There was high drama in Austria after an almost certain Ferrari 1-2 was thrown into disarray. Charles Leclerc came home to take his first win since Australia, as Max Verstappen will have to settle for 2nd.
The track was slightly colder than yesterday due to cloud cover. Despite this, there was no potential of rain.
Lap 1 Chaos
Verstappen got of the line well, while Russell lunged into 3rd. Perez was now in the battle with Sainz and Russell and it ended in tears as Russell and Perez collided through turn 3. Perez was in the gravel while Russell suffered damage in 4th and a 5s penalty. Perez went straight to the pits for hard tyres, but had a large hole in the side of his car. By lap 8, he was lapped by the leaders.
Verstappen was 1s clear of Leclerc by the time DRS was activated. However, Leclerc was able to claw back into DRS territory. but appeared happy to follow the Red Bull through the early part of the race.
Hamilton had a poor exit out of turn 1 on lap 4 and was jumped bu Schumacher, now 7th. But, 10 laps later, the Briton took the place back with an unorthodox overtake through turn 8.
Leclerc made his first attempt for the lead on lap 10. They were side by side into turn 2 and on the run down to turn 3. However, Leclerc locked his front right tyre and wasn’t able to find a way past. Leclerc attempted again on lap 12 and took Verstappen by surprise into turn 3. Ferrari appeared to have better control of their tyres as Verstappen started to complain of grip issues.
Russell was the first to pit on lap 12. A long stop dropped him down the pack as he not only served his penalty, but had a front wing change too.
Leading cars split strategies
Verstappen was losing time to Leclerc and headed to the pits on lap 14. A slightly slow stop placed him behind traffic in 8th. However, the amount of cars infront started to diminish as they took their stops.
Soon, Verstappen was on the back of Hamilton for 4th. While it wasn’t immediate, Verstappen was able to get by without losing too much time. It was calculated that Verstappen had a lead, if the Ferrari’s pitted. However, he had burned up his hard compound tyres early and had committed to a 2 stop strategy.
Perez received a black and white flag for track limits very early in the race. If there was one more incident over the next 50 laps, the Mexican would get suffer a penalty. Gasly also got the flag on lap 26.
Verstappen was catching Leclerc by around 0.5s a lap, Ferrari now seemed to hold on to a 1 stop strategy, a tantilising prospect.
The first retirement occurred on lap 26 as Perez’s damage was just too significant.
Leclerc finally stopped on lap 27 and was able to exit 3rd, just infront of Hamilton. Sainz pitted a lap later as Ferrari waited for their leaders to come across traffic. He had a very smooth stop, but wasn’t able to leapfrog Hamilton. However, this wouldn’t be an issue as Hamilton pitted on lap 29. He suffered a slow stop and lost out to Ocon, in 5th, as a result.
Leclerc started a train of fastest laps, by lap 30, the gap was only 3.5s. By lap 33, Leclerc was able to breeze past Verstappen. An unusually easy overtake past the Red Bull. It was Sainz’s turn just 4 laps later, but before he could launch an overtake, Verstappen took to the pits. He came out a comfortable 3rd, but the strategy didn’t appear to be falling in his favour.
After all the black and white flags, the first to incur a 5s penalty was Norris, currently running in 8th. Behind him was Russell, back in the points after a tough start.
Zhou was next to receive a track limits penalty.
Vettel and Gasly had an incident on lap 40, very similar to Russell and Perez’s from earlier. The Aston Martin spun through the gravel after Gasly tapped his rear right through turn 3. Like Russell, Gasly was penalised.
Stroll was in a strong position during the middle of the race, but this unfurled as he dropped from 7th, losing places to Russell and both Haas cars, who were peforming incredibly well.
Despite appearing to manage a 1 stop, Leclerc dived for the pits on lap 50. He went on to another set of hard tyres, but was now 3rd, 4s behind Verstappen. Sainz followed suit a lap later.
Latifi retired with mechanical issues on lap 51.
Leclerc breezed up to the back of Verstappen on lap 53. It was slightly tighter than the previous overtake, but still easy in comparison to normal standards.
As Sainz was looking to capitalise on Red Bull’s lack of pace, his car dramatically burst into flames on lap 58. Sainz initially struggled to get out as the car was on a slope, but drivers and marshalls were okay. After such a masterclass, Ferrari had an almost certain 1-2 thrown away.
The VSC was called and Leclerc and Verstappen ducked into the pits with 12 laps remaining.
It was tense upfront now, as Leclerc started to report throttle issues. Verstappen was closing with 10 laps to go. Leclerc’s pedal was getting stuck after application, meaning that Leclerc was now having to lift off earlier than desired.
Behind the top 2, Mercedes were showing a strong performance, with Hamilton inheriting 3rd and Russell recovering to 4th.
Albon was looking good for a 10th place finish, but lost out to Bottas with just 5 laps to go. Devastating for the struggling Williams team.
Despite the issues, Leclerc was just able to hold on to take victory. Verstappen has suffered minor damage in the championship standings, but is still in control after taking 2nd. Hamilton took his second podium finish in a row ahead of a superb recovery drive from Hamilton. Ocon took a phenomenal 5th place, ahead of an equally exceptional Schumacher. Norris took 7th with a strong drive, ahead of Magnussen and Ricciardo. Alonso took the last points position on the last lap of the race.
Full Race results:
- Verstappen +1.532s
- Hamilton +41.217s
- Russell +58.972s
- Ocon +68.436s
- Schumacher +1 Lap
- Norris +1 Lap
- Magnussen +1 Lap
- Ricciardo + 1 Lap
- Alonso + 1 Lap
- Bottas + 1 Lap
- Albon + 1 Lap
- Stroll + 1 Lap
- Zhou + 1 Lap
- Gasly + 1 Lap
- Tsunoda + 1 Lap
- Vettel + 1 Lap
- Sainz RET
- Latifi RET
- Perez RET
Featured Image Credit @F1 Official Twitter