Charles Leclerc sees off Max Verstappen to win Austrian F1 GP for Ferrari

  • Verstappen’s championship lead over Leclerc cut to 38 points
  • Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton and George Russell third and fourth

Charles Leclerc celebrated victory at the Austrian Grand Prix with as much a sense of relief as joy after a race that was gripping until its final moments.

The pleasure will doubtless be felt, not least in the remarkable form Leclerc showed in seeing off the challenge of his title rival, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The Dutchman was second here after a definitive display of authority from Leclerc and Ferrari, who showed fearsome pace in Spielberg.

Indeed Ferrari could have made it a one-two only for their hopes to be dashed when Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz was forced to retire, his engine in flames near the end. It was a dramatic and frightening moment for the Spaniard as he pulled up at the top of the hill at turn three. He could not climb out of the car because in taking his foot off the brake it rolled backwards. He was forced to remain in the cockpit as the flames licked closer until marshals could place chocks beneath the wheels and allow him to escape unhurt.

Sainz’s impressions were vivid when asked about the incident. “Fire. A lot of fire,” he said, adding later: “The whole process was a bit slow and at some point there was so much fire that I had to get a move on and jump out. It is definitely something we need to look at how we could have done it a bit faster, because it was not an easy situation to be in.” The events and the procedure around extrication will be investigated.

For Lewis Hamilton there was reason for optimism as he took third for Mercedes. His teammate George Russell was fourth, a great recovery given that he had dropped to 18th at one point. Esteban Ocon was fifth for Alpine.

This was a tense but exhilarating affair played out in the grand, picturesque amphitheatre of the Styrian mountains where 60,000 of the 105,000-strong crowd were Dutch fans who had come to see Verstappen march one step further to his second title. Leclerc was in no mood to follow their script.

Carlos Sainz eventually escapes from his burning Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz eventually escapes from his burning Ferrari. Photograph: Antonin Vincent/DPPI/Shutterstock

The win was significant for the 24-year-old in being his first return to the top step since the third round in Australia. After a run of mechanical failures and poor strategy decisions that have seen Verstappen pile up an enormous lead, it reignited his title fight. The championship lead has already yawed between them, with Leclerc’s 46-point lead after Australia turned to a Verstappen advantage of 44 going into this race. Leclerc has reduced that to 38 points and now at the halfway point of the season and, with 11 races to go, a swing back in his favour is not out of the question.

Of import also is the style in which he did it. With a genuinely competitive car Leclerc was indomitable in Austria, passing Verstappen on the track three times during the race to secure the win. This is as good as the Ferrari has looked since Melbourne and while the Red Bull struggled with tyre degradation, the Scuderia were at ease with their rubber.

“I kept being optimistic, but hard race after hard race it felt like everything was against me,” Leclerc said. “Finally we have had a breakthrough and we had a good race today,it feels good to have a win again.”

Lewis Hamilton pours champagne over Charles Leclerc’s head on the podium at the Red Bull Ring
Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc on the podium at the Red Bull Ring. Photograph: Leonhard Föger/Reuters

Ferrari brought their first upgrades of the season to Barcelona and a further swathe to Silverstone, where Sainz won, and they have clearly hit the spot. Their package looks ominously strong once more.

Verstappen conceded that Red Bull had no answers. “I expected them to be strong,” he said. “I just didn’t expect them to be this good. We need to analyse and understand why this happened.”

He had been soundly beaten in a classic three-act sequence, Verstappen leading from pole only to be caught by Leclerc as they fought a gripping toe-to-toe scrap until the Monégasque struck. On lap 11, late on the brakes up the inside at turn four, he pulled off a mighty pass.

Red Bull went aggressive, pitting Verstappen early with the fresh rubber paying off such that when Leclerc stopped he emerged once more behind him. Leclerc chased Verstappen down again and with new rubber he positively breezed past at turn three. He now held all the cards, able to cover off any second stop by the Red Bull driver.

Verstappen duly stopped again and Ferrari once more stayed out, pitting Leclerc again 13 laps later. He came out three seconds back, with one more pass required.

  • Download the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for 'The Guardian'.
  • If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.
  • In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.
  • Turn on sport notifications.

He duly caught the Dutchman and swept past him up the inside on the exit of turn three on lap 52. A virtual safety car was deployed when Sainz went off and a tense final 10 laps ensued as Verstappen pushed and Leclerc reported issues with his throttle but he held his nerve to take the flag.

Red Bull had tried every alternative but Ferrari’s pace advantage was simply too much and this time they managed Leclerc to perfection. Sainz’s fiery engine failure will be of concern but the Scuderia will feel they are well and truly back in the fight.

Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen were sixth and eighth for Haas. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo seventh and ninth for McLaren and Fernando Alonso 10th for Alpine.


Giles Richards at the Red Bull Ring

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Max Verstappen wins dramatic Spanish F1 GP after Charles Leclerc retires
The world champion finished a place ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez to take the lead in the championship, George Russell claimed third and Lewis Hamilton battled back from an early setback to finish fifth

Giles Richards at the Circuit de Catalunya

22, May, 2022 @3:11 PM

Article image
Charles Leclerc wins dramatic Bahrain F1 GP as Ferrari bring home one-two
Ferrari’s Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were first and second in the season-opener, with Lewis Hamilton third after the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Pérez had to retire

Giles Richards at Bahrain International Circuit

20, Mar, 2022 @5:18 PM

Article image
Charles Leclerc wins Australian F1 GP after Max Verstappen is forced to retire
Charles Leclerc extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship with victory in Melbourne but Max Verstappen was forced out for the second time in three races

Giles Richards

10, Apr, 2022 @6:54 AM

Article image
Max Verstappen holds off challenge of Charles Leclerc to win Miami F1 GP
Max Verstappen overtook Charles Leclerc early on in the inaugural Miami Grand Prix and held on to take victory, with Leclerc finishing second and Carlos Sainz taking third

Giles Richards at the Hard Rock Stadium Circuit

08, May, 2022 @9:26 PM

Article image
Verstappen closes season with 15th win as Leclerc clinches second in standings
World champion Max Verstappen ended the F1 season with victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Giles Richards

20, Nov, 2022 @3:19 PM

Article image
Sergio Pérez triumphs in Monaco GP as Charles Leclerc fumes at botched stop
Sergio Pérez roared to a win at the Monaco Grand Prix as Max Verstappen extended his championship lead

Giles Richards in Monte Carlo

29, May, 2022 @4:29 PM

Article image
Verstappen closes gap to Leclerc after easing to Emilia Romagna F1 GP victory
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is only 27 points behind Charles Leclerc, who finished sixth after making a late error that allowed Lando Norries to be third

Giles Richards at Imola

24, Apr, 2022 @3:10 PM

Article image
Max Verstappen wins Austrian F1 GP sprint race from Leclerc and Sainz
Max Verstappen took the eight points on offer for winning the sprint race for the Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring and will start Sunday on pole

Giles Richards at the Red Bull Ring

09, Jul, 2022 @3:38 PM

Article image
Charles Leclerc seals pole while Ferrari lock front row for Miami Grand Prix
Charles Leclerc claimed pole for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix with another demonstration of superb precision, executed flawlessly for Ferrari

Giles Richards at the Hard Rock Stadium Circuit

07, May, 2022 @10:28 PM

Article image
Charles Leclerc takes French F1 GP pole for Ferrari with help from Sainz
Charles Leclerc claimed pole for the French F1 GP ahead of Max Verstappen, thanks in part to driving in the slipstream of his teammate Carlos Sainz

Giles Richards at Circuit Paul Ricard

23, Jul, 2022 @3:39 PM