Max Verstappen forced Lewis Hamilton to swallow a big dose of reality at the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday and it did not taste very good at all to the seven-time world champion.
Verstappen and Hamilton started the race at Red Bull’s own circuit side by side on the front row, but that was as close as the Mercedes driver got as the Dutchman and his team turned in a performance of utter domination.
Verstappen and Red Bull simply had too much for Hamilton and Mercedes in Austria, and with another race being held on the same track this coming weekend, the chances are that the 18-point lead Verstappen now holds in the championship is only going to get bigger.
Worse than that for Hamilton, it emerged over the weekend that Mercedes have basically stopped developing their car, and Red Bull very much have not. “We need an upgrade of some kind,” Hamilton said, only for his team boss Toto Wolff to make it clear that one was not coming.
Until this race, the 2021 season had started as if it was going to be a classic, with two brilliant drivers and two fantastic teams going at it hammer and tongs with two very closely matched cars.
But suddenly it looks a little different. Verstappen’s victory on Sunday was Red Bull’s fourth in a row, and his third in four races. Is there anything Hamilton and Mercedes can do to stop the 23-year-old romping to his first world title?