Verstappen outmuscles Leclerc in Austria

Image by Steven Tee/LAT

Verstappen outmuscles Leclerc in Austria

Formula 1

Verstappen outmuscles Leclerc in Austria

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Max Verstappen overtook Charles Leclerc with three laps remaining to take a stunning victory in the Austrian Grand Prix, but the race-winning move is under investigation.

A terrible start saw Verstappen drop from second to seventh and he struggled to make up time early on in the race but then went longer on the medium compound tires than any of his rivals. With Lewis Hamilton running third but needing to change his front wing, Verstappen rejoined in fourth after his first stop and duly set off after Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and leader Leclerc.

Having dispatched Vettel on the run to Turn 4 after a three-lap battle and then outbraked Bottas into Turn 3, Verstappen’s excellent pace saw him reel in Leclerc as a thrilling fight for the win went right to the closing stages.

Leclerc repelled the Red Bull for a few laps, impressively on Lap 68 of 71 when Verstappen got down the inside at Turn 3 but Leclerc managed to accelerate around the outside to regain the lead.

One lap later, however, Verstappen made a more robust move, outbraking Leclerc and leaving the Ferrari no space to turn in. Leclerc still tried to hang on around the outside and the pair banged wheels, with Leclerc going into the run-off area and rejoining behind Verstappen.

The incident was noted and is now under investigation from the stewards, with Leclerc finishing 2.7 seconds behind Verstappen should there be a penalty.

“It’s hard racing — otherwise we have to stay home,” Verstappen said. “If those things are not allowed in racing, what is the point of being in F1?”

Verstappen celebrates on the podium with an unhappy Leclerc. Image by Zak Mauger/LAT

Leclerc felt the move was too strong, with both drivers set to give their version of events to the stewards.

“Overall the race was good, in the end had a bit more degradation than I thought and Max came back,” Leclerc said. “On the incident I’ll let the stewards decide but for me, it was pretty clear in the car. I don’t know how it looked like from the outside.

“I don’t know (it it was unfair). I was on the outside, like the lap before — the lap before was completely fine; he left the space for a car width on the exit of the corner but he didn’t on the other lap so we touched and I had to go wide, and then obviously I didn’t have any chance to pass back so it’s a shame.”

If no action is taken, then Honda will get to celebrate the first victory since its return to Formula 1 in 2015 as Verstappen takes back-to-back wins at the Red Bull Ring, while either way it is the first non-Mercedes win of the season.

Bottas came home a distant third while Vettel overtook Hamilton on the penultimate lap to take fourth as Mercedes again struggled in Austria. Hamilton was running second to Leclerc early on but a front wing flap failure once he was in the lead during the pit stop phase led to him losing time and needing a long stop.

Vettel pit for soft tires once Verstappen passed him and charged back at the Mercedes pair, getting Hamilton around the outside before Turn 4 on the penultimate lap and crossing the line 0.6s behind Bottas as the Ferrari went wide at the final corner trying to apply pressure.

There was another hugely impressive performance from McLaren, as Lando Norris finished sixth and Carlos Sainz eighth despite the latter starting from the back of the grid. Norris made an excellent start to jump the slow Verstappen and then go around the outside of Hamilton at Turn 1, running third for two corners before Hamilton slipstreamed back past. That move cost Norris momentum and he dropped behind Kimi Raikkonen, but on Lap 14 dived down the inside of the Finn at Turn 3 to regain the position.

Norris was the only driver to switch from softs to mediums and made the tires last excellently, repelling the attentions of Pierre Gasly who had been running directly behind Verstappen in the opening laps. There was a chance Sainz would get Gasly after the Spaniard went long on his first stint to gain clear air and rose from 19th on the grid to eighth, but he lost time in traffic and was left to fight off the Alfa Romeos in the closing stages.

Raikkonen came home ninth after failing to put enough pressure on Sainz, with Antonio Giovinazzi picking up the first point of his career with a strong drive to shadow his teammate across the line in 10th.

All 20 runners finished with the Williams of George Russell beating Kevin Magnussen to 18th on another miserable day for Haas, after the Dane was too far forward in his pit box on the grid and picked up a drive-through penalty.

 

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