Max Verstappen holds on to Austrian victory with dramatic late pass
Young Dutch driver takes sixth career win after stewards’ enquiry
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen celebrates winning the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix in Spielberg. Photo: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters
Max Verstappen has kept his Austrian Grand Prix victory for Red Bull after escaping a penalty for his winning move on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
More than three hours after the Red Bull driver took the chequered flag in Spielberg, Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, revealed the stewards had decided to take no further action over the incident in which he went past the Ferrari drier with two laps to go.
Valtteri Bottas was in third for Mercedes, with Sebastian Vettel in fourth. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was in fifth after he had to take a new nose at a pit stop, with McLaren’s Lando Norris a superb sixth.
Leclerc had looked on for the win but the race was decided by a magnificent charge by Verstappen who had dropped to seventh after an awful start but made it back to hound the Ferrari driver at the death and take the win.
It was bravura stuff that the hordes of orange-clad Dutch fans and indeed Red Bull’s home supporters adored. The mountains echoed to their cheers as he mounted pass after pass after pass. F1 needed a shot in the arm and the two youngsters, both 21, provided just that.
This is Verstappen’s sixth career win and is a major result for the Dutchman after a strong start to the season and makes it two in a row here.
Verstappen had started the race on the medium tyres, as did Mercedes, as opposed to the softs Ferrari had opted for and the decision worked as he went long and had the extra grip in the final laps.
Hamilton now leads the championship by 21 points from Bottas in second. The win cements Verstappen’s strong third place, 72 points behind, while Vettel is in fourth 74 points back.
Despite not matching Mercedes or Ferrari for pace on a circuit that very much suited Ferrari over the weekend, Verstappen managed to pull off exactly what was required against stiff competition. It is Red Bull’s first win this year, their first since Verstappen won in Mexico last year.
At Honda the win will be welcomed as a huge success and with some relief. It is their first win as an engine supplier after returning to the sport in 2014, since which time they endured three terrible years with McLaren, struggling for pace and reliability. They last won as an engine supplier with McLaren in 1992, when Gerhard Berger was at the wheel in the Australian Grand Prix and as a constructor with Jenson Button at Hungary in 2006.
The race had looked to belong to Leclerc. He held his lead into the newly-named turn one, now the Niki Lauda curve, but Verstappen was slow off the line and fell back.
Vettel made a strong opening up to fifth from ninth within three laps and had fourth, past Kimi Räikkönen into turn three, on lap seven, while his team-mate Leclerc had promptly opened up a gap of over two seconds to Bottas in second. Mercedes opened the pit stops bringing Bottas in on lap 21. Ferrari responded by bringing in Vettel, both taking the hard rubber. Vettel suffered a slow stop however, the tyres not ready in what had been a last-minute call.
Ferrari followed by bringing in Leclerc to cover Bottas, also for the hard rubber. However, Hamilton was happy with his grip and the team opted to keep him out, to go long on the medium compound. He now led the race and was initially matching Leclerc’s times but began losing time, complaining of a lack of downforce, having damaged his front wing on the kerbs at turn 10.
The team quickly brought him in on lap 30 and fitted a new nose but the extra time required to do so meant he emerged in fifth behind Vettel. His hopes of going long were scuppered as were his chances of challenging for the win.
Leclerc, once more in control out front, set about consolidating his lead over Bottas, who was four seconds back, but in front of Vettel and Verstappen. The Dutchman had been the last of the leaders to pit and consequently had the fresher rubber towards the end. He caught Vettel on lap 48 and harried him before making the move through turn four on lap 50. Vettel pitted again for the softs a lap later, going for a two-stopper, emerging behind Hamilton, a place he took back on lap 70.
But Verstappen was on a charge. He caught Bottas on lap 55, and although complaining of a loss of power, it proved no impediment. He took second place from the Finn on lap 56 at turn three.
Now in second he trailed Leclerc by five seconds with 14 laps to go. Narrowed to just tenths of a second by lap 67 Verstappen was all over the Ferrari’s gearbox and a lap later the two went wheel to wheel though turns three and four.
Leclerc defended superbly but the next lap Verstappen went up the inside through turn three, squeezing Leclerc wide and taking the place. Both drivers believed they were in the right but as the Dutch fans went mad with delight, Verstappen’s fate lay in the hands of the stewards who eventually allowed him to keep the win. – Guardian