Ferrari's Charles Leclerc produced a measured performance at the Austrian Grand Prix to secure his third win of the 2022 Formula One season despite some late throttle issues, as he took the chequered flag at the Red Bull Ring 1.5 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen in second, with Lewis Hamilton rounding off the podium positions.
Red Bull’s Verstappen started the race on pole position after taking victory ahead of Leclerc in Saturday’s sprint race. Last weekend’s race winner Carlos Sainz started in third.
Once again on the first lap of a race this season, there was a significant accident, as Sergio Perez and George Russell came together into Turn 4. Russell, who had the inside line, forced Perez around the outside of the corner, but the lack of room for the Mexican meant that the drivers made contact, resulting in the Red Bull spinning out into the gravel. By the end of the lap, Perez was forced to pit and emerged at the back of the grid. He later retired from the race due to the damage.
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Despite leading the Grand Prix for the first 12 laps, Verstappen was struggling with the degradation on his medium tyres, and Leclerc got past him up the inside of Turn 4 to take the lead of the race. The Red Bull driver came in for a fresh set of harder tyres a lap later as a result, and emerged back out in P8.
Leclerc eventually came in for fresh hard tyres himself on Lap 26, with Ferrari aiming to complete a one-stop strategy until the end of the race. Sainz, who briefly took the lead following Leclerc's stop, pitted a lap later. The Monegasque driver dropped back behind Verstappen as a result, but had tyres that were 12 laps fresher than his championship rival. Verstappen's advantage did not last long, though, as on Lap 33, Leclerc made up the six second gap to the Red Bull to ease past down into Turn 3.
Verstappen continued to struggle with his latest set of harder tyres, and came in for his second stop on Lap 37. He emerged back out in P3 behind both Ferraris.
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Although the initial strategy call on the Ferrari pit wall was to stay out until the end of the race, the team made a gamble on Lap 49 to call Leclerc into the pits again for another set of hard tyres to ensure the car got to the finish. Sainz once again came in a lap later, putting Verstappen back out in front.
However, two laps later on Lap 53, it was a sense of deja vu for the Red Bull driver, as Leclerc eased past once again into Turn 4 on his fresher tyres to retake the lead, in what proved to be the race-winning overtake.
Then, disaster struck Ferrari on Lap 57, as Sainz, who was on track to get past Verstappen to secure a Ferrari one-two finish, pulled off the track down the back straight with an engine failure. It saw his car get engulfed in flames, but luckily the Spaniard was unharmed. The incident resulted in a Virtual Safety Car, which both Leclerc and Verstappen took advantage of to change to the faster medium compound tyres, without losing track position. Sainz's retirement also meant Hamilton, who started in 8th, moved into the final podium place.
With ten laps to go, there was concern on the Ferrari pit wall as Leclerc had to manage an issue with the throttle, which saw Verstappen drop the gap behind down to two seconds. Despite the problems, Leclerc dealt with them to cross the line to take his fourth Formula 1 victory. Verstappen and Hamilton completed the podium.
Leclerc, whose victory is his first in Formula 1 having not started on pole position, has now closed the gap to Verstappen in the drivers' championship standings to 38 points.
Drivers' reactions as Leclerc wins ahead of Verstappen in Austria
DRIVER OF THE DAY - LEWIS HAMILTON
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - GP of Austria 2022
Image credit: Getty Images
It was a stunning drive by the seven-time world champion this afternoon, as he made up five places to secure an unlikely podium finish despite all of the problems faced by the team over the weekend. Hamilton may count himself lucky that he was able to capitalise on some misfortune elsewhere on the grid. With Russell once again finishing in a respectable 4th place, Mercedes will be happy to have secured a solid points haul in the constructors' championship.
WHERE THE RACE WAS WON AND LOST
LAP 5/71 - We have heard the team radio from both drivers involved in that first lap incident. The replays show that Russell had the inside line, but Perez was the car in front, despite being forced to the outside. It looks like Perez left Russell enough room, and the Mercedes hit the Red Bull mid-corner in Turn 4, causing the Red Bull to spin into the gravel. The stewards have noted the incident. Russell says over team radio that he left enough room, and that Perez turned into him.
LAP 12/71 - LECLERC TAKES THE LEAD! - What a brilliant overtake to silence the 60,000 Dutch fans! Leclerc takes Verstappen up the inside of turn 4! A brilliant move to take the lead! Meanwhile, Russell comes into the pits to serve his five second stop/go penalty and also get a front wing change. He is now 19th.
LAP 26/71 - LECLERC PITS! - Leclerc looks like he is going for a one-stop race! He comes in for the harder compound, but he emerges behind Verstappen. The gap now stands at six seconds. Sainz takes the race lead. Meanwhile, Perez has retired from the race
LAP 33/71 - LECLERC GETS PAST VERSTAPPEN AGAIN FOR THE LEAD! Leclerc has made up the six second gap to Verstappen and gets past the Red Bull into turn 3! His fresher tyres,which are 12 laps better off than Verstappen’s, do the trick, and the Ferrari eases past and goes back into the lead.
LAP 49/71 - LECLERC PITS AGAIN! - The one-stop strategy has not worked for Ferrari as Leclerc pits from the lead! The team have fitted him with another set of hard tyres to go until the end of the race. Leclerc slots back into P3, around 3.4 seconds behind Verstappen. With those fresher tyres, the Ferrari should be a lot quicker than the Red Bull.
LAP 51/71 - SAINZ ALSO PITS - Sainz has also come in for hards, and drops back into P3. Verstappen leads, but Leclerc has now closed the gap to under a second! Meanwhile, Hamilton also pits, but he has put on the mediums! Interesting call there by Mercedes. He is looking to push until the end.
LAP 53/71 - LECLERC RETAKES THE LEAD! - Leclerc gets past Verstappen down the back straight into Turn 4! He initially went for the move into the Turn 3 hairpin at the top of the hill, but Verstappen covered the inside. However, the Red Bull is a sitting duck down the straight and Leclerc makes a simple pass. That could seal the race win for the Ferrari driver.
LAP 57/71 - SAINZ HAS AN ENGINE FAILURE! Sainz has smoke coming out of his car! He looked nailed on for a second place finish but he has to pull it out to the side of the track! This may mean Hamilton has a chance of a podium! Sainz manages to get out of the car before it is engulfed in flames. A Virtual Safety Car has been deployed.
OVERTAKE OF THE DAY
LAP 48/71 - STROLL DONE BY BOTH HAAS CARS INTO TURN 3! - Lance Stroll has lost his 8th place! Mick Schumacher initially gets past the Aston Martin into Turn 3, but Kevin Magnussen also gets past into the same corner! It looked like Stroll was harvesting some energy as he was really slow there. The Canadian has dropped back down into P10.
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