Max Verstappen keeps Austrian GP win after Charles Leclerc clash
Stewards clear Verstappen of wrongdoing and declare late pass on Leclerc's Ferrari a 'racing incident'; Red Bull become first non-Mercedes 2019 race winners after Verstappen stages epic fightback
By James Galloway and Matt Morlidge in Spielberg
Last Updated: 01/07/19 6:17am
Max Verstappen has kept his Austrian GP victory after stewards decided to take no action against his race-winning overtake on Charles Leclerc.
More than three hours after the conclusion of the dramatic race, stewards ruled that their wheel-banging moment had been a 'racing incident' and no punishment was required.
It means Verstappen's first win of the season - and sixth of his F1 career - is confirmed, while Ferrari's wait for a first 2019 success continues. Honda, Red Bull's engine suppliers, have achieved their first win since 2006.
"The last few hours have been really stressful but I think they made the right decision," Verstappen told Sky Sports F1's Paul Di Resta. "Also for the sport. I'm very happy about it, of course."
Red Bull boss Christian Horner described it as "the right thing for F1".
Meanwhile, after his second place was officially confirmed, Leclerc expressed his disappointment with the verdict, but congratulated Verstappen on his win.
What happened in Verstappen vs Leclerc?
The two 21-year-olds had started alongside each other on the front row, but thanks to a poor start from Verstappen, it wasn't until the closing laps that they went wheel-to-wheel as the Red Bull sensationally charged back into contention.
With two laps to go, Verstappen surged down the inside of the Ferrari into Turn Three but the two cars touched wheels on the exit of the corner, with Leclerc running wide.
"What the hell was that?" Leclerc, who was looking for his first F1 win, immediately said on team radio, before adding to Sky F1: "I'm angry. Obviously, feeling it from the inside, I didn't feel like it was a fair move."
But Verstappen was adamant that he was innocent.
"It's hard racing, otherwise we have to stay at home," Verstappen insisted. "If those things are not allowed in racing, then what's the point of being in Formula 1?"
Speaking before the penalty was applied, Sky F1's pundits were largely in agreemenent with the race victor.
"What a drive," said 1996 world champion Damon Hill. "And in my opinion, Verstappen was well down the inside of Charles at Turn Three, he's way in front and he's got the line.
"I think Leclerc had to concede the position, whatever happened. He tried to defend it from the outside and you can't do that."
What did the stewards say?
Just two races after huge controversy in Canada, when an in-race time penalty for Sebastian Vettel handed the race win to Lewis Hamilton, stewards in Austria were faced with another controversial incident to call at the front of the field.
Having taken to the podium in first and second positions respectively, Verstappen and Leclerc were summoned to the stewards' office after the race and spent around 30 minutes with them explaining their respective sides of the story.
It was just over another hour before the stewards released their verdict and explanation as to why they were taking no action.
"Car 33 [Verstappen] sought to overtake car 16 [Leclerc] at Turn 3 on lap 69 by out-braking car 16," read a statement. "When doing so, car 33 was alongside car 16 on the entry of the corner and was in full control of the car while attempting the overtaking move on the inside of car 16.
"However, both car 33 and car 16 proceeded to negotiate the corner alongside each other but there was clearly insufficient space for both cars to do so. Shortly after the late apex, while exiting the corner, there was contact between the two cars.
"In the totality of the circumstances, we did not consider that either driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the incident. We consider that this is a racing incident."
'Not the way you overtake'
The pair also had a battle on the previous lap at Turn Three, but on that occasion, Leclerc somehow managed to stay ahead.
"I think the second one I broke a bit deeper into the corner," said Verstappen.
Leclerc meanwhile explained that he "did the same thing on both laps".
"The only thing that changed on the second lap was there was contact," he stated. "And then I had to go wide and I lost quite a bit of time there.
"I did not expect any contact on the second lap. As Max said, I think he broke a little bit deeper, I don't know if he lost or not, but then there was the contact.
"I felt I was quite strong in traction and the first time I managed to have better traction and hold my position, on the second one I couldn't do that because I was off-track."
Leclerc also said that he felt Red Bull were the deserved winners of the race - but wasn't happy with the way Verstappen achieved it.
"I think overall Red Bull was very quick today and very good at keeping the tyres better than us," he said. "If I feel the first overtake was done rightly, I don't think the second one was.
"But I believe that anyway, the end would have probably been the same. But it's just not the way you overtake I think."
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