Our F1 Review Austria 2019 is written by resident F1 writer, Nick van der Meulen.
The Mercedes monopoly on race victories in F1 2019 is finally broken, as they uncharacteristically played a silent supporting role in the Austrian Grand Prix. The race was dominated by Charles Leclerc, leading from pole position and leading the race until Lap 69 of 71, when he and Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing Honda) had a slight skirmish out on track for the lead.
The Monegasque left the smallest of gaps for the Dutchman to take advantage of and Verstappen ran Leclerc to the edge of the circuit. He accelerated away in the lead and romped to victory to the roar of appreciation by the partisan Dutch (and Red Bull) crowd. A fairytale was spun in Austria: a Red Bull winning at Red Bull Ring – and the first for Honda since their return from exit.
Not over yet
As at the time of writing, the matter between the two drivers was referred to the stewards for review.
Psychological warfare in the world of motorsport has now extended to that of radio transmissions, although this has been the case for some time now. Verstappen stated in the closing stages of the race that he was losing power (a comment that team boss Christian Horner put down to a faulty exhaust sensor that needed resetting), however, the telling comment was when the Dutchman complained loudly how Leclerc drove into him when he himself was practicing gamesmanship and running his Ferrari rival to the edge of the circuit. Leclerc, in turn, was aggrieved as the lap before Verstappen left space for him when passing the race leader for the first time. As Leclerc managed to retake the lead, Verstappen was obviously not going to make the same mistake twice… The skirmish between the two drivers in the closing stages of the race was arguably the only action worth seeing (and arguably the best action of the entire season).
There was some anxiety for fans wearing orange on the opening lap when Verstappen got bogged down at the start (anti-stall kicking in) and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen blasted into 4th place before the end of lap one. Verstappen made short work of his rivals to carve his way back into 4th place, while the Finn went backwards. The Dutchman bided his time, before posting successive blistering laps that had management on pit wall agog.
World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, had a disappointing race after a strong start, picking up a problem with downforce and spending much more time in the pits compared to his rivals exchanging his mount’s front wing as well as tyres. While it was expected that the Englishman would find a turn of speed and see him recover to the front, that recovery never came. Instead, he was overhauled by Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages and he had to be content with 5th place. He still leads the world championship by a comfortable 33 points, however.
Valtteri Bottas had a relatively quiet race, his Mercedes running with overheating issues and the Finn spending his afternoon controlling it to a 3rd place finish, ahead of Vettel and Hamilton. Lando Norris (McLaren) drove superbly to finish 6th ahead of Pierre Gasly’s Red Bull (the Frenchman is still struggling to adapt to his machinery), a charging Carlos Sainz (he had to start at the back of the grid), with the two Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Antonio GIovinazzi taking home the final points.
A sea of orange
The fans that flocked to the circuit cheered long after the drivers left the podium and the Red Bull/Max legion will go home happy. F1 fans got to see some top wheel-to-wheel racing for the lead, although it was short-lived, and this provides hope that more of this can be seen in the not too distant future. The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is next on the calendar and you can count on the fact that the majority flocking to the circuit will be wearing silver! The circuit is fast and flowing and there is the possibility of having many overtaking manoeuvres…but, can anyone challenge the might of Lewis Hamilton at home?