Max Verstappen won the sixth race of his career on Sunday at the Austrian Grand Prix. He overcame a poor start that had dropped him to ninth at one point, and forced his way through the field, making the pass for first with but a few laps remaining to take the win.
Charles Leclerc took the second step on the podium after looking like he was sure to win the first race of his career. Instead, he earned his fourth podium of the season. The final step on the podium belonged to Valtteri Bottas who piloted his compromised Mercedes across the finish line just ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton, who had a qualifying time that should have slotted him in second but found himself penalized into fourth, faced similar difficulties with his Mercedes as they both suffered from overheating and he could do no better than fifth.
In what seems to be a common occurrence at this point, a McLaren earned sixth with their prodigy Lando Norris behind the wheel. Norris continues to show that he is more than capable of driving on this stage, at age 19, and that his future is bright as long as McLaren keep developing.
In many ways, the youth of the sport was on display in Austria. With Verstappen, Leclerc and Norris, we get a glimpse of the next generation of drivers set to take over, even if it is silly to frame Hamilton at 34 or Vettel at 31 as the old guard of the sport. That does not mean, however, that there is not a surge of young drivers making their way to the front.
Taking the seventh spot was another relative youngster, Pierre Gasly, who at 23, is still finding his way. At one point rumored to be on his way out at Red Bull, he continues to hold on and shows signs of improving, though his teammate Verstappen makes every achievement look small.
Carlos Sainz gave McLaren another race where both cars finished in the points with his eighth. Rounding out the top ten was Alfa Romeo whose drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi earned ninth and tenth respectively.
For everyone who found last week’s French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard to be the epitome of dull, an exercise intolerable boredom, then one has found the opposite in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix. The race, one with no DNFs, could be described as clean but more aptly and importantly, calling it exciting is what matters.
The Red Bull Ring, the shortest track on the schedule, provided the theater for everything a fan could want. Charles Leclerc started on pole, his second of the season, and drove away clean. For what seemed like ninety-five percent of the race, Leclerc had the measure of the field, facing little challenge and basically managing the race.
Max Verstappen, who fell to ninth after the anti-stall on his Red Bull kicked in at the start, fell behind by 14 seconds at one point. It looked like Leclerc would cruise to his first win as the trailing competitor, Bottas, could make no charge on him.
But Verstappen methodically rose through the order and passed other cars with what looked like relative ease, scooting by both Vettel and Hamilton almost as if they were backmarkers. While it often gets more difficult to make passes as a driver nears the front, he did not face such an issue and made his way by Bottas with little fanfare.
From there, Verstappen nipped away at a four-second deficit and caught Leclerc with a handful of laps remaining. On lap 68 (of 71) Verstappen made his way to the inside of the uphill climb and pushed Leclerc off the racing line, and the track, the continued on to victory. The win was Verstappen’s second straight at the Red Bull Ring and more vital is that is was Honda’s first win since they rejoined the sport four years ago.
The move brought the scrutiny of the stewards who spoke with the two drivers afterward. The question that Verstappen’s move brings up is just how to address these things going forward. Many would argue that the matter was nothing more than hard driving while others may see it as dirty.
But as we have seen in the past weeks, these matters become ones that receive extra special examination. The Vettel – Hamilton matter in Canada, and Daniel Ricciardo’s moves at the French GP arise as perfect examples of the matter. This area is one the sport will have to analyze and determine just what exactly warrants a penalty.
For now, Verstappen takes the spoils and leads the charge.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 30, 2019
|8||C. Sainz Jr.|