Leclerc Wins in Austria
Charles Leclerc overtook Max Verstappen three times to win the Austrian Grand Prix, despite battling a throttle issue in the closing laps, to boost his championship chances.
Ferrari driver Leclerc picked up his third win of the season, fifth of his career and first since April, on a day where Ferrari had the faster package than Red Bull for the first time in several races.
And the Italian team would have had a famous one-two finish, but Carlos Sainz’ power-unit spectacularly failed when primed to snatch second from Verstappen.
The Monegasque said: “It was a really good race, the pace was there at the beginning, we had some good fights with Max.”
“Every win is special, but this one feels just amazing. The last 15 laps were on the limit with the issue we had, but we brought it home.
“Today, we had a really strong pace and some great battles. I worked hard last night to find where I could still improve and it made the difference today. I’m very happy!”
Leclerc moves to second in the 2022 drivers’ standings, 38-points behind Verstappen, with the victory as the Dutchman is the first driver to break the 200-point barrier, having battled a throttle issue where the pedal did not return to a ‘zero’ position when he lifted his foot off the pedal.
Speaking of his issue, the 24-year-old said it made the last laps “very tricky.”
Ferrari gained points on Red Bull as Sergio Perez retired following a collision with Mercedes’ George Russell.
Russell, who was handed a five-second time penalty for the incident, recovered to fourth, behind teammate Lewis Hamilton who collected a third consecutive podium finish.
The other drivers to score points were Esteban Ocon, Mick Schumacher, Lando Norris, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso.
Ferrari win, but it could have been more
Max Verstappen had qualified fastest by just 0.029s, then built a buffer in the Sprint as the Ferrari drivers battled and looked set to control the race when he led away from the start again.
However, when Sergio Perez was tipped into a spin by George Russell on the opening lap, Ferrari were presented with a great opportunity to out fox their Austrian opponents on Red Bull’s home track.
It soon became apparent that strategy might not be the deciding factor, rather it would be tyre wear.
Leclerc stayed with Verstappen and was challenging for the lead by Lap 8, moving into the lead for the first time on Lap 12, surprising the Dutchman into Turn 4.
Verstappen, who was struggling to keep his tyres healthy, pitted on Lap 13 and committed to a two-stop strategy.
Ferrari held their nerve and responded on Laps 27 and 28 with their drivers, Leclerc easing into the lead for a second time after coming out behind Verstappen.
When Red Bull boxed the World Champion again on Lap 37, Ferrari handed their drivers the ammunition to seal a one-two victory with a 13-lap offset on tyres.
Leclerc passed Verstappen on track for a third time to lead again and Sainz was set to pass the Red Bull too when his Ferrari power-unit failed on the straight between Turns 3 and 4.
The Spaniard stopped his car off the circuit but due to the slope was unable to get out of the car, something made all the more frightening as the car began to be engulfed in flames around the bodywork.
Thankfully, Sainz nor any track workers were hurt, although the Ferrari bodywork had certainly seen better days.
“It’s difficult to find the right words today, as it was clear that a one-two was pretty straightforward. I had strong pace today, especially on the hard tyre. Degradation was very high but we managed it well. On the last stint the car felt really good on track until we obviously had the issue and we had to retire.
“Today’s result is a hard one to take as it cost the team and myself an important number of points for both championships. On the positive side, I’m feeling better and better in the car, more comfortable every race, and this keeps me motivated. We are fast, and this is what’s matters the most. Congrats to Charles for the win! We’ll keep pushing!” said Sainz.
A Virtual Safety Car allowed Leclerc and Verstappen a free pit-stop for medium tyres and the drama was not yet over as Leclerc reported a throttle issue.
It transpired that the pedal was not fully resetting itself to the “zero” position and it seemed the 24-year-old was having to manually bring the pedal back to slow the car.
However, the Monegasque superbly and skilfully managed his car to the chequered flag to win for the first time in three months, moving into second in the drivers’ championship.
Doubles all round for the rest of the top 10
Mercedes finished third and fourth, with all the teams in the remaining top 10 positions scoring with both cars.
Behind Mercedes were Alpine, Haas and McLaren.
Mercedes had threatened a top three start on Friday in qualifying, before both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell crashed out.
Russell held his fourth position in the sprint while Hamilton moved up to start eighth, but after Russell’s collision with Perez, which left him with a damaged front-wing and a five-second time penalty, Hamilton was left to pick up the baton.
Winner of 103 Grand Prix, Hamilton delivered and came home a comfortable third, after passing the Haas pair and Ocon ahead of him as Russell mounted a fight back to also pass those in the top 10 to finish fourth.
Esteban Ocon had a quite run to fifth, while Mick Schumacher got the better of his team mate Kevin Magnussen at Haas.
Schumacher had been unhappy after Saturday’s Sprint for not being allowed to pass Magnussen, when he believed he was quicker than the Dane.
The German, son of seven-time World Champion Michael, backed up his claim in Sunday’s race, finishing sixth, with Magnussen eighth.
Lando Norris again beat Daniel Ricciardo as the McLaren’s rescued seventh and ninth from a messy Friday with Fernando Alonso completing the points.