Max Verstappen was rightfully all smiles after his Austrian Grand Prix win, making a mockery of the suggestion that Red Bull’s dominant days are all but numbered.
After a mere 9.5 second gap between race winner Verstappen and second-placed Fernando Alonso in Canada, there was hope in some quarters that that was an indication Red Bull are beginning to be reeled in.
However, that theory was pretty much pulled apart at the Red Bull Ring, Verstappen officially finishing 17 seconds clear of Charles Leclerc in the first non-Red Bull car come the chequered flag on Sunday – even if that doesn’t tell the full story.
Max Verstappen seizes his moment
With the noise within the F1 paddock quietening following another rampant success, Verstappen said he was left very much amused by the doom and gloom headlines surrounding himself and Red Bull of late.
In the post-race FIA press conference, host Tom Clarkson asked: “You were 24 seconds ahead of your nearest pursuer prior to that last pit stop. It seems your closest pursuers aren’t as close as we thought they were two weeks ago in Canada?
Verstappen replied: “Exactly. But I loved all the articles about it!
“Yeah, I mean, some weekends they work a bit better for you and some don’t. And for me, Montreal wasn’t that fantastic in the race, from our side. And here, I think we did a really good job and then naturally the gap is a bit bigger.”
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Max Verstappen not particularly concerned about Ferraris in Austria
During the early VSC period at the Red Bull Ring, Verstappen and Red Bull opted to stay out on track rather than come in for a cheap pit stop, something which both Ferrari cars opted to do.
But, even though the decision would briefly mean Verstappen losing the race lead in the overlapping of different strategies, the Dutchman had no concerns that Ferrari would be a threat for the race win.
“We just stick to our plan,” Verstappen simply said.
“I mean, you have these calculations before, if there’s a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car. And for us, it made sense to just go, because I think we had good tyre life. Already, the few laps before the VSC came out, I was definitely pulling even more of a gap over as every single lap. That’s why I wasn’t really worried about it.
“I just completed my stint that I had to do on the Medium. And then, when I came out on the Hard tyre, I immediately felt that tyre was not the better tyre, but you have to complete a stint on it.
“I mean the Soft, was not going to last, so once I got past Carlos, I just… yeah.
“The way you manage your stint I was just naturally closing in on Charles because of my tyre life advantage and probably also just a general pace advantage. So yeah, just step by step, catching-up.”
After his seventh win in nine F1 2023 races, Verstappen is 81 points clear of team-mate Sergio Perez in his pursuit of a third World Championship title.