F1: Charles Leclerc wins Austrian Grand Prix

SPIELBERG, Austria –

Charles Leclerc has continued to put on a brave face as success escaped him and tensions mounted at Ferrari in five F1 races without a place on the podium for the driver. After winning the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, Leclerc’s bright smile was back.

Leclerc faced a major challenge in the final laps when his throttle was not working properly, making it harder to control his speed into turns.

It was a different story with his Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr., whose hopes of a second-place finish in Austria came to an abrupt end when his engine blew up while he was in the middle of a race. catch Red Bull of Formula One world champion Max Verstappen. Sainz stepped outside as the flames licked his racing suit. Unharmed, he sat on the grass to reflect on his bad luck.

Sainz won last weekend at the British GP, where Leclerc dropped from first place to fourth. After missing out there, Leclerc returned to hold Verstappen in Austria 1.5 seconds to claim his third win of the season.

It was Leclerc’s first win since the Australian GP in April. After a second place at the United States GP in May, Leclerc’s five races included two DNFs, two fourths and a fifth.

Leclerc, who also won the Bahrain GP, ​​said: “I continue to be optimistic, but obviously tough races after tough races, it feels like everything is going against me.” “We finally had a breakthrough and are really happy to have won again.”

Leclerc says it’s “very stressful” as the throttle problem persists.

“I definitely need that win, the last five races have been extremely difficult,” said the Monaco driver. “It’s great that we finally have a normal race on my side.”

A relieved Leclerc sings along as the song hits the podium, then joins a Champagne spray fun with Verstappen. Leclerc also didn’t forget Ferrari’s race director Laurent Mekies, infuriating him.

The mutual respect between Verstappen and Leclerc – both 24 years old and once fierce competitors – is growing.

“You guys were too fast today,” Verstappen said in the post-race cooling room.

“Yes, we were quick,” Leclerc replied.

Leclerc advanced to second overall but was still 38 points behind Verstappen – 208 to 170 – while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez dropped to third. He retired in 26 of 71 laps after getting hit in the opening lap trying to overtake George Russell’s Mercedes.

Verstappen received a bonus point for the fastest lap with the eight he earned for winning Saturday’s sprint.

Lewis Hamilton finished third for Mercedes and earned a straight third on the podium. Russell was fined for the 5th time for the incident with Perez but placed in 4th. Even more impressive was that Mercedes had to repair both cars after a late crash during Friday’s sprint qualifiers.

“Those are great points,” Hamilton said. “Many thanks to the team for their hard work.”

After cutting off lap 58, Sainz’s car was on fire and began to slide backwards on the gravel as a sheriff lunged toward it with a fire extinguisher.

“I saw the car on fire and at the same time I was trying to apply the brakes,” Sainz said. “I called the police to put something in the tire to prevent the car from rolling down. At one point, the fire was so great that I had to get out.”

He thinks things can be done more quickly.

“That’s something we can look at,” Sainz said. “It’s not the easiest situation.”

The incident spawned a virtual safety car, prompting Leclerc and Verstappen to get new tires in case an actual safety car appeared.

Leclerc’s fifth career win is one of his greatest. This is also a very welcome thing after much confusion about the team’s decisions.

Leclerc was furious at the British GP when his team kept him on track instead of giving him new tires in a late safety car, leading to Sainz’s first win and discussion of the division in Ferrari.

This time Sainz was left with only a bitter taste.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” he repeated incredulously as his engine started.

Seconds later, he had more pressing problems as the flames rose.

Verstappen never really looked like his seventh win of the season and his fifth final at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, where throngs of orange-clad fans cheered him on. in his team’s home race.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to give them the win today,” he said. “We had to suffer with the tyres. However, second place is a good result.”

Esteban Ocon overcame his 100th F1 lap with a fifth for Alpine ahead of Mick Schumacher, who is up against Haas after claiming his first career point with an eighth place finish at Silverstone.

Lando Norris (McLaren), Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Daniel Ricciardo (Mclaren) and Fernando Alonso (Alpine) complete the top 10.

Leclerc twice overcame Verstappen with clean passes to control the race. But with about 20 laps, Verstappen took the lead again after Ferrari pitted briefly against Leclerc and Sainz.

But with only a small lead Verstappen could not hold for long and Leclerc passed smoothly.

Verstappen started from the pole ahead of Leclerc and Sainz. They nearly collided while chasing each other during Saturday’s sprint. By Sunday afternoon, Sainz was comforted in the team garage.

Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri collided with Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin and was awarded a five-second penalty. After emerging unscathed after a horrific crash at the British GP, Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu placed 14th for Alfa Romeo.

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