double podium.
Norris complained to his engineers that his race was being compromised behind Piastri. A short time later the team allowed the #4 to move ahead down the main straight.
Piastri made his second stop on Lap 36 with the Australian sent out on another set of hard tyres. Norris did likewise a lap later, while race leader Verstappen pitted for another set of medium compound tyres.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 gambled on a one-stop strategy for George Russell, who held third place with 12 laps left to run. Piastri finally worked his back onto the podium when he swept around the outside of Russell at turn 1.
Leclerc also closed on the British driver and repeated the passing move on Lap 45 for fourth place as the one stop strategy came undone. Hamilton and then Sainz demoted Russell to 7th with two laps left.
Verstappen cruised to the win with a 19 second gap to Norris in second. Piastri finished third to collect his first Grand Prix podium. Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz, Russell, Alonso, Gasly and Ocon rounded out the top 10.
The win secured Oracle Red Bull Racing with their sixth Constructor’s Championship.
“Let’s go guys, Ha ha another win. Unbelievable!” Verstappen radioed back to his Oracle Red Bull Racing team.
“Unbelievable guys,” Verstappen said of the sixth Constructors title. “You deserve that. What an unbelievable season we are having. You can be all very proud here at the track and back at the factory… You guys build a rocket ship of a car!”
Piastri capped off his weekend winning the drive of the day.
“It feels pretty special,” Oscar then told Damon Hill in the podium interview. “I’ll remember it for a very, very long time. “I can’t thank the team enough for giving me this opportunity. there’s not many who get his opportunity in their entire life, and I managed to get it in my first season.”
“The move on George, I knew I had to get past, or I’d be stuck for a while. It was pretty close. I got more into a groove and a rhythm in the second half of the race and the pace was a bit better.”
“Thanks very much to the team. It wasn’t my best race ever, but it was enough to get a trophy at the end. So, yeah super happy and excited to try and get some more!”
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