The battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc for victory in the Austrian Grand Prix points to a bright future for Formula 1’s younger generation of drivers, according to F1 managing director of motor sports Ross Brawn.
Leclerc took the second pole position of his career at the Red Bull Ring and led the majority of the race until he was overtaken by Verstappen with three laps remaining. The pair had gone wheel-to-wheel one lap previously before Verstappen secured a popular victory in front of a large Dutch contingent.
“Just eight days on from a French Grand Prix that caused a degree of controversy and criticism, with Formula 1 described as boring and predictable, we find ourselves commenting on an Austrian Grand Prix that was spectacular and thrilling from start to finish,” Brawn said.
“I’m particularly pleased that the top two finishers make up the youngest pairing ever to come first and second in a Grand Prix. Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc both deserved to win, and if they had finished in reverse order it would have been equally laudable.
“Max drove an amazing race, particularly when one considers that his start, to use a word that’s popular in this sport was ‘sub-optimal’. He produced some superbly aggressive passing moves, drove some very fast laps on tires that had done more than 30 laps, and his race pace management was pretty much perfect.
“The young Dutch driver really put on a show, to the delight of the spectators at the Red Bull Ring, many sporting red caps as a tribute to Niki Lauda, but mostly a sea of Dutch orange.
“Charles also put in a superb performance, dominating the opening sessions and delivering great pole laps. However, for the second time this year he saw his chances of winning evaporate almost within sight of the flag.
“Despite the disappointment, it’s clear that the Monegasque driver is getting better and better, showing great maturity in how he races and how he dealt with a far from simple post-race situation. These two kids are definitely promising a brilliant future for Formula 1 in the coming decade.”
Brawn also highlights some encouraging signs for Ferrari even though it lost out on victory, and praised the team’s decision that it would not be in the sport’s best interests to appeal the decision to take no further action against Verstappen for his race-winning pass.
“It turned out to be another disappointing weekend for Ferrari, after the team had shown it was a more than a match for Mercedes,” said Brawn, who guided Ferrari to six constructors’ titles and five drivers’ championships with Michael Schumacher during his tenure as the team’s technical director. “But there were some encouraging signs for Mattia Binotto and his crew, and hats off to them for thinking of the greater good of the sport by saying that the team would not appeal the stewards’ decision.
“The car is certainly more competitive now than in Barcelona, Leclerc is getting better all the time and (Sebastian) Vettel produced a determined drive after a reliability problem in qualifying meant he had little chance of winning the race. There’s still some work to do, but the team is on the right road and I’m sure the Scuderia will be rewarded soon.”