The Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg went well for Scuderia Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finishing second and fourth respectively. It was the Maranello marque’s 800th Formula 1 podium, the 26th for the Monegasque drivers. But most importantly, the performance in the Styrian hills confirmed the progress seen a fortnight ago in Canada.
There is still a way to go to catch Max Verstappen and his Red Bull, but in Austria it was clear that both drivers could maintain a strong pace throughout the entire race, fighting well and in Carlos’ case, overtaking, while also confirming progress made with tyre management.
The race was pretty linear: Charles and Carlos maintained second and third places off the line, before the team decided to bring in both cars to fit another set of Medium tyres when Nico Hulkenberg stopped on track, triggering a Virtual Safety Car. Charles kept second place, while Carlos dropped to sixth, but with his SF-23 on-song, he soon got past Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez to get back to third place.
When Verstappen made his first stop, the two Ferraris found themselves in the lead, but the Dutchman retook it soon after. Unfortunately, Carlos was one of many drivers penalised for not respecting track limits, taking his five second penalty at his second stop, when he switched to Hards and therefore rejoined behind Norris.
Once again, Carlos comfortably got past the Englishman to be third when Perez pitted for Hard tyres. The Mexican tore through the field until he came up behind the number 55 Ferrari on lap 59 and there followed a spectacular duel between him and Carlos. The Spaniard was on older tyres, but fought tooth and nail, so that Perez took four laps to eventually get ahead.
This helped Charles who was able to extend his advantage and have a relatively calm run to the chequered flag and his second podium finish of the season. Carlos finished fourth at the end of a race where he showed just how aggressive he can be behind the wheel.
The season goes on at a relentless pace and next weekend it’s time for the British Grand Prix. The high-speed Silverstone track will see the debut of the new Pirelli tyres and present a new test bench for the SF-23.
‘It’s good to be back on the podium. Friday and today we maximised what we have and the upgrades we introduced this weekend worked well. The team has done an excellent job and we will keep pushing in this direction. I also want to thank Carlos as he made my life a bit easier by putting up a great defence against Checo. I was watching on the big screen, it was very exciting! Now we go to Silverstone which, with Spielberg, is among my favourite circuits. Hopefully we can take advantage of the new upgrades we have on the car again and offer a bit more of a challenge to Red Bull in the next round.’
‘It was a very solid race even though I’m not happy with the final result, as I think we deserved a double podium today. I felt very quick and comfortable with the car but after the first stop the race was compromised as we lost time and positions. I did my best to push hard and recover, with some good overtaking, but unfortunately I received the penalty for track limits.
In the end I tried absolutely everything to defend from Checo but couldn’t hold on to that place on the podium. There are some things to review, but in general we have to be happy with the progress made and we need to keep pushing in this direction.’
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
‘Today’s strong result for the team, added to yesterday’s podium with Carlos, proves we are working in the right direction. If we look back, we had a good race in Canada and today we confirmed the progress made on a completely different track layout with a different surface.
‘We still need to make another step forward if we want to fight with Red Bull and we are working hard to achieve that. Charles drove very well today and I think he would have been probably safe from the attacks from Perez towards the end. However Carlos also played his part, fighting Checo making him lose time.
‘Now we go immediately to Silverstone, on another completely different track on which we’ll need to confirm our current form to keep fighting with Mercedes and Aston Martin. We are doing a good job both on track and in Maranello, we will bring more upgrades in the UK and we want to keep fighting in what I think will be a long battle all the way to the end of the season.’