Leclerc fights car woes to take well earned Austrian GP win

By Steven De Groote on

Charles Leclerc showed superior pace throughout the entire Austrian Grand Prix and near the end had to fight car issues, but the Monegasque did win the Austrian Grand Prix. Championship leader Verstappen finished a close second as Hamilton completed the podium.

When the lights went out, Verstappen had another great start, in fact, better than in the sprint, enabling him to keep to the left and get the best possible approach to Turn 1. Leclerc followed without problems in second while Russell had the inside of Sainz. The Spaniard however opted to go wide and floor it off track, returning to the track in third again, leaving Russell vulnerable to defend against Perez.

In Turn 3, Perez went off and spun into the gravel, but a quick reaction from his side made sure he didn’t come to a halt and was able to continue his race, albeit from 20th position. Russell was later given a harsh 5s penalty for “causing a collision”.

Behind Russell a DRS train formed with Ocon, Magnussen, Hamilton and Schumacher. The last two of that train switched positions on lap 5 when Hamilton went a bit wide on the exit of Turn 1, onto the sausage kerbs. Mick gladly took 7th, leaving Hamilton to do the same exercise as in the sprint race when it took numerous laps and Schumacher losing DRS to be able to get past.

Behind Hamilton the two McLarens ended up in points scoring positions. As Zhou lost three places in the first few laps, Gasly, Albon and Tsunoda moved up, just like Alonso who found himself 17th after starting 19th. 20th was Bottas who started from the pitlane after power unit switches forced him to the back of the grid anyways.

As positions in the midfield stabilised, Leclerc increased pressure on Verstappen and after a failed passing attempt on lap 10, Leclerc decisively took the inside at Turn 3 and overtook Verstappen for the lead. The Dutchman tried to return the favour the next lap but failed and briefly locked his front right wheel. As Sainz was closing, Verstappen opted to take an early stop, returning to the track in 8th position.

As Verstappen started to close in, Hamilton thought it was about time to get away and in the distance of a single lap he passed Schumacher and Magnussen. Verstappen was a bit lucky that Magnussen pitted, making the work a bit easier for him.

Many more pitted around that time, promoting Hamilton to third while Verstappen on his fresh hard tyres looked for a place to get past the Mercedes. In lap 17, Hamilton defended through turns 1 and 2 but the DRS effect was powerful enough to enable Verstappen to breeze past before Turn 3.

The next 10 laps saw several overtakes in the midfield as cars with fresher tyres were trying to move up again among those on their hards still from the start. At times this created fascinating battles, often with multiple cars involved.

In front Leclerc and Sainz waited to pit until lap 26 and 27. Hamilton did yet another extra lap and returned in 6th, just behind Stroll who was the only one who still had to pit, and Ocon. As Stroll pitted the next lap, Hamilton made perfect use of his fresh tyres to easily get pat Ocon for 4th place.

Leclerc string of quick laps on his fresh tyres soon brought him within striking distance of the race leader and on lap 32 it resulted in a an easy pass by Leclerc. The Ferrari driver easily built a gap the next laps. In fact, Verstappen was so slow that he opted to pit again on lap 37, forfeiting second place to Sainz and returning to the track 5s ahead of Hamilton.

Throughout this race penalties were given everywhere for people driving over the track limits. Many drivers dismissed the reports, but their engineers could do nothing but reply others had been given penalties as well.

As Alonso handily moved up the pecking order and ended up in 5th because of a very different strategy than the cars that started around him, both Ferraris pitted, followed by Hamilton. This of course put Verstappen back in the lead but just like last time it didn’t last long before Leclerc got back in front, this time with a pass while accelerating out of Turn 2 on lap 52.

A few laps later, Sainz started to look for ways to also get past Verstappen, but before he could really mount a challenge his Ferrari engine blew on the way to Turn 3. Sainz parked it straight up but a sluggish response by the marshalls saw the car properly on fire before anyone arrived with an extinguisher.

A virtual safety car for about 2 laps ended up to be enough, triggering quite a few stops, including one for Leclerc, Verstappen and Alonso Alonso.

When the race was on again, Leclerc and Verstappen went on to set fastest laps, but with a slight advantage to Verstappen who slowly closed the 4s gap. Leclerc reported problems with his throttle with the team later indicating it is not an engine problem but rather the throttle pedal getting stuck down from time to time. Far from ideal of course…

With 5 laps to go, Leclerc’s throttle pedal didn’t reduce beyond 20% while the gap to Verstappen further reduced. To make things worse, the continuously open throttle also created trouble for downshifting. The Monegasque was clearly worried, and admitted afterwards as well, but it turned out to be a very well-earned victory for Leclerc.

Verstappen finished second at 1.5s, ahead of Hamilton and Russell. Mick Schumacher added another big haul of points to his tally while Fernando Alonso secured 10th and the final point in the penultimate lap by passing Valtteri Bottas.


Pos. No. Driver Car Laps Time Pts
1 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 71 1:24:24.312 25
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Rbpt 71 +1.532s 19
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71 +41.217s 15
4 63 George Russell Mercedes 71 +58.972s 12
5 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 71 +68.436s 10
6 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 70 +1 lap 8
7 4 Lando Norris Mclaren Mercedes 70 +1 lap 6
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 70 +1 lap 4
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo Mclaren Mercedes 70 +1 lap 2
10 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 70 +1 lap 1
11 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 70 +1 lap 0
12 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 70 +1 lap 0
13 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 70 +1 lap 0
14 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 70 +1 lap 0
15 10 Pierre Gasly Alphatauri Rbpt 70 +1 lap 0
16 22 Yuki Tsunoda Alphatauri Rbpt 70 +1 lap 0
17 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 70 +1 lap 0
NC 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 56 DNF 0
NC 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 48 DNF 0
NC 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Rbpt 24 DNF 0

Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
Gasly received a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.
Vettel received a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits.

GP Austriaprevious