Christian Horner hails Max Verstappen’s ability to avoid blisters in Austrian GP

5:06                                            Toto Wolff felt pleased with the opening practice session of the Austrian GP after Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas

5:06 Toto Wolff felt pleased with the opening practice session of the Austrian GP after Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas

Christian Horner believes Red Bull would now be leading the Formula One world championship if it hadn't dropped so many points in the opening nine races of 2018.

Leader Hamilton stayed out - unsure whether the chasing bunch would follow him in or not - but was the only major player to stay on track.

The gap closed from a high of seven seconds to less than two seconds as the trio started the final lap, but Verstappen held firm under Raikkonen's pressure to record his first win of the season and Red Bull Racing's first victory at its home race.

Sauber duo Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson finished ninth and 10th.

With the field bunched up, Hamilton's advantage was shot, and when he pitted, Verstappen took over the lead ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

In what became a disaster for the Brit, his next set of tyres blistered and he required another pit stop and then just when he could see his championship lead evaporate a loss of power ended his race early.

'I think that had Mercedes put a serious offer on the table, or an offer, he would have been potentially interested, ' said Horner.

Asked whether Ricciardo would get equal money to 20-year-old Dutch hotshot Max Verstappen, victor in Austria last weekend, Horner said only that each had their own value. "It was damage limitation for me and a positive day".

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was the first retirement, with his engine spewing a cloud of smoke and flames.

Three laps later, the luckless Bottas was also forced to abandon, pulling off to park his Mercedes.

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The Australian has been linked with moves to Ferrari, Mercedes or McLaren for 2019, but Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko said in Austria that Ricciardo is getting "closer" to inking a new contract.

Verstappen took the lead after Mercedes kept Hamilton out during a virtual safety auto period that followed Bottas' retirement on lap 14, with all the others behind the Briton pitting for fresh tyres.

"It was tougher than it looked because I had to be on top of my tyres", said Verstappen.

"It's my mistake. Do what you can", replied Mercedes strategist James Vowles.

When Hamilton did pit, he came back out in fourth place. It gave me that five or six seconds.

"We have got the best guys in the pitlane without any shadow of a doubt".

"I'm not going to be able to pass anyone. We've just thrown away a win", said Hamilton.

On lap 53, he pitted again for super-softs, dropping a place to fifth behind Ricciardo, who nearly immediately slowed and stopped.

"I think the fact that we aren't a competitor to Renault, of their own team, actually helps their goal by having an engine winning races".

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