Leclerc defeats Verstappen, a Ferrari bursts into flames
After five races without a win, Charles Leclerc can celebrate another triumph in Spielberg. He left Red Bull driver Max Verstappen behind. But Leclerc had to live through anxious moments for many laps. The Ferrari only worked poorly.
CHarles Lerclerc got on his Ferrari, showed his fist and ran into the arms of his Ferrari crew, Mick Schumacher uttered a loud “Yeah” while still in his car and laughed liberated. As the winner of Leclerc’s third win of the season in Spielberg, the 23-year-old German could undoubtedly feel at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday. “Fantastic race, I’m happy for you and the team,” team boss Günther Steiner radioed to the sixth-placed driver.
A week ago, Mick Schumacher scored something countable in Formula 1 for the first time in eighth place at Silverstone. Eight more points were added to the four points. “We’re on the right track,” emphasized Schumacher: “We’re completely satisfied with today.” However, he would still prefer to fight at the front. “But we’ll have to wait a little longer for that,” he said.
Leclerc proved unbeatable to the chagrin of tens of thousands of Dutchmen who had traveled there, despite the jammed accelerator pedal in the final phase. The overjoyed World Cup challenger blew up the Oranje party of Max Verstappen’s fans on the Red Bull Ring. The Dutchman finished second. “I definitely needed that,” said Leclerc.
His Scuderia team-mate Carlos Sainz, triumphant winner of Great Britain seven days earlier, retired on course for the podium. It was only with difficulty that he was able to save himself from the backwards rolling and burning Ferrari. In addition to Mick Schumacher, record world champion Lewis Hamilton, who surprisingly made it onto the podium in his Mercedes as third, benefited from this.
Verstappen lost only six points in the classification. “We had problems with the tires, second place is a good result on such a difficult day,” said Verstappen. His advantage over the new second-placed Leclerc is 38 points. Third is Sergio Perez, who retired in the second Red Bull at the home Grand Prix of billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz’s racing team.
Verstappen had problems right after the start
Already on the formation lap, orange-colored smoke was blowing along the only 4.318 kilometers long track. The mood makers from the Netherlands have been transforming the Grand Prix weekend in Styria into a non-stop party since Thursday – albeit with extremely unpleasant background noise. According to reports, especially from female fans, there were racist, homophobic and sexist insults, Formula 1 wrote of “completely unacceptable comments”.
In the race, the Verstappen fans in their orange T-shirts had to tremble quickly. The world champion and championship leader took pole position on Friday and won the sprint race on Saturday. “I can’t hold him for long,” he quickly radioed to the pits after the start. Leclerc put a lot of pressure behind him.
Schumacher benefited from penalty against Mercedes
In the twelfth lap, Monegasse squeezed past the inside. Two laps later, Verstappen had the hard tires put on and initially fell back a bit. Leclerc and Sainz set the pace in front. The second Red Bull with Perez initially languished at the end of the field after colliding with George Russell at the beginning. The Mercedes driver also received a five-second penalty for this, from which Mick Schumacher also benefited.
After scoring in the points for the first time last Sunday, the son of record world champion Michael Schumacher confirmed his very good form in Austria and fought another duel with Hamilton, just like in the sprint race. “Their speed on the straight is amazing,” commented the 37-year-old Briton.
It quickly became a bit confusing on the short distance after some of the field had new tires fitted, others not. Because the pilots only need a good minute for the lap, smaller groups kept gathering. And Schumacher did a great job there too, passing two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in the Alpine, then his teammate Kevin Magnussen, who hadn’t really helped him the day before – to the great frustration of the German, whose buddy Vettel also remembered his depressing days in Austria Couldn’t save the race, collided with Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri in the meantime and only drove behind as 17th.
Quite different Leclerc, once his team partner at Ferrari times. The Monegasque ended his weeks of frustration with bankruptcies, bad luck and controversial decisions by the team management. In 2019 Leclerc won two races, in 2020 none at all, this year the opener in Bahrain and on April 10 in Melbourne. Within a few laps after his tire change, he caught up with Verstappen and effortlessly overtook him.
However, the race did not become clearer. Some drivers received warnings and time penalties for leaving the track. After 48 laps, even Mick Schumacher, who was eighth, had already been lapped. When the Ferrari also caught fire, the virtual safety car phase occurred in an eventful and entertaining race. Leclerc now complained of problems with the accelerator pedal, but brought his Ferrari to the finish line first.