Max Verstappen edges Charles Leclerc for a thrilling win at the Austrian Grand Prix

by Sudha Sundararaj

Max Verstappen won his second Austrian Grand Prix in a row and his sixth career win with a sensational drive at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

Charles Leclerc had to be content with second position after leading the race until lap 69. A hard overtake move saw Leclerc and Verstappen banging wheels and the Dutchman took the race lead. The race-winning pass is under investigation by the stewards.

Valtteri Bottas joined the two young drivers on the podium. The Mercedes drivers were forced to lift and coast as they had to manage the high temperatures all race long. Bottas managed to salvage third position as he held off Sebastian Vettel in the final laps.

Leclerc was on pole position with Verstappen joining him on the front row. Bottas and team-mate Lewis Hamilton were on the second row. Lando Norris and Kimi Räikkönen were on the third row.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel, and Kevin Magnussen started at the front of the grid. It was a mixed grid due to a slew of penalties.

Hamilton qualified in second position, but a three-place grid penalty for impeding Räikkönen in the early part of qualification dropped him to fourth-place on the grid. George Russell got the same penalty for impeding Daniil Kvyat and started in the pit lane due to a change of front wing.

Alexander Albon and Carlos Sainz started at the back of the grid due to penalties for multiple new power unit elements. Magnussen was given a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change and started in tenth position. Nico Hulkenberg was given a five-place grid penalty for a new power unit element that dropped him to fifteenth position.

The start of the race with a mixed grid was further spiced up with the different tyres the drivers at the sharp end of the grid were starting on. Pole-sitter Leclerc and team-mate Vettel were on the soft compound tyres. Verstappen, Bottas and Hamilton started on the medium compound tyres which was expected to be more durable in the scorching heat.

The youngest ever front row for a Formula 1 race start of Leclerc and Verstappen was always going to create an exciting start. Verstappen was bogged down at the start as the anti-stall kicked in and he fell to eighth position behind team-mate Gasly.

Leclerc made a prefect start to lead Bottas into Turn 1. Hamilton had to battle Norris to take third position. The fast-starting Räikkönen took fourth position ahead of Norris.

Vettel also made a good start to move to sixth position right behind Norris. By lap 4, Vettel overtook Norris for fifth position. Three laps later, Vettel was right behind the leaders as he easily passed Räikkönen for fourth position.

Behind him, Verstappen recovered from his bad start with feisty overtake moves. By lap 9, Verstappen was in fifth position behind Vettel.

Race leader Leclerc was steadily increasing his gap to Bottas and had built a lead of over three seconds by the end of lap 10. Vettel was over ten-seconds behind Hamilton and Verstappen was a further fifteen-seconds behind him.

Magnussen was the first driver to pit on lap 12 for the hard compound tyres and rejoined at the back of the grid. Among the frontrunners, Bottas was the first driver to pit on lap 22 for the hard compound tyres.

Ferrari pitted Vettel on the same lap to cover Bottas. A radio communication problem left the Ferrari crew unprepared for the pit stop that left Vettel stationary for over six seconds.

Bottas rejoined in fourth position, but Vettel rejoined in eighth position because of the botched pit stop. Leclerc pitted on the next lap and rejoined in third-place in front of Bottas.

Hamilton and Verstappen were released into the lead. Hamilton finally pitted on lap 30 after losing time in the previous laps due to front wing damage. The long pit stop resulted in Hamilton rejoining in fifth position behind Vettel.

Verstappen pitted on lap 32 and rejoined in fourth position behind Vettel. After the first round of pitstops the order was Leclerc, Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton.

Verstappen then set about catching Vettel and passed him on lap 50. Vettel pitted immediately after he was overtaken by Verstappen for a set of soft compound tyres. The German rejoined in fifth position eight seconds behind Hamilton and set about catching Hamilton

In quick time, Verstappen also overtook Bottas on lap 56 for second position. With 15 laps to go, Verstappen was on a charge just six seconds behind race leader Leclerc.

By lap 66, Verstappen was within DRS-range of Leclerc. The sea of orange-clad Dutch fans were on their feet cheering Verstappen on as Leclerc defended valiantly to keep the race lead.

On lap 69, after some exciting wheel to wheel racing, Verstappen took the race lead. Verstappen and Leclerc banged wheels and Leclerc was pushed off the track.

But it seemed a fair move and Verstappen was instructed by the Red Bull pitwall to put his head down and build a lead. Verstappen crossed the line over two seconds in front of Leclerc.

Vettel had overtaken Hamilton for fourth position with three laps to go. He set about catching Bottas and was within DRS-range in the final laps. Bottas just held on for the final podium position.

Vettel finished in fourth position after a fine recovery drive from ninth position. Hamilton had to be content with fifth position as his race was compromised by the long pit stop of over eleven seconds to change the damaged front wing.

Norris finished the “best of the rest” in sixth position ahead of Gasly.

Carlos Sainz who started in nineteenth position with a long first stint of 41 laps recovered to eighth position and completed a double-points finish for McLaren.

Räikkönen and Giovinazzi with ninth and tenth positions respectively for Alfa Romeo Racing completed the top 10 positions.

Finally the perfect win record of eight wins in eight races for Mercedes has ended. Verstappen’s win in the home Grand Prix of Red Bull Racing is the first win for engine manufacturer Honda since their return to Formula 1 in 2015.

The pass for the race win made by Verstappen on Leclerc is under investigation. The stewards decision will decide if Verstappen’s popular win stands or if Leclerc will inherit his first win of his Formula 1 career.

2019 Austrian Grand Prix Race Results:

133Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda711:22:01.82226
216Charles LeclercFerrari71+2.724s18
377Valtteri BottasMercedes71+18.960s15
45Sebastian VettelFerrari71+19.610s12
544Lewis HamiltonMercedes71+22.805s10
64Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault70+1 lap8
710Pierre GaslyRed Bull Racing Honda70+1 lap6
855Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault70+1 lap4
97Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari70+1 lap2
1099Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari70+1 lap1
1111Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes70+1 lap0
123Daniel RicciardoRenault70+1 lap0
1327Nico HulkenbergRenault70+1 lap0
1418Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes70+1 lap0
1523Alexander AlbonScuderia Toro Rosso Honda70+1 lap0
168Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari70+1 lap0
1726Daniil KvyatScuderia Toro Rosso Honda70+1 lap0
1863George RussellWilliams Mercedes69+2 laps0
1920Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari69+2 laps0
2088Robert KubicaWilliams Mercedes68+3 laps0
* Provisional results

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