Austrian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen takes fifth win in row for Red Bull

The two battled frantically through Turns Three and Four for several laps, with Sainz once brilliantly repassing the Red Bull around the outside of Turn Four after Perez appeared to have taken the place, before the Mexican ultimately prevailed.

Sainz’s defence meant Leclerc was 12.9 seconds ahead of Perez with nine laps to go and the Red Bull made no inroads into that gap before the chequered flag.

An imperious performance

Verstappen was unchallenged throughout – collecting his seventh win in nine races this season – after converting his pole position into a lead at the first corner.

He did have to pass both Ferraris in the course of his middle stint between two pit stops, as a result of a later first stop that put him out of sync with the red cars.

But he did so without trouble and cruised off again into the distance for another untroubled win, the field helpless to do anything about it.

In the closing laps, Verstappen argued against his team’s request to cool tyres – effectively a demand to back off and cruise to the end – in favour of a pit stop for fresh tyres to allow him to take the fastest lap, previously held by Perez.

Small comfort for Ferrari

The race did, though, provide some encouragement for Ferrari, whose car appears to have improved in race pace and tyre usage following a series of upgrades in the last three races.

Leclerc drove extremely well after a stunning qualifying lap on Friday had put him second on the grid and deserved his second place, even if he did owe Sainz some thanks.

In the first part of the race, Sainz tracked Leclerc closely, even asking the team if they would let him by so he could have a go at challenging Verstappen.

But after the first pit stops Leclerc edged clear of his team-mate, whose hopes were dashed with a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits.

Sainz was one of nine drivers – almost half the field – to be penalised in this way, and this number included Lewis Hamilton, who had a dispiriting race for Mercedes and could manage only seventh place.

Hamilton was reduced to asking his team whether anyone else had penalties, and had to be told by team boss Toto Wolff: “Lewis, we know the car is slow. Please just drive it.”

Hamilton was also beaten by McLaren’s Lando Norris and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, whose fifth place edged him a little further ahead of Hamilton in their battle for third in the championship.

Norris’ fifth place, just four seconds or so behind Sainz at the end of the race, was encouragement for McLaren after they introduced a major upgrade to his car for this race weekend.

It is the first of a series of developments that will be used over the coming races and seemed not only to improve the McLaren’s pace, but also another of its biggest weaknesses, its tyre wear.

Behind Hamilton, George Russell moved up to eighth place from 11th on the grid, with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll completing the points positions after a race that featured many hectic scraps involving the midfield runners. (BBC)