They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. We had to wait an extra week for the Darwin Triple Crown, and the first race of the weekend was certainly one to be fond of.
It was even warmer in Spielberg today with Pete Bonnington, Lewis Hamilton’s race engineer, reporting track temperatures of close to 59°C.
— Ian Fergusson (@fergieweather) June 30, 2019
The on-track action was just as heated with Max Verstappen taking the chequered flag after one of the greatest drives the sport has ever seen.
It didn’t start well for our race victor though, as Verstappen bogged down off the start when the anti-stall kicked in, dropping down to the seventh position. The other surprise of the start was Lando Norris initially getting ahead of Lewis Hamilton into Turn 1. This was not to last for long though as Hamilton got past on the back straight.
Kevin Magnussen was a naughty boy before the race even got going as he was out of position in his grid box, edging slightly forward.
Magnussen was given a drive-through penalty for this and was left running at the back of the pack for the majority of the race.
Pierre Gasly was struggling in his Red Bull today, following Kimi Raikkonen for several laps. Gasly’s teammate, Verstappen, got past Raikkonen with relative ease so why couldn’t Pierre? The Frenchman is certainly going to be put under a lot of scrutiny by Red Bull over the next few weeks as he may be in danger of losing his race seat, especially as he was lapped by Verstappen.
Valtteri Bottas was the first of the front runners to pit, closely followed by Sebastian Vettel. However, Ferrari missed a great opportunity as they did not have the tyres ready for Vettel and lost about three seconds in the pit stop. While Bottas was out in front of traffic, Vettel had to pass the traffic to get back on Bottas’ tail.
Lewis Hamilton looked uncomfortable out front as he consistently ran over the massive yellow sausage kerb on the outside of Turn 1. This forced his front wing to be replaced at his pit stop which was about eight seconds longer than it perhaps needed to be. By the time Hamilton exited the pit lane, Vettel was a long way up the hill to Turn 3.
After making his pit stop, Verstappen was making his way back up the field. First on his list was Sebastian Vettel who had Verstappen covered into Turn 4, forcing the Dutchman to go to the outside where he couldn’t get past. However, there was nothing to stop Verstappen overtaking Vettel on the back straight which he did after getting a great exit out of Turn 3, sending the Verstappen stand wild.
Now that Verstappen had secured a podium position, he was chasing the second-placed Bottas.
His chase was not straight-forward though as he reported on the radio that he was losing power. This problem was short-lived, however, as a short while later, he lunged up the inside of Bottas at Turn 3 to take second position. He was now just five seconds behind Leclerc with fifteen laps to go.
Verstappen was then given the highest engine mode to give him more performance for the rest of the race in his pursuit of the leader, Charles Leclerc. After reeling him in over the course of ten laps or so, Verstappen seized the opportunity and charged up the inside of Leclerc into Turn 3, making slight contact with Leclerc along the way, which forced the Ferrari driver wide over the sausage kerb on the outside of the corner. The stewards decided to investigate the incident.
Max Verstappen’s win brought Red Bull their second consecutive win here at the Red Bull Ring and brought Honda their first win since Jenson Button won the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
“After that start, I thought the race was over but we kept pushing hard,” Verstappen told Martin Brundle after the race. When asked about the incident with Leclerc, Verstappen said, “If those things aren’t allowed in F1, then what’s the point in racing?”
His team principal, Christian Horner, shared the same sentiment when interviewed by Sky Sports, saying, “These are two guys of the future and if they take this victory away from Max that’s stealing from Formula One – we need drivers going wheel-to-wheel and fighting with each other.”
It wasn’t until three hours after the race that the result of the grand prix was confirmed as the stewards eventually decided that no penalty was to be awarded. The stewards ‘did not consider that either driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the incident. We consider that this is a racing incident.’
Lewis Hamilton now leads the championship by 31 points heading into his home grand prix at Silverstone in a fortnight’s time while his team, Mercedes, lead the constructors’ championship by 135 points. Verstappen is now third in the drivers’ championship after his excellent victory.
???? CLASSIFICATION – AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX ????
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 30, 2019