Charles Leclerc outduels Max Verstappen to win Austrian Grand Prix, thrusts himself back into championship race
It wasn’t easy for the Ferrari driver as he had to overtake Red Bull’s Verstappen three times to claim his first spot atop the podium since the Australian GP in April.
Despite issues with his throttle near the end of the race, Leclerc was able to hold on, finishing 1.532 seconds ahead of second place.
The victory ends a rotten run of form for the 24-year-old — having missed out on the podium in the previous five races.
It also cuts Verstappen’s lead at the top of the driver’s championship standings to 38 points as the Ferrari driver moves into second place ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
After the race, Leclerc stressed how important the victory was for him.
“It was a really good race,” a relieved Leclerc said. “The pace was there, at the beginning, we had some good fights with Max and the end was incredibly difficult. I had this problem with the throttle and it would get stuck at 20 or 30% throttle in the low speed, so it was very tricky but we managed to make it stick until the end and I’m so, so happy.
“I definitely needed that one. I mean, the last five races have been incredibly difficult for myself but also for the team obviously, and to finally show that we’ve got the pace in the car and that we can do it is incredible, so we need to push until the end.”
It could very well have been a Ferrari one-two but, as the end of the race approached, with 14-laps to go, a fire broke out in Carlos Sainz’s car as a result of an engine failure, ending his race prematurely.
Despite being back by thousands of Dutch fans, Verstappen was unable to claim what would have been a third-straight victory at the Red Bull Ring, Leclerc’s speed just too much for him to handle.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was the beneficiary of Sainz’s retirement, as he moved from fourth to third.
Despite a torrid start to the season, it’s the 37-year-old’s third podium finish in a row, as he improved from his eighth position starting spot.