Max Verstappen won a somewhat controversial but exciting Austrian Grand Prix to make him and Charles Leclerc, who came second, the youngest 1-2 finishers in a Grand Prix in F1 history, both 21 years old. It was also Verstappen’s second win on the Red Bull Ring Spielberg circuit. The win for Red Bull, who are using a Honda power unit this season, also meant that this was Honda’s first victory since the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Verstappen’s win took three hours of deliberation by the Stewards before being made official following the Dutchman’s overtaking move on Leclerc’s Ferrari just two laps from the end of the race, where the two made contact on the tight uphill turn three. A furious Leclerc could be heard on the team radio saying: “What the hell.”
Charles Leclerc led the race from the start, having brilliantly secured pole position the day before. The battle with Verstappen towards the end of the race was thrilling to say the least, and the sea of Dutch fans, all dressed in the country’s national colour of orange, went crazy when their driver managed to get past the Ferrari in the closing laps of the race.
The stewards spent a long-time reviewing video footage of the incident and also spoke with the two drivers. Their conclusion was that no further action was necessary.
Explaining their decision, the Stewards said that: “Car 33 (Verstappen) sought to overtake car 16 (Leclerc) at Turn 3 on lap 69 by out-braking car 16. When doing so, car 33 was alongside car 16 on the entry of the corner and was in full control of the car while attempting the overtaking move on the inside of car 16.”
“However, both car 33 and car 16 proceeded to negotiate the corner alongside each other but there was clearly insufficient space for both cars to do so. Shortly after the late apex, while exiting the corner, there was contact between the two cars.”
“In the totality of the circumstances, we did not consider that either driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the incident. We consider that this is a racing incident.”
“Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Article 9.1.1 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.”
Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen said afterwards: “It was an incredible race and I’m so happy to take the Team’s second victory at our home Grand Prix. It was a shame at the start as I triggered anti-stall and dropped back to seventh. From there onwards the pace was really good, I stayed calm and kept pushing hard. The second stint was decisive for us as the car really came alive. Once I passed Valtteri I thought I could have a go for the win as our pace was so strong but you never know. I just kept pushing, drove flat out and didn’t give up. We passed Charles with a few laps to go so I’m extremely happy. The move was close racing and if you can’t make moves like that I think it is better to stay at home. I want to say a big thank you to everyone at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, all weekend we have been working really well and the upgrades seem to have worked. Thank you to all the crew here, everyone at the factory and of course Honda, it’s not been easy for them over the past years but to win for them today is just incredible.”
Team Principal Christian Horner commented: “What an unbelievable performance by Max today. To win the race here in Austria and to give Honda its first victory with a V6 hybrid is unbelievable. Winning our home race means an enormous amount to everyone in the Red Bull family. Mr Mateschitz has put so much into the sport with both Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, so it means an incredible amount to deliver this victory for a second year running. It was a tense wait after the race but the stewards made the right decision. What happened today between Charles and Max is hard racing and I think that’s what Formula One is all about – it’s two young guys going for it. Formula One has come under a lot of criticism recently and I think today’s race was an exciting one with overtaking, tyre degradation and drama – exactly what the doctor ordered! We came to Austria as outsiders and so to win here is a dream come true and I think that was Max’s best win. It was a tough race for Pierre but he managed to make progress and pass Raikkonen. When your teammate is performing at this level the benchmark is extremely high, but with time and as his confidence builds, Pierre will close the gap. Our target in the constructors’ championship is Ferrari and we need both cars to score the maximum points possible.”
Ferrari may have thought they had the Austrian Grand Prix in the bag but in the end they came away from the Austrian Grand Prix with a second and fourth place finish which is a much stronger result for the team than of late.
Charles Leclerc commented on losing that win: “It was a positive weekend overall. Unfortunately, it did not end as we would have liked it to. My first stint was good and our pace was there. We pitted early to prevent losing our track position to Bottas. This made the second stint longer and more challenging than expected, as the rear tyres degraded quite a bit towards the end of the race. Second place is not what we wanted, but we gave it our all and made good a step forward this weekend. I am convinced that this will bring further progress for the next few races and allow us to achieve the success that we want.”
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport
Mercedes had a disappointing weekend by their standards, with Valtteri Bottas managing to get onto the podium in third, whilst Lewis Hamilton has to settle for fifth this weekend. Hamilton still leads the Driver’s Championship by 31 points over Bottas and the team lead Ferrari in the Constructor’s Championship with 363 points, 135 points ahead of Ferrari.
Valtteri Bottas commented: “I think we made the most of it today. We expected this race to be tricky, but it turned out to be even more difficult than we predicted. We had to do lots of lifting and coasting and couldn’t use all engines modes to keep the engine from overheating. So, we couldn’t really race properly, and I had to manage temperatures for the majority of the race. It made both defending and attacking very difficult. But you have to look at the positives – I got some good points out of this weekend and I don’t think there was much difference in terms of race pace. So, it isn’t all bad. We’ll investigate and hopefully come back stronger at Silverstone.”
McLaren put in a strong performance with a double point score at the Austrian Grand Prix and demonstrated the strides forward they have made with a new upgrade package for the car.
The team scored points at the French Grand Prix and here in Austria Lando Norris qualified fifth and finished sixth, whilst teammate Carlos Sainz drove a fantastic race to come from the back of the grid to finish eighth. “We introduced an upgrade in Spain which looks to be starting to pay off,” said Sainz. “The first two race weekends [that we ran the upgrade] in Monaco and Canada, maybe because of the nature of the tracks we couldn’t feel it as much as we are starting to feel it now. It’s paying off and paying off and we are understanding the car and being faster every weekend. The car in high speed is starting to perform very well.”
McLaren have moved up to fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and have stretched their lead by 20 points over Renault.
Haas F1 Team
The Haas team had an extremely disappointing Austrian Grand Prix with Romain Grosjean finishing 16th and teammate Kevin Magnussen crossing the finish line in 19th.
Team Principal Guenther Steiner said: “A disappointing race, obviously. Running around like that is negatively amazing. After qualifying in fifth position, to then have a race like this, I can’t say anything other than it’s disappointing. We’ll keep working on it, try to get a better understanding of why this kind of performance is happening from qualifying to the race. We just do not understand it, at the moment we have no clue.”
The top ten finishers at the Austrian Grand Prix were Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz, Kimi Raikkononen and Antonio Giovinazzi securing the final point.
The next race, round 10 in the 2019 calendar, is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on the weekend of 13th and 14th July, where Mercedes hope the faster circuit will suit their cars far better than in Austria.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, McLaren and Haas F1 Team