Whatever Dutch fans dreamed of when tens of thousands left their home country in the middle of the week to take their tents and caravans to Austria on the green meadows around Spielberg: what they had to experience back then was certainly not one of them. On Sunday, they were stunned to see their hero Max Verstappen being overtaken by Charles Leclerc in Ferrari three times. After take off. And then after two pit stops Verstappen took the lead again for a short time.
And when championship leader Verstappen crossed the finish line in second place after 71 very sober laps, he was even lucky not to be overtaken by a second Maranello rider. Because the black horses were once again struck by the technical disaster in Spielberg – as is often the case this season.
With 13 laps to go, Carlos Sainz, who finished third, had just set the fastest lap when the engine in his company car stalled dramatically. Initially, small flames erupted from the stern but grew rapidly. The Ferrari was driving and unsuccessfully trying to stop on the slight hill. Sainz would have liked to get away to safety from the ever-mounting fire, but he still had to keep one foot on the brake. It was only when the marshal put the wedge into the tire that Sainz jumped out of the car. Dazed, possibly more from the points distributed than the fire, he shook his head.
At the top it got cramped again as Leclerc complained about problems with the accelerator pedal and was slowing down more and more. He later explained that “sometimes he only felt 20 to 30 percent of the gas.” But he just stretched across the finish line ahead of Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. The Dutchman maintains his lead in the overall standings with 38 points, but Leclerc moved up to second place after his third victory of the season to replace Red Bull second driver Sergio Perez.
And Mick Schumacher? He showed the race flawless, overtook Hamilton and his teammates, ran to sixth for the first time and thus collected championship points for the second Grand Prix in a row. And he was also chosen driver of the day. “Fantastic race, I am happy for you and for the team,” said team principal Günther Steiner, who often criticized him a lot. “We are on the rise”, emphasized Schumacher: “We are completely satisfied with today.” However, he would still prefer to fight at the very front. “But we’ll have to wait a little longer for that.” As happy as Schumacher was, Sebastian Vettel was unhappy. After poor qualifying and a poor sprint on Saturday, he only finished 17th.
Playing with the rear wings is key in Spielberg, dancing in the so-called DRS zones. Anyone who rolls close enough to the rear of the vehicle in front can flatten the rear wing and gain the speed advantage. Schumacher complained about the lack of support from teammate Kevin Magnussen after Saturday’s sprint that lengthened the race’s starting row. As he had stopped supporting him for the DRS shortly before the end, Schumacher had to let Lewis Hamilton pass, who was now allowed to roll into the race ahead of him.
Verstappen parked in front of the two Ferraris, followed by George Russell in the Silver Arrow and Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull. The lights went out in Spielberg. This time the two red players did not have the team’s internal duel they played on Saturday, to the delight of Red Bull, when they preferred to torment each other rather than fight Verstappen together. This time Ferrari made the first corners safely. But Perez attacked Russell in turn four, made contact, turned in the gravel trap, and had to slide down. Russell later received a five second penalty which he did during the pit stop.
Starting in pole position, Verstappen pursued a strategy in Saturday’s sprint to retire as quickly as possible to prevent the next Leclerc from taking advantage of the DRS advantage. But he couldn’t do it on Sunday. This time, Leclerc immediately clung to the rearview mirror, filling the frame. “It was a bit of a surprise for us, having been so better before,” said Helmut Marko, motorsport consultant for Red Bull. Leclerc attacked for the first time on lap ten and Verstappen spread. Two laps later he tried again. in the fourth corner, where Russell and Perez made contact, and he was over, he took the lead.
Schumacher, who had risen from ninth to eighth after Perez slipped, dared to attack Hamilton in the first corner and had to roll into the extra-time zone. But he still held the back of the seven-time world champion. And after five laps he managed to overtake him. “Your speed on the straights is amazing,” he radioed Hamilton to his team. He meant those of the two Haas who had driven him to despair the previous day.
Verstappen was the first driver from the top group to pit. To the dismay of thousands of Dutch spectators in the stands, he handed over the lead to the two Ferraris without a fight. Further on, Schumacher had to bow to the pressure of Hamilton who overtook the German again on lap 15. The Haas drove to the pits and retreated further. Schumacher showed another excellent overtaking maneuver in his 32nd Formula One race. He caught Daniel Ricciardo – and then a wild quartet formed in midfield around Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris and Schumacher. Both Haas passed and finished sixth and seventh. Schumacher also left his teammate behind.
After 27 laps, the first Ferrari moved into its supply lane. Leclerc was swiftly removed then relegated back to third behind Verstappen. Then Sainz and a little later Hamilton drove into the pits. And the new order at the top, after all the drivers had stopped once, was as it was after the start: Verstappen led the race, followed by Leclerc and Sainz.
But this Sunday it was impossible to counter Ferrari’s strength, at least in a car that didn’t start to burn. After 33 laps, Leclerc overtook Verstappen for the second time that day. It was crazy, complained the Dutchman on the radio. “One lap I have traction on the front wheels, the next lap I don’t.” Before Sainz overtook him shortly thereafter, Verstappen preferred to jump quickly for a second tire change of the day. And then the game repeated itself again: both Ferraris stopped for fresh tires and fell behind Verstappen again, but were faster.
With 18 laps left, Leclerc passed the third time that day. Soon after, the engine in Carlos Sainz’s car exploded.