Verstappen delivers thrills, the win and an investigation

Michelle Foster


Max Verstappen lived up to his billing as a Formula 1 star as he overtook Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc in the final 20 laps of the Austrian GP to win Red Bull’s home race.

Formula 1 was in for a hot Austrian Grand Prix, both in terms of track temperature – 52’C – and action and after the doldrums that were the French Grand Prix, it was what the sport needed.

The drivers lined up Ferrari versus Red Bull versus Mercedes with Charles Leclerc making a quick getaway from pole position while Max Verstappen lost ground when his anti-stall kicked in and he crawled off the line.

That allowed Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to fly through, the latter briefly challenged by the McLaren of Lando Norris.

As the opening laps played out it was Leclerc by two seconds ahead of Bottas, who was three ahead of Hamilton with Sebastian Vettel, who started P9, up to fourth having passed Norris and then Kimi Raikkonen. Verstappen, who fell to P8, recovered to run fifth.

As the top five chased one another around the Red Bull Ring, behind them the passes were on. Norris got his revenge on Raikkonen at Turn 3 before Gasly tried to challenge the Alfa Romeo driver and almost said goodbye to his front wing.

Further back it was pass a Haas day as Kevin Magnussen feel from 10th to 16th, and then even further when he was handed a penalty for being out of position on the grid. Romain Grosjean wasn’t faring much better, losing ground and even threatened by the Williams of George Russell.

Even the pit stops in Austria added to the race’s excitement as Bottas was the first of the front runners in on lap 22. Vettel followed him in and, due to the position of the pit boxes, forced Mercedes to briefly keep Bottas back. The only problem for Ferrari, they weren’t ready for their driver and Vettel was stationary for six seconds.

Leclerc was the next in, handing the lead to first Hamilton and then Verstappen, who took over P1 when Hamilton pitted for fresh tyres and a new front wing, having damaged him on the Ring’s sausage kerbs. Verstappen pitted on lap 32, told he has a “decent tyre advantage” on those he’s fighting.

After the pit stops: Leclerc, Bottas +4, Vettel +5, Verstappen +4, Hamilton +4. Norris was sixth. Norris was told to “hold” Daniel Ricciardo, who had yet to pit, in the DRS to hopefully keep Gasly behind the Renault driver. Norris’ reply: “You mean like… forever?” That, though, didn’t last very long and Gasly made his way around his Red Bull predecessor.

Back at the front, Leclerc kept Bottas roughly four seconds behind him with Vettel closing in on the Mercedes driver and Verstappen, with the help of a few fastest laps, closing in on the Ferrari. Hamilton in P5 was 13s behind the Red Bull.

With DRS in play, and fresher tyres, Verstappen dogged Vettel for several laps before eventually making a move – and making it stick – around the outside of Turn 3 to put his Red Bull on the podium. He then set about hunting down Bottas for second.

Vettel immediately pitted, swapping to a new set of soft tyres. He was P4 and came out P5 eight seconds behind Hamilton but with new softs and 20 laps in which to fight for fourth – and the fastest lap point. Vettel told Ferrari: “Let’s kill it.”

With 15 to go, and just 0.8s behind Bottas, Verstappen reported that he is “losing power”. He was told “fail 3” as it was a sensor issue and on lap 56 took second place, again pulling off a pass at Turn 3. He was 5.3s behind race leader Leclerc.

Using his fresh tyres, Verstappen closed the gap on Leclerc and, with the help of DRS, challenged the Ferrari with three to go. Wheel-to-wheel, the stars of F1’s futures delivered the show fans had been waiting for all season long.

On 69 of 71 Verstappen did it, passing Leclerc who was forced wide and off the track. There was slight contact – front wheel against front wheel – in the move leading to a stewards’ investigation.

Verstappen raced to the win, his second at the Red Bull Ring, while Leclerc was a fantastic but disappointing second.

Bottas was third, taking five points out of Hamilton’s championship lead. Vettel made a late move on Hamilton for fourth with the five-time World Champion P5 on the day.

Norris was P6 on Sunday, finishing ahead of Gasly – who was lapped by Leclerc and Verstappen – and Carlos Sainz. Running a long first stint, the Spaniard raced from 19th on the grid to eighth at the chequered flag.

The Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi completed the top ten. It was Giovinazzi’s first-ever F1 point.

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2.724s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 18.960s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 19.610s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 22.805s
6 Lando Norris McLaren 1 LAP
7 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1 LAP
8 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1 LAP
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1 LAP
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1 LAP
11 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1 LAP
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1 LAP
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 LAP
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1 LAP
15 Alex Albon Toro Rosso 1 LAP
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 LAP
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1 LAP
18 George Russell Williams 2 LAPS
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2 LAPS
20 Robert Kubica Williams 3 LAPS

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