Max Verstappen vs Charles Leclerc and the amazing Austrian GP
So just how did Verstappen make the impossible possible by going from seventh off the line to first at the finish? Sky F1's Karun Chandhok reviews the most remarkable victory of 2019 so far...
Last Updated: 02/07/19 8:58pm
What.A.Race! The Austrian Grand Prix was unquestionably the best of the season.
It had everything - drama, wheel-to-wheel action between the leaders, a popular winner, pitstop chaos and controversy! Through it all, Max Verstappen came out victorious for the second consecutive year at the Red Bull Ring and therefore gave Honda it's first victory in Formula 1 since 2006.
As we went through the weekend, it was becoming clear that we would not have a repeat of Paul Ricard where the Mercedes drivers just waltzed off into the distance. The Red Bull Ring has shorter corners where the Ferrari doesn't suffer as badly with an understeery balance like we saw them do in France.
Throw in some long straights and very high temperatures which forced Mercedes to open up their cooling vents more than they would like, and all of a sudden, the Ferraris were back in contention.
Charles Leclerc was in superb form all weekend and I think that even if Vettel didn't have a problem in Q3, he would have struggled to beat the Monegasque ace.
He drove well all through Saturday and his changed approach of not changing the car too much and instead just letting the track come to him throughout qualifying seems to be paying dividends.
Red Bull as usual didn't look like they were in contention for pole but Max's race pace was very strong on Friday.
The big talking point out of the race has got to be the move Max pulled on Charles to take the lead. To be honest, I was a bit surprised to see Charles leave the door that wide open because it just invited Max to have a lunge - and we all know that Max doesn't need a second invitation.
When Max was fully alongside him, Charles didn't really have a defence but this is where the difference lies today when compared to the days before tarmac run offs. Back when tracks had grass and gravel on the edge, Charles would have had no choice but to back out of the situation and slot in behind.
Here’s my view... Back in the day, the driver on the outside would have to back out and realise when he’s been beaten. Now, they can keep going, knowing that they can use the asphalt run off and then hope that the argument about “being squeezed off” wins in the stewards room.... pic.twitter.com/ScFqmn1idV— Karun Chandhok (@karunchandhok) June 30, 2019
Now, knowing that he had a 'get out of jail' option to go wide, he hung on around the outside a lot longer and eventually they made light contact.
I thought the stewards made the right call to let the result stand and effectively call it a racing incident. I stand by my view of what happened in Canada with Seb and Lewis because I think that if there is a 50-50 call to be made, you should give the benefit of the doubt to the sport and let the race continue. In this case, the stewards did so and that was a very popular decision with the paddock and the Dutch army of fans who were out in their droves.
How Verstappen hunted down Leclerc
Taking a step back from the incident, it's worth looking at how Max got to that position in the first place because on the opening lap, thanks to a terrible start with anti-stall, he was down in seventh! Max showed great pace to work his way through the traffic on the first stint and ended up behind Lewis, going long on the first set of tyres. His pace at that part of the race was critical because he was able to go 10 laps longer than Vettel with decent pace and therefore come out of the pits with a reasonable tyre delta.
Ferrari were pacing Leclerc - understandably - but it seemed like they were a bit too slow to react to the challenge from Verstappen. Bottas was in second and Vettel in third for that initial period after the stops and really at that point when Max came out on the hard tyre and started banging in the fast sectors, Ferrari should have given Leclerc the hurry up but they were nervous about hitting the cliff on the tyres.
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If Charles had picked up the pace seven or eight laps earlier, he would have probably have built up enough of a buffer not to be under pressure at the end. But it seemed like it was only after Max got passed Sebastian that they asked Charles to speed up and by that stage, Max on his fresher tyres was driving like a man possessed.
It was brilliant to watch - like Mansell and Piquet at Silverstone in 1987. The crowd all cheering on the hunter, the hunted with less grip looking in his mirrors at every opportunity, desperately trying to hang on. It was enthralling and the sense of anticipation around the Red Bull Ring went up with every sector of the lap.
I was very pleased for Max and Red Bull as they've had a tricky start to the season, but I was especially happy for Honda as their return to F1 since 2015 hasn't been the joyous ride that they were hoping for.
Honda still have work to do to catch Mercedes and Ferrari but today showed that when the powerhouses have a tough day, they're still close enough to pick up the odd victory.
McLaren continued to show that the resurgence is real with a strong weekend for Lando and Carlos, despite the Spaniard's penalty. In contrast, the Haas cars had an appalling Sunday with just no pace and plummeted down the order after Magnussen delivered one of the best qualifying laps of the season on Saturday.
On to Silverstone next and the hoopla of 'will it' or 'won't it' be the final British Grand Prix. Now that the cars are producing so much downforce and corners like Copse and Abbey are flat out, it's become more of a power circuit than it was pre-2017.
This could be helpful to Ferrari but only if they can get over the understeer issues that plagued them in Ricard through the longer corners. I still don't think that either Ferrari will beat Lewis to the title this season but if we could have a few more good races like Austria, I'll be happy with that!
After awesome Austria, F1 2019 heads to Silverstone for the big event of the motorsport summer. Sky Sports F1 will have extensive coverage of the July 11-14 event with eight live shows featuring our expert team of pundits and presenters. Find out more here to watch all the season live