Charles Leclerc proved he is up for the fight, Carlos Sainz is dealt a cruel blow and Lewis Hamilton’s resurgence continues… SIX THINGS we learned from the Austrian Grand Prix
- REPORT: Charles Leclerc held off Max Verstappen to win the Austrian Grand Prix
- Leclerc produced a gritty display to close the gap to Verstappen in the standings
- Carlos Sainz looked set to finish second, only to suffer an engine failure late on
- This allowed Lewis Hamilton to continue his good form as he finished third
- Sportsmail looks at six things we learned from the race weekend in Spielberg
Charles Leclerc got back on the top step of the podium for the first time since April as he won the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Having won two of the first three races of the season, the Ferrari driver has struggled for consistency since then, but he produced a textbook drive to see off Max Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring.
Verstappen had to settle for second, and remains top of the championship, while there was late heartbreak for Carlos Sainz as his engine exploded when he looked set for a podium finish.
Charles Leclerc produced a determined drive to beat Max Verstappen at the Austrian GP
Carlos Sainz was denied a podium finish when his engine exploded as his car caught fire
Lewis Hamilton ended up on the podium for the third straight race and looked very pleased
Instead, Lewis Hamilton came through to finish third, with team-mate George Russell just behind him in fourth.
There is plenty to pick apart from the weekend’s racing, and Sportsmail looks at six things we learned from the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg…
LECLERC IS UP FOR THE FIGHT
After finishing second in the sprint race on Saturday, Leclerc’s message was clear on the team radio: ‘We are quick. We can get them tomorrow.’
He was true to his word.
From the outset of Sunday’s race it seemed that Ferrari had a slight pace advantage over Red Bull, but Leclerc still had to make the most of this, and he did.
He had to overtake Verstappen three times due to Ferrari’s pit-stop strategy, but he executed each move perfectly to move into the lead.
Leclerc overtook Verstappen three times as he refused to be denied victory in Spielberg
Verstappen now knows that the title race is far from over following Leclerc’s impressive display
He was concerned in the final laps of the race after complaining about issues with his throttle pedal, and that is no surprise given that he has already had two DNFs this season.
Yet he held on and managed to maintain the gap between himself and Verstappen to claim an important win.
Leclerc is now 38 points behind Verstappen in the standings, which is still a significant gap, but there was a steeliness to his performance on Sunday that suggests he is willing to take the fight to the Dutchman, and he has no intention of rolling over in this year’s title race.
SAINZ WAS INCREDIBLY UNLUCKY
Sainz could not have done a lot more in Sunday’s race.
Having started third on the grid, he just about held off Russell on the opening lap, and then set about chasing down Leclerc and Verstappen.
After watching Leclerc breeze past Verstappen, Sainz looked set to do exactly the same heading into the final 15 laps. A Ferrari one-two was on the cards. The perfect day for the team. Or perhaps not.
Sainz had to jump out his car quickly and he was devastated to miss out on the podium
With Verstappen in his sights, disaster struck for Sainz as his engine suddenly failed him, instantly ending his race.
Cracks appeared in his car, and it was soon up in flames. Luckily, he managed to get out of the vehicle quickly and was unharmed.
In the moments afterwards, Sainz sat on the grass by the side of the track looking utterly dejected. A certain podium position had been taken away from him. It was hard not to feel sympathy for the Spaniard after such a cruel blow.
HAMILTON IS STARTING TO DELIVER CONSISTENTLY
The first two days of the Grand Prix weekend did not go to plan for Hamilton at all.
On Friday, he spun out in Q3 after some promising signs in Q1 and Q2, meaning that he started the sprint race down in ninth place.
He then spent most of the sprint stuck behind Mick Schumacher, and he finished in a disappointing eighth spot.
He needed to put in a big performance on Sunday to salvage his weekend, and he pulled through at the vital moment.
Hamilton has really stepped up in recent races, and is now consistently making the podium
Admittedly, he was helped by Sergio Perez and Russell’s collision on the first lap, plus Sainz’s engine failure, but to move from eighth to third is no mean feat.
He has now finished third in his last three races, and having watched his team-mate consistently beat him early on in the season, Hamilton now seems to have the upper hand over Russell.
Mercedes currently have the third fastest car, and they are relying on mistakes from Red Bull and Ferrari to get themselves onto the podium.
However, Hamilton is now putting himself in position to capitalise on any opportunity that comes his way, and after the major problems that he had in the opening weeks of the season, he is starting to get the best out of his car.
A WEEKEND TO FORGET FOR PEREZ
Perez looked to have put in a solid qualifying performance on Friday, taking P4 for the sprint race.
However, he was then hit with a nine-place grid penalty for exceeding track limits during Q2, leaving him down in 13th place on the grid on Saturday.
It seemed a harsh punishment, particularly given how many drivers then went on to exceed track limits in Sunday’s race.
Still, he put that behind him and flew through the field in the sprint race, finishing fifth to earn himself four championship points. It looked like a podium finish on Sunday was a realistic target.
At least, that was the case until halfway through the opening lap.
Sergio Perez spun off on the first lap after clashing with George Russell
His car had to be retired on a frustrating afternoon for the Red Bull driver in Austria
After Russell failed to move ahead of Sainz early on, Perez spotted an opportunity to squeeze past the Brit.
He decided to take the outside route and had just edged ahead of Russell, but was not left enough space and was clipped by the Mercedes.
Russell was found to be at fault for the crash, and was later handed a five-second penalty, but this was little consolation to Perez, whose race day was ruined.
He was never able to recover, and Red Bull made the smart decision to retire the car. Perez has now not finished two of his last three races, and must be cursing his luck after a weekend where everything appeared to go against him.
SCHUMACHER IS ON A ROLL
Mick Schumacher picked up his first points in Formula 1 at the British Grand Prix, but some may have wondered whether he was a little lucky that things fell into place for him at Silverstone.
Six cars failed to finish in one of the more chaotic F1 races in recent history, opening the door for Schumacher to get into the top 10. Could he back that performance up in Austria.
Indeed he could.
Mick Schumacher had an intriguing battle with Hamilton in Saturday’s sprint race
He then backed that up by finishing sixth on Sunday and winning Driver of the Day
The German driver was involved in a fascinating battle with Hamilton in the sprint race, holding off the Brit for several laps before eventually being overtaken late on.
This indicated that his Haas had good pace, and Schumacher made the most of that on Sunday, as he finished ahead of both McLarens and his team-mate Kevin Magnussen to take sixth place.
It was a brilliant result for Schumacher, who went on to win the Driver of the Day award, as voted by the fans. He is growing in confidence and getting better and better.
FAN BEHAVIOUR IS A MAJOR CONCERN
Lando Norris and Russell have raised concerns about fan abuse of drivers in recent weeks, and this weekend highlighted how F1 has a major issues on its hands.
There were loud cheers from the grandstands when Hamilton crashed out of qualifying on Friday, with Verstappen’s loyal Orange Army clearly revelling in the Brit’s misfortune.
We have witnessed similar scenes before, but should supporters really be celebrating before it is clear whether a driver is safe or not?
Fans cheered when Hamilton crashed his Mercedes in Friday’s qualifying session
There were also reports of fans being abusive in the stands over the course of the weekend
Much worse was to come, though.
A number of allegations of racist, homophobic and misogynistic abuse by supporters towards fellow fans were reported on social media over the weekend, with F1 releasing a statement confirming they are looking into the matter.
If these allegations are proven, F1 must come down hard to stamp out such abuse.
Formula 1 is a sport full of drama and entertainment, and it is always positive to see the stands full of passionate fans, but it seems that a number of supporters overstepped the mark in Austria, and the FIA need to get a handle on this situation as quickly as possible.
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