A refreshing shower for Max Verstappen.
A refreshing shower for Max Verstappen.

Max lays down challenge to Mercedes

Red Bull's Max Verstappen has knocked Mercedes off the top of the podium with a stunning victory in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

It was the first race of the season that a Mercedes driver didn't win, but it was still a historic day for six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who equalled Michael Schumacher's record of 155 career podiums. Hamilton finished second after overtaking his teammate Valtteri Bottas late in the race.

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While many have criticised the sport for Mercedes' dominance, the 70th Anniversary race was not the Silver Arrows' day with tyre issues from the outset.

Blistering caused both Bottas and Hamilton to lose tyres last week and there was more caution this week. It didn't stop tyre issues throughout the race.

Verstappen set up his race perfectly with no such issues, running more than half the race before his first pit.

After an early pit, Hamilton waited until the 42nd lap with his tyres looking very worn and needing to make up 12 seconds to Verstappen.

With Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Bottas in his way, Hamilton was able to move up to second but couldn't really make a play at Verstappen.

 

 

Max Verstappen was a happy boy.
Max Verstappen was a happy boy.

In the early laps of the race, Verstappen was told to pull back from Mercedes to protect his tyres but the Dutchman hit back, a strategy that paid off as he put pressure on the front-runners.

"Mate - this is the only chance of being close to the Mercedes, I'm not just sitting behind like a grandma," he said.

A thrilled Verstappen felt vindicated after the race, saying "What an amazing race. This is what you get when you keep pushing. What a great day. I think we did everything perfect today. We're definitely going to celebrate this one" over team radio.

Post-race, Verstappen's comments were questioned by Sky Sports as "a lot of grandmas drive quite quickly".

"I know - my grandma as well," Verstappen said. "I mean we've never had the opportunity to fight with them really so I'm not going to just cruise behind, I have nothing to lose. Worst case I'm going to be P3, best case I'll win the race."

Winning his ninth grand prix, Verstappen said he wasn't expecting to come out on top.

"I didn't see it coming, but after the first stint it seemed like we were really good on tyres. Of course there was a question mark how Mercedes were going to go on the hard tyre," he said. "We had a lot of pace in the car and I didn't really have a lot of tyre issues at all. We just kept pushing.

"An incredible result of course to win here, everything worked out well. I'm incredibly happy.

"We haven't really had an opportunity in all the races so far to push them and I could see we were pushing them. I tried to put the pressure on, they had to pit, I did my own pace."

With two laps remaining, Max Verstappen knew he had it, calling back to last week when he was bored and told his engineers to hydrate.

A lot less bored this week, an elated Verstappen said "Did you hydrate during the race? You must have some sweaty hands as well so don't forget to sanitise".

Lewis Hamilton wasn't thrilled by his day.
Lewis Hamilton wasn't thrilled by his day.

Both Hamilton and Bottas were frustrated by the result.

"It was a massive challenge," Hamilton said. "Firstly, congratulations to the Red Bull team and to Max. They definitely didn't have the qualms we had today.

"Definitely unexpected to have the blistering as hardcore as we experienced. But I'm really grateful to progress and manage my way through until the end.

"I'm sure the team will be working as hard as they can because we've not had that (tyre issues) before. I don't know if anyone struggled with blistering like we did."

Outside of the top three, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc pulled out a great performance with the Sky Sports commentators praising the Monegasque.

"This is another great little drive from Leclerc," he said. "He's out-performing that car at the moment whereas Vettel can barely get in the top 10 at the moment."

Alexander Albon also came through the field to claim fifth, having come from ninth to fifth.

The two Racing Points came sixth and seventh with Lance Stroll ahead of Nico Hulkenberg.

Daniel Ricciardo had a bad day.
Daniel Ricciardo had a bad day.

At the other end, Daniel Ricciardo plummeted from fifth to 14th after needing to go on a three-stop strategy before he spun out on the  31st lap, essentially ending his pursuit of points.

Luckily Esteban Ocon picked up the slack and finished in the points in eighth.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel also spun on the very first lap, falling from 12th to 20th and finishing the race in 12th.

70TH ANNIVERSARY GRAND PRIX RESULTS

1st: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2nd: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

3rd: Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

4th: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

5th: Alexander Albon (Red Bull)

6th: Lance Stroll (Racing Point)

7th: Nico Hulkenberg (Racing Point) 

8th: Esteban Ocon (Renault)

9th: Lando Norris (McLaren)

10th: Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri)

Originally published as Max lays down challenge to Mercedes



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