Max Verstappen recovered from a poor start to take a brilliant Austrian Grand Prix, and to score Honda’s first F1 victory in 13 years although in true Verstappen style the win was full of controversy....
Though the Dutch driver’s sixth career win was only officially confirmed following a stewards’ investigation into the overtaking move on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc that earned Verstappen top spot on the podium.
Polesitter Leclerc had led from the start of the race, but with a handful of laps to go Verstappen used greater pace on hard tyres to close up to the Ferrari driver. He tried to pass on the inside into Turn 3 on lap 68 but the attempt was rebuffed by the clam Leclerc who held his line and power ahead of the Dutch driver on exit from the corner.
Undaunted, Verstappen tried again on the next lap, in the same place. This time there was contact and Leclerc was forced wide. As the Ferrari driver slowed, Verstappen raced away into the lead and at the end of the 71stlap crossed the line to take a brilliant win.
Almost immediately race stewards reported that the incident was under investigation and there followed a nervous wait while the officials deliberated.
Some three hours later, Verstappen’s win was confirmed with the matter ruled to be a racing incident.
“Car 33 sought to overtake car 16 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,” read the verdict.
“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.”
Verstappen’s sixth career win and the first for power unit partner Honda since the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2006 seemed unlikely when the Dutchman’s RB15 bogged down and he was immediately passed by a swarm of rivals. Leclerc powered away into the lead ahead of the Mercedes cars of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, the Alfa Romeo of fast-starting Kimi Räikkönen, the McLaren of Lando Norris and the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen, though, dropped to P7 and looked to be out of contention. However, both Verstappen and Vettel passed Norris with relative ease and within a handful of laps they had also cleared Räikkönen.
After a dozen laps, Leclerc was a healthy three seconds ahead of Bottas, with Hamilton a further 2.7 seconds back in third. Vettel was now fourth, 4.5s behind Hamilton, while Verstappen was a similar distance behind Vettel. Ahead of the first round of pit stops Leclerc had built an almost five-second advantage over Bottas, who triggered what would for most of the leafing pack would be a single pit stop.
Bottas made a clean stop on lap 21 but there was no such luck for Vettel who stopped at the same time4. The Ferrari driver’s crew were not ready with a set of hard tyres and the German was forced to sit stationary for six seconds as a front left wheel was located and fitted. Leclerc made his stop at the end of the following lap and he emerged in P3 behind new leader Hamilton and Verstappen .
Hamilton was now suffering with degradation to his opening set of medium tyres and as Verstappen closed the gap, the Mercedes driver pushed too hard and damaged his front wing. He pitted at the end of lap 30, not only for hard tyres but also for a new front wing.
The stop saw Hamilton stand still in his pit box for 11 seconds and Red Bull responded by pitting Verstappen on lap 31. He emerged four seconds clear of Hamilton, in fourth place. And it was then, with hard tyres on board, that the race began to come to the Dutchman
He swiftly close on third-placed Vettel and on lap 50, breezed past the German on entry to Turn 4 to take third place.
Verstappen now had Bottas in his sights and on lap 56 her took second place, dismissing Bottas effortlessly with a move down the inside into Turn 3 under DRS.
With 10 laps to go Max was just 3.8 seconds behind the race leader and five laps later the Red Bull driver arrived on Ferrari’s gearbox. The two 21-year-old racers then engaged in the epic battle that ended with Verstappen spraying champagne from the top step of the podium but also facing a stewards’ investigation.
Vettel had also been on the move during the closing stages and he passed Hamilton to take a solid fourth place after starting from P9. Hamilton was left with fifth place ahead of Norris and Pierre crossed the line in P7 to score his seventh points finish of the season to date. Eighth place was taken by Carlos Sainz who finished ahead of the Alfa Romeo cars of Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
2019 FIA Formula One Austrian Grand Prix – Race 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2.724 3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 18.960 4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 19.610 5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 22.805 6 Lando Norris McLaren 1 Lap 7 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing 1 Lap 8 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren 1 Lap 9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1 Lap 10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1 Lap 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1 Lap 12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1 Lap 13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 Lap 14 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1 Lap 15 Alex Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso 1 Lap 16 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 Lap 17 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 2 Laps 18 George Russell Williams 2 Laps 19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2 Laps 20 Robert Kubica Williams 3 Lap