Verstappen triumphs in dramatic finish

Max Verstappen celebrates with his team of Red Bull engineers after the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg yesterday. The Dutchman took the chequered flag for the first time this season after overtaking Charles Leclerc's Ferrari in the closing laps wit
Max Verstappen celebrates with his team of Red Bull engineers after the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg yesterday. The Dutchman took the chequered flag for the first time this season after overtaking Charles Leclerc's Ferrari in the closing laps with the stewards announcing an inquiry into the manoeuvre.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Red Bull star insists late charge past Ferrari's Leclerc is legitimate; stewards still probing

SPIELBERG • Max Verstappen overcame a poor start to storm to the sixth victory of his career and end Mercedes' record unbeaten start to the season when the Red Bull driver triumphed in yesterday's Austrian Grand Prix.

The 21-year-old Dutchman, who won last year's race at the Spielberg circuit, recovered after dropping to seventh and charged through to battle past Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in stirring fashion with two laps left.

But his dramatic overtaking move was immediately put under investigation by the stewards, with Leclerc feeling he was given insufficient space as Verstappen forced him wide off the circuit. At press time, the result of the probe was not available.

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas came home third ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, while five-time world champion and championship leader Lewis Hamilton was fifth after his car suffered front wing and heating problems.

"After that start, I thought my race was over," said Verstappen, before questioning the delayed confirmation. "But, after the pit stops, we were flying. It was hard racing - and if that's not allowed, what's the point in racing in F1? We may as well go home."

Former world champion Damon Hill also felt Verstappen had no case to answer, telling Sky that "his nose was in front". He added: "Leclerc tried to defend from the outside, and you can't do that."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner also backed his driver, saying: "This is what Formula One needs. Two young guys, going wheel-to-wheel, fighting each other."

  • AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX

  • RESULTS

    1 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1hr 22min 01.822sec

    2 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari +2.724sec

    3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +18.960

    4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +19.610

    5 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +22.805

    6 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren +1 lap

    7 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull +1 lap

    8 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren +1 lap

  • OVERALL - DRIVERS

    1 Hamilton 197pts 2 Bottas 166

    3 Verstappen 126 4 Vettel 123

    5 Leclerc 105

  • CONSTRUCTORS

    1 Mercedes 363 2 Ferrari 228

    3 Red Bull 169 4 McLaren 52

    5 Renault 32

His victory brought Red Bull's engine supplier Honda their first win since the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix after returning to the sport.

Leclerc said: "I had more degradation than I thought at the end - we touched and I had to go wide and I didn't have a chance to fight back."

The race, which was a perfect antidote for the sport after the previous week's dreary procession in France, began in sweltering conditions of 35 deg C.

Leclerc, 21 made a smooth start from his second pole position to lead into the newly-named Lauda Curve. Behind him was Verstappen - the pair formed the youngest front row in F1 history - but he was initially bogged down by his anti-stall and dropped to seventh as Bottas and the rest took advantage.

Both Ferraris traded fastest laps while the Mercedes men fought to preserve their tyres before Bottas and Vettel dived into the pits on Lap 22, followed by Leclerc.

All switched to "hards" in the pits, suggesting they hoped to drive to the flag while Hamilton continued on his original mediums. But, soon after, he reported front-wing problems were costing him downforce and time.

With Hamilton out of contention, it was Verstappen who supplied the thrills as he surged past Bottas on Lap 56. With five laps to go, the gap to Leclerc was down to less than 1 sec and on Lap 69, Verstappen swept inside him and pushed the Ferrari wide before racing home.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

DEFIANT DUTCHMAN

It was hard racing - and if that's not allowed, what's the point in racing in F1? We may as well go home.

'MAX VERSTAPPEN, Red Bull driver, insisting that he did nothing wrong in overtaking Ferrari's Charles Leclerc with two laps to go.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2019, with the headline 'VERSTAPPEN TRIUMPHS IN DRAMATIC FINISH'. Print Edition | Subscribe