Leclerc takes victory in Austria ahead of Verstappen. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc shrugged off late-race throttle problems to hold off Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and take his third victory of the season at the Austrian Grand Prix, as an engine failure late in the race cost Carlos Sainz third place.
Leclerc takes victory in Austria ahead of Verstappen
Though polesitter Verstappen raced into an early lead, greater tyres wear in the race saw Leclerc claimed the lead after 13 laps and he passed the Dutchman twice more as the strategies played out to hold a comfortable lead in the closing stages. But when the power unit of Sainz’s Ferrari failed on lap 57 of 71 , the VSC was deployed and both Leclerc and Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres. Leclerc then began reporting trouble with throttle and though Verstappen closed in the Ferrari driver was able to hang on until the chequered flag to claim his first win since the Australian Grand Prix in April.
At the race start, Verstappen reacted well and took the lead into Turn 1 ahead of Leclerc. Pressured by Russell, Sainz went wide in the first corner but when he rejoined he outpaced the Mercedes to Turn 3 and retook P3. That battle allowed Sergio Pérez, who had started fifth, to close in and into Turn 3 he took a wide line around the outside to set up a challenge on Russell.
On the run towards Turn 4 the Red Bull driver drew alongside the Mercedes and he attacked around the outside, getting ahead of the Mercedes in mid-corner. However, as Pérez turned in on the exit, Russell clipped the right sidepod of the Red Bull and Pérez driver was pitched into the gravel trap.
Pérez was able to continue and swiftly pitted for hard tyres. He rejoined in last place. Russell was later handed a five-second penalty for causing the collision and the Mercedes driver then pitted for hard tyres and a new front wing.
At the front, Verstappen began to eke out a gap but Leclerc responded to stay close to the Red Bull as the opening stint unfolded. On Lap 13 Leclerc launched an attack down the inside into Turn 4 and as Verstappen was forced wide Leclerc held the corner and took the lead. Verstappen immediately pitted and switched to hard tyres. He rejoined in P6 behind Mick Schumacher and quickly made his way past the Haas driver before setting off in pursuit after Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who was behind Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
On lap 18 Verstappen passed the Mercedes driver as they powered towards 4 and on lap 19, with Ocon pitting, Verstappen was third, 14s behind Sainz and 19s behind race leader Leclerc.
Meanwhile, at the back of the field, Pérez, suffering with reduced downforce and handling issues as a result of his clash with Russell at the start, retired from the race on lap 25.
At the end of the following lap, Leclerc made his first pit stop from the lead, 12 laps after Verstappen’s switch. The Ferrari driver made the move to hard tyres and rejoined five seconds behind the Dutchman. Sainz followed his team-mate with a similar swap a lap later.
Armed with fresher tyres, Leclerc closed in on Verstappen over the following laps and on lap 33 he crept into DRS range of the race leader. And on the run up the hill to Turn 3, with little resistance from Verstappen, Leclerc flew past to retake the lead.
At the end of lap 36, Verstappen made his second stop of the afternoon, taking on another set of hard tyres. He rejoined in third place, 25.9s behind Leclerc and 19 adrift of Sainz, who was also shown black and white flags for track limits infringements.
Leclerc pitted at the end of lap 49 and he emerged in third place behind Verstappen. Sainz repeated the switch at the end of the following lap, and Verstappen moved back into the lead, though just 1.5s ahead of Leclerc. The Monegasque driver, again on fresher tyres, quickly closed that gap and on lap 53 he went to the outside of Verstappen into Turn 3, forcing Verstappen to take a tight line. And lacking traction, Verstappen was easily passed by the Ferrari driver as they exited the corner.
Sainz then began to close in on Verstappen and on lap 57 he was inside DRS range. He tried to attack into Turn 3, but Verstappen shut the door. Sainz put the power down to try to outdrag the Red Bull towards Turn 4, but halfway down the straight the Spaniard’s engine let go and he was forced to pull over into an escape road. His car burst into flames and Sainz had to quickly exit as the Ferrari rolled backwards. Marshals were quickly on the scene to put a wedge behind the front right and the blaze was then swiftly extinguished.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed and at the end of lap 58, Leclerc and Verstappen pitted for medium tyres. Verstappen was now just four seconds behind the race leader.
Ten laps from the flag, Leclerc reported an issue with his throttle pedal and Verstappen was told to apply pressure. With five laps remaining the Red Bull driver was just 2.7s behind the Ferrari, but Leclerc was able to hang on to take victory just 1.5s ahead of Verstappen. Hamilton finished third ahead of team-mate Russell, while Ocon took fifth place ahead of Schumacher. McLaren’s Lando Norris finished seventh ahead of Magnussen and the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, and the final point on offer went to Fernando Alonso, though the Alpine driver was set to be investigated after the race for a possible unsafe release.
2022 FIA Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix – Race
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:24’24.312
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:24’25.844
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:25’05.529
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