This weekend saw Max Verstappen win his seventh Grand Prix of the 2023 Formula One season in Austria and the fifth race in succession. With thirteen rounds remaining this year, Verstappen could yet eclipse his all time F1 record of 15 wins for a driver in a single season.
Such is the impressive skill of the double world champion that the 1996 Formula 1 champion believes Verstappen is much closer to “perfect” than Lewis Hamilton ever was.
Hamilton ‘not as perfect’ as Max
Jacques Villeneuve is unimpressed with Hamilton this season despite him challenging Fernando Alonso for third in the drivers’ standings.
Villeneuve, the son of former iconic Ferrari F1 driver Gilles Villeneuve revealed his view of Hamilton to Gazzetta Dello Sport:
“He goes a lot up and down in performance, it depends on the weekends.”
”But it’s always been like this, in all seasons, even when he won. He’s never had a year as perfect as Verstappen.”
Hamilton lost focus during race
The most races Lewis Hamilton has won in a season despite having an all dominant Mercedes race car is 11 which leaves him fourth behind Verstappen in the all time F1 drivers list.
Hamilton spent most of the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix complaining to his team about other drivers exceeding track limits. Such was the extent of his distraction, the Mercedes team boss who rarely speaks over team radio during races intervened TWICE in an attempt to calm Hamilton down.
Having been handed a five second time penalty for exceeding track limits on four occasions Hamilton became obsessed with whether other drivers were receiving the same punishment.
|Hamilton||Sainz went off in turn seven, also, mate.|
|Hamilton||Perez completely off at turn nine.|
|Hamilton||Perez completely off at turn 10. Has he got a penalty yet?|
|Hamilton||This guy’s been off every single time. Turn 10, again.|
|Bonnington||It looks like they’re at least 10 laps behind dishing out these penalties. Sainz has one now.|
|Hamilton||Has Perez got a penalty yet?|
|Hamilton||That’s Lando off, nine and 10.|
|Hamilton||Norris off again turn 10 mate.|
|Hamilton||Has anyone else got a penalty?|
|Wolff||Lewis, they’re all going to get penalties in front of you. Keep going.|
|Hamilton||I’ve seen that car [Norris] make turn one once.|
|Hamilton||Is there a reason why the stewards haven’t given those penalties yet?|
|Bonnington||They are still dishing out warnings and penalties.|
|Wolff||Lewis the car is bad, we know. Please drive it.|
Wolff forced to intervene
Toto Wolff attempted to play down his interventions to calm an ever increasingly petulant sounding Hamilton claiming:
“You should hear us talking on the phone and meeting each other. That was nothing,” laughed Wolff.
“It was only for the best interest of the driver and the team. Sometimes there is a certain moment when you need to calm things down but I meant well.
Meanwhile up front Max Verstappen was serenely on his way to another victory as the Ferrari challenge fell away.
Max given team order
Then with a handful of laps remaining Verstappen requested the team consider allowing him new tyres to challenge the fastest lap of the race currently held by his team mate Sergio Perez.
His engineer Gianpiero Lambiase informed his driver the team didn’t feel it was worth the risk for the extra point because Verstappen would return to the track with just three seconds to LecLerc behind.
I sticking wheel gun or stalled engine would’ve has seen the Red Bull driver sacrifice the lead of the race.
Yet Verstappen refused to accept this decision and informed the team he was coming in for fresh tyres.
Verstappen defies team demand
With just two laps remaining, Verstappen peeled off into the pits and was fitted with a fresh set of the soft tyre which no one had run during the race.
He emerged just three seconds ahead of the Ferrari and set about weaving to warm up his tyres as though it was a practice lap in a qualifying session.
Verstappen then blitzed the final lap of the race knocking out a time of 1:07.012 on the final tour and increase his lead over Leclerc to 5 seconds.
So what happened behind the scenes which saw Max defy his team orders to stay out?
Marko says decision to make Max “happy”
“There were discussions on the radio,” Marko told Germany’s AMuS.
“Before Max got too restless, we wanted to do what he wanted and make him happy.
Marko admitted the team considered there was a risk Verstappen would take the law into his own hands if they refused him the pit stop.
“Otherwise, he would have set the fastest lap on old tyres. That would have been even more risky,” claimed Marko.
“He drives with unbelievable ease, as we have come to expect from him.”
Horner tribute to Mateschitz
Christian Horner revealed after the chequered flag he felt his driver’s request was fitting given this was the first race at the Red Bull Ring site the passing of their ‘devil may care’ entrepreneur founder, Dietrich Mateschitz.
“He was pushing us about our pitstop,” Horner revealed.
“You could tell he wanted that soft set of tyres and it was like, ‘OK, look, no risk, no fun’, and that was what Dietrich always said.
“The mechanics have been in such great form in the pits today, it was a very low-risk thing to do.”
Flashback to vettel defiance
Verstappen’s defiance of the team order was reminiscent of the last time Red Bull had such a dominant driver who won four consecutive championships – Sebastian Vettel.
When instructed to hold station behind his team mate Mark Webber in the ‘multi-21’ saga. Vettel instead turned up his engine and overtook the Australian despite the team orders at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Itv was the final year of Vettel and Red Bull’s dominance before the introduction of the V6 turbo hybrid era the following year.Verstappen
— 33 (@geniisf1) July 1, 2023