Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc recorded his third victory of the year and second since the Australian Grand Prix in April after a tense last few laps at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
In a race characterised by numerous drivers being penalised, warned and given five-second penalties for exceeding track limits, the Monegasque finished a scant 1.5 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after picking-up throttle problems less than nine laps from the end.
Forced to ease off to manage to the situation, which at the time of the writing had not been diagnosed, Leclerc, who found himself behind a fast-starting Verstappen, only to pull off a bold move on lap 12 thanks to DRS, saw his almost four-second lead trimmed as frantic calls to the pits prevailed throughout the last few laps.
“The pace was there. At the beginning, we had some good fights with Max and the end was incredibly difficult. I had this issue with the throttle.
“It would get stuck at 20 or 30 per cent throttle in the low speeds, so it was very tricky. We managed to make it stick until the end and I am so happy,” a relieved Leclerc told former Williams, McLaren and Red Bull driver, now Channel 4 commentator, David Coulthard, after the race in perc fermé.
In the end, the Ferrari driver came out tops with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finishing third after Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, retired 16 laps before the finish with a blown engine.
Running behind Verstappen after the second series of pit-stops, with Leclerc having already passed the Dutchman on the previous lap, Silverstone winner Sainz, upon exiting turn three, pulled over with smoke and then fire gushing out from underneath the engine cover.
The race subsequently neutralised underneath a virtual safety car as marshals doused the flames before towing the stranded Prancing Horse from the circuit.
A visibly distraught Sainz was later seen walking back to the pits after retiring for the fourth time this year following hydraulic problems in Baku and two separate spins at the Australian and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.
“There was no feedback coming from the engine that this was about to happen, very sudden. I am a bit lost for words because this is obviously a big loss of points and result for the team today because I think it could have been an easy 1-2,” Sainz told SkyF1 after the race.
Behind Hamilton, Mercedes teammate George Russell finished fourth after receiving a five-second penalty for tagging Red Bull’s Sergio Perez at the start of the race.
In an almost carbon copy of the 2020 incident between Hamilton and then Red Bull, now Williams, driver Alex Albon, Perez’s attempt of trying to drive around the outside of Russell, in turn, four resulted in contact that led to the Red Bull sliding across the gravel and with considerable side-pod damage.
The Mexican, who finished second last time out at Silverstone, eventually retired as a consequence of the damage on lap 24, a similar fate that befell the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi, with suspected damage after an unseen incident, and Sainz.
In a fiercely contested mid-field battle, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finished fifth, the final driver to complete the 71 laps without going a lap down, while Haas’ Mick Schumacher scored his second career points finishing by getting one over teammate Kevin Magnussen, who placed eighth behind the McLaren of Lando Norris.
Sainz’s last lap troubles elevated Norris’ teammate Daniel Ricciardo to ninth ahead of the second Alpine of Fernando Alonso.
Outside the points was Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in 11th, Albon in 12th Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in 13th and the second Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu, who had been as high as sixth in the early stages, in 14th.
Another torrid weekend for AlphaTauri ended in 15th and 16th for Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, while Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel crossed the line last after contact with Gasly near the end, followed by a five-place penalty for exceeding track limits.
After last week’s British Grand Prix, the season breaks for two weeks before heading to Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix on 24 July.
ALSO READ: Austrian Grand Prix lap-by-lap live updates
Results (Top 10)
- Charles Leclerc Ferrari
- Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.532 sec
- Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +41.217 sec
- George Russell Mercedes +58.972 sec
- Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 min 8.436 sec
- Mick Schumacher Haas + 1 lap
- Lando Norris McLaren + 1 lap
- Kevin Magnussen Haas + 1 lap
- Daniel Ricciardo McLaren + 1 lap
- Fernando Alonso Alpine + 1 lap
- Max Verstappen – 208 pt
- Charles Leclerc – 170 pt
- Sergio Perez – 151 pt
- Carlos Sainz – 133 pt
- George Russell – 128 pt
- Lewis Hamilton – 109 pt
- Lando Norris – 64 pt
- Esteban Ocon – 52 pt
- Valtteri Bottas – 46 pt
- Fernando Alonso – 29 pt
- Red Bull – 359 pt
- Ferrari – 303 pt
- Mercedes – 237 pt
- McLaren – 81 pt
- Alpine – 81 pt
- Alfa Romeo – 51 pt
- Haas – 34 pt
- AlphaTauri – 27 pt
- Aston Martin – 18 pt
- Williams – 3 pt