Charles Leclerc not only shocked Red Bull Racing, but also the 105,000 fans in attendance at the Austrian Grand Prix, after taking an emphatic victory at the Red Bull Ring.
Leclerc overtook Max Verstappen a staggering three times on his way to his first victory since Australia, as he reminded the reigning World Champion that he’s still in the fight for the 2022 crown.
Ferrari have shown race-winning pace for a number of rounds now; however, have failed to put all the pieces together for Leclerc.
At long last they finally managed it, something which Leclerc was delighted with.
“Apart from Miami, maybe, where we were a little bit down compared to Red Bull, it’s been strong in the last five races,” said the Monaco-born driver.
“We just couldn’t put everything together. So yeah, it’s great that we finally had a normal race on my side.”
Ferrari’s pace was a shock to Verstappen and Red Bull, with the Dutchman expecting an easy victory at the team’s home circuit.
Following the race, the Dutch driver admitted that he “didn’t expect” the Italian team to be so fast.
“I expected them to be strong,” said the championship leader.
“I just didn’t expect them to be this good.”
Leclerc’s victory saw him move back up to second in the Drivers’ Championship, where he now finds himself 38-points behind Verstappen.
One thing which led to Ferrari’s victory was Verstappen’s poor tyre management, caused by the team suffering from “severe tyre degradation” as explained by Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko.
“We had severe tyre degradation that we cannot explain,” said the 79-year-old.
“Our pace and the wear on the last set of tyres were all the more astonishing.
“I hope we can work that out, but we limited the damage at least. Ferrari and we are at more or less the same level all year round. It’s about the little things.
“So we’re not worried. It’s not like we’re suddenly losing the championship here,” said Marko.
Both Ferrari and Red Bull only had one driver finish the race, with Sergio Pérez retiring early in the Grand Prix, whereas Carlos Sainz suffered an explosive power unit (PU) failure.
Marko was furious with his Mexican driver after the race, who was involved in a first-lap crash with Mercedes’ George Russell.
The British driver hit the Mexican at Turn Four, who was attempting a move around the outside of the Mercedes driver.
The damage sustained by Pérez, saw the Mexican retire from the race due to the severity of it.
The Red Bull advisor had some harsh words to say about Pérez after the race, due to both Pérez and Verstappen being warned by the team not to overtake at that corner.
“Before the start we emphasised there should be no overtaking on the outside of Turn 4 as it’s not possible,” Marko told Sky Deutschland.
“That was totally unnecessary.”
Sainz on the other hand, didn’t put a foot wrong, and was on the verge of overtaking Verstappen for second.
However, whilst preparing for an overtake, Sainz suffered a dramatic PU failure, which saw an explosion rip a hole in the Spaniard’s right side-pod.
With the Spanish driver’s race and championship hopes quite literally going up in smoke, team principal Mattia Binotto admitted that the team are concerned by the failure.
“Of course we’re worried,” the Italian revealed.
“But we’re working flat out on solutions that we can hopefully bring to the track soon.”
Pérez’s and Sainz’s retirements opened up the door to Sir Lewis Hamilton, who recovered from an eighth-place start to finish on the final-step of the podium.
Russell too, recovered well from his collision with Pérez, and managed to finish fourth for the German team.
After the race, Toto Wolff gave an insight into how much time the team are still losing each lap, despite their strong result.
“We’re missing three tenths,” said the Mercedes team principal.
“We’ll keep getting on top of it with every race.”
Unfortunately, despite some amazing racing, the weekend was spoilt by issues off of it.
A number of complaints were made by fans, who revealed that they had been subject to catcalling, racial and homophobic slurs, and other abusive language.
Despite F1 and the FIA planning to carry out a thorough investigation, Wolff explained that the sport’s governing body needs to be “very careful” not to put F1 into a “corner”.
“We need to be very careful that we don’t put the sport that we love into a corner and say this is all racist or sexist, because it’s not,” he said.
Sunday’s podium applause from the fans gave the impression that the majority of those in attendance behaved responsibly, with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali adding that the drivers on Sunday got the “respect they deserve”
“The entire top three were applauded by the fans,” Domenicalli said.
“That shows that the drivers are getting the respect they deserve.”