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HomeMOTORSPORTReturn of the Red Bull

Return of the Red Bull

The Rise of Emperor Max Emelian |

Following his sensational victory in Monaco in May, Max Verstappen enjoyed an equally sensational month in June, proving that he has gained the necessary maturity and temerity to complement his supreme talent. 

Maturity, temerity, and talent are the basic necessities required to become a world champion. That, and a car that can challenge the almighty Silver Arrows, which is exactly what Red Bull has provided the 23-year-old Max Emelian Verstappen. Red Bull’s chariot, the RB16B challenger, seems to have overcome the performance gap to Mercedes with their Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance chariot, transforming this season into a cliffhanger, and one of the best in recent history.

Heartbreak in Baku

The notoriously dirty and downright dangerous circuit through the streets of Baku in Azerbaijan lived up to its reputation once again. Max Verstappen looked set to take his first first-ever Azerbaijan Grand Prix victory until debris on the track resulted in a puncture to his left rear tyre, causing him to crash out from the lead with a mere five laps to go. The debris-inflicted wound to the flying Dutchman’s ego, not to mention his world championship aspirations, gifted his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez a second career victory, but only after Lewis Hamilton locked up on the penultimate lap to finish 15th in yet another dramatic race in Baku.

For the first time this season, Charles Leclerc led from pole position in his Ferrari. However, he was soon overtaken by Lewis Hamilton (Lap 2) and then by Verstappen (Lap 7). 

Following the first round of pit stops, initiated by Hamilton on Lap 12, Verstappen emerged in the lead, reviving memories of Michael Schumacher’s devastatingly quick inlaps. 

The Flying Dutchman remained in the lead after a Lap 35 Safety Car restart, following Lance Stroll’s terrifying accident, and appeared to have victory in the bag until his unfortunate blowout just five laps from taking the checkered flag. 

Verstappen’s accident caused another Safety Car, which turned into a red flag, suspending the race on Lap 48. After a 35-minute delay to clear the track, the race finally resumed with a standing start and only two laps to the finish line. Challenging Sergio Perez for the lead on entering turn one, Hamilton locked up and ran wide into the run-off area, reemerging at the back of the field to eventually finish in a disappointing 15th position. Perez remained in the lead to take the checkered flag for Red Bull, ahead of Sebastian Vettel in an Aston Martin and Pierre Gastly in his AlphaTauri.

While Verstappen had every right to blame fate for his misfortune, he also had reason to celebrate as his 4-point lead over Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship remained unchanged, while Red Bull extended its lead to 16 points over Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship.

Champaign Racing in France

The uninspiring Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, in the south of France, delivered what was arguably the most exciting F1 race in recent history. Red Bull achieved their third consecutive win of the season, in what turned out to be a cracking French Grand Prix, courtesy of Max Verstappen, who passed Lewis Hamilton with two laps to go, to claim the thirteenth victory of his career. Hamilton finished in second place, as the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez completed the podium.

Mirroring the Spanish Grand Prix, where Mercedes had out-strategised Red Bull to claim victory, Verstappen powered to victory after switching to a potentially risky two-stop strategy that resulted in him giving up the lead, midway through the race.

After erasing a 16-second gap to Hamilton in the latter stages of the race, with less than two laps remaining, the young contender powered past Hamilton, securing a superb 13th career win to extend his Driver’s Championship lead over Hamilton to 12 points, and Red Bull extending their lead in the Constructors’ Championship to 37points ahead of Mercedes.

Trifecta in the Red Bull Ring

In what must be the most picturesque Grand Prix of all, Max Verstappen drove a flawless race to win the Styrian Grand Prix in Austria, claiming his third career victory at the Red Bull Ring, and his second victory in seven days, ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Valtteri Bottas took the final podium position after heading off a spirited charge from Sergio Perez on the last lap. 

At the start of the race, Verstappen made a perfect getaway, taking the lead ahead of Hamilton and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

By lap 10, with Verstappen pulling away from Hamilton and extending the gap to Norris, Perez finally passed Norris, with Bottas staging a similar move on the McLaren drive a lap later. 

Unfortunately for Perez, his lead over Bottas became undone during his pit stop, where he remained stationary for 4.8 seconds, enough to hand third place to Bottas. Lando Norris drove an outstanding race to finish in fifth position, in a car that is hardly competitive with the Red Bulls or Mercedes-AMGs. 

The rest, as they say, is history, as Verstappen seemed to be in cruise control leading the pack with 15 seconds in hand over Hamilton in the final stages. With the race-win out of the picture for Hamilton, Mercedes brought Hamilton in on the penultimate lap for a set of soft tyres, thereby allowing him to claim the fastest lap and one additional point, reducing the damage caused by Verstappen to seven points.

Verstappen now leads the Drivers’ Championship on 156 points, 18 points ahead of Hamilton.

In the battle for the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull currently leads with 156 points, 40 points ahead of Mercedes.

Following the Austrian Grand Prix in the first week of July, on the same track where the Styrian Grand Prix took place a week earlier, the British Grand Prix promises to be the main event in July. Regardless of the outcome of the Austrian Grand Prix, with Red Bull having home field advantage for a second week in a row, Lewis Hamilton will be eager to arrest Red Bull’s upward momentum at his home Grand Prix at Silverstone. Hamilton loves his fans as much as they adore him, and with his fans in attendance at a sold-out Silverstone, Hamilton will take all the help he can get to rediscover his famous hammertime. At the same time, Max Verstappen will have to show that he has the temerity to dominate races that are not in reach of his fanatical Dutch fans. Either way, we’re in for an almighty battle.

Report by WILHELM LOOTS | Images © Daimler © Red Bull

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