By Robert Haile
A late race scare for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc almost gave Red Bull’s Max Verstappen victory in the Austrian Grand Prix after Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari bust into flames.
Coming from second place, passing Verstappen three times, Leclerc was back on the top step for the first time since Melbourne, Australia on April 10.
Leclerc said: “Every win is special, but this one feels just amazing. The last 15 laps were on the limit with the issue we had, but we brought it home.
“Today, we had a really strong pace and some great battles. I worked hard last night to find where I could still improve and it made the difference today. I’m very happy.
As the nineteen cars lined up with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in the pit lane they all got away cleanly with Verstappen keeping both Ferraris at bay.
Attempting a pass on Mercedes’ George Russell on the first lap Perez ran out of room and was tapped into the gravel by Russell, he’d get a five second penalty for that, as the Mexican dropped to last and an early pit stop.
Continuing their battle from the sprint race Mercedes Lewis Hamilton locked up on the fourth lap and Haas’ Mick Schumacher passed him for seventh.
Having followed Verstappen closely Leclerc got the pass done coming out of the third and fourth corners on lap twelve.
Verstappen pitted on lap thirteen and came out in eighth behind Hamilton who held him up until he passed for third.
Perez retired on lap twenty six as Leclerc pitted with Sainz coming in a lap later.
With Verstappen clear the Ferraris set off to catch him and did so on lap 33 to pass him for the lead.
The Red Bull pitted four laps later coming out behind the Ferrari drivers.
This was how it stayed until Leclerc pitted on fifty laps with Sainz coming in a lap later releasing Verstappen to the front but not for long.
Leclerc only took two laps to close in and pass the world champion for the lead with Sainz closing in.
Then disaster for Ferrari as the British Grand Prix winner closed in on lap fifty seven pulling over with smoke and flames bringing out a virtual safety car.
At the green flag restart Leclerc kept the lead but had a throttle issue that made it difficult in the slower sections but he held on to win with Verstappen second.
Back to back podiums for Hamilton in third with Russell taking fourth ahead of Esteban Ocon for Alpine.
McLaren’s Lando Norris split the Haas’ drivers with Schumacher in sixth with Kevin Magnussen in eighth.
Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso made it double points finishes as McLaren beat Alpine for ninth and tenth.
Finishing just outside the points was Alfa Romeo’s Bottas with Williams’ Alex Albon, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu behind him.
The AlphaTauri’s drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda finished ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel in last with Williams’ Nicholas Latifi retiring along with Sainz and Perez.
Formula One’s stay in Europe continues as they head to the Circuit Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix on July 22-24.
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 208
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 170
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 151
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 133
- George Russell (Mercedes) – 128
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 109
- Lando Norris (McLaren) – 64
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – 52
- Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) – 46
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine) – 29
- Kevin Magnussen (Haas) – 22
- Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) – 17
- Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) – 16
- Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) – 15
- Mick Schumacher (Haas) – 12
- Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) – 11
- Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) – 5
- Alex Albon (Williams) – 3
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – 3
- Nicholas Latifi (Williams) – 0
- Nico Hulkenberg (Aston Martin) – 0
- Red Bull – 359
- Ferrari – 303
- Mercedes – 237
- McLaren – 81
- Alpine – 81
- Alfa Romeo – 51
- Haas – 34
- AlphaTauri – 27
- Aston Martin – 18
- Williams – 3