Mixed fortunes for Ferrari as Leclerc wins Austrian GP


Well if nothing else, the cast continue to provide plenty of material for season whatever it is of Drive to Survive.

Be it growing restlessness between the Ferrari pair and their counterparts at Hass, Fernando's suspicion of bias within Alpine or Seb storming out of a drivers' briefing, the plots and sub-plots are piling up.

Over the years a number of British soaps have been expended from two episodes a week to four or five, and as Liberty seeks to expand the calendar who is to say that their won't be nightly editions of Drive to Survive a little further down the line.

Based on yesterday's evidence, and the sheer cut and thrust of the Red Bull Ring we can expect more drama today, especially as Max and Charles share the front row for the fifth time this season.

Courtesy of his mega-start and equally mega rise through the field, Sergio is there to lend support to the Red Bull cause, which isn't how it looked on Friday night after he'd been demoted.

Carlos is up there as well, however it appears the Spaniard is a little less inclined to play the team game than his Latin counterpart.

Then we have George, Kevin, Lewis, Mick and the McLarens, and as if that wasn't enough we have a very frustrated Fernando and Valtteri at the back, the Finn starting from the pitlane.

Because they are starting from the back, both have opted to take on new components, the Spaniard the full engine package while the Finn takes on a new turbocharger and MGU-H. The Alfa Romeo driver also took the opportunity to have a new rear wing assembly fitted, hence the pitlane start.

Talking of Alpine, after the chequered flag yesterday, Esteban stopped on track with a suspected electrical issue on the high-pressure fuel pump. According to Alpine, the part has been replaced, and for future races, the team is actively pursuing a root cause fix. You may recall that it was a fuel pump issue that caused the French driver to 'park up' last Sunday, thus (fortuitously for Ross Brawn) bringing out the safety car.

As for the failure of Fernando to start yesterday, Alpine suspects a possible failure of the "standard electronic control unit, energy storage control unit or any of the electrical wiring on the chassis or power unit".

We're sick of saying it, and you no doubt of reading it, but the race cannot be won at the first corner, or Turn 3 or even Turn 4, but it can be lost. That said, Red Mist Max will want to stamp his authority from the outset.

Other than overenthusiasm in the overtaking department, another major factor today - and we'll get to the Weather Gods later - is track limits.

Throughout the weekend we have seen drivers having their times deleted on a track that positively demands to take a chance on the wild side, and we don't expect that to change today. Consequently, we could see a few drivers penalised today.

The reason for Seb's fit of pique(et) at the drivers' briefing is related to the lack of consistency in terms of the application of the rules, a common complaint from drivers since the sacking of Michael Masi and the decision to have two race directors.

The FIA really does need to get its act together for it isn't only the drivers who are unhappy with some of these decisions. Never mind the underpants and nose studs, it is the policing of erratic and sometimes dangerous driving that we want to see.

The quickest strategy on paper is going to be a one-stopper from medium to hard.

For cars starting out of position, starting on the hard isn't out of the question either, leaving a choice between the soft and the medium for the final stint.

A two-stopper is slower under normal circumstances, but the best way to do it would be using all three compounds: medium, hard, then soft. There's a reasonably high safety car probability so that could influence a two-stopper.

Sadly, the Weather Gods are unlikely to play a part today, the bright sunshine and warm temperatures witnessed on Friday and Saturday looking set to continue.

The pitlane opens and leading the way is Sainz, followed by Gasly, Bottas, Stroll and Leclerc.

Air temperature is 20 degrees C, while the track temperature is 31 degrees. There is a lot more cloud than on previous days however. There is a 10% chance of rain seemingly.

The two Mercedes are sporting different rear wings, Russell opting for a bigger version while Hamilton has the version with less drag.

Late drama for Hamilton where there appears to be a (left-front) brake issue.

As for tyres, all are on mediums bar Zhou, Tsunoda, Vettel and Alonso who are on hards.

They head off on the formation lap, all getting away. The air is already filled with orange smoke.

The grid forms.

They're away! The leading four; Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz and Russell, all getting away well. Verstappen leads into Turn 1 with Leclerc tucked in behind. Russell is on the inside of Sainz who runs slightly wide.

Into Turn 3, Sainz has got ahead of Russell, who now has Perez alongside. The Mercedes and Red Bull are side-by-side through the corner and all the way to Turn 4.

Russell has the inside, but tags the Mexican causing the Red Bull to spin off into the gravel.

Both drivers understandably have differing views of the incident.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz, Russell, Ocon, Magnussen, Hamilton, Schumacher, Ricciardo and Norris. Perez, having dropped to last, pits. He has a hole in his sidepod, nonetheless he continues, now on hards.

It's Deja vu for Hamilton as he finds himself caught between the Haas pair.

After 2 laps, Verstappen has a 1s lead, while Sainz is 1.7s down on Leclerc.

Vettel fears he has hit a piece of debris but he is assured that all is okay.

Having lost time in that clash with Perez, Russell is 5s down on Sainz and now heading a DRS train that comprises Ocon, Magnussen, Schumacher and Hamilton.

Already, drivers are having times deleted, among them Gasly, Norris and Hamilton.

"Their straight line speed is crazy," says Hamilton of the Haas pair.

Out front, Leclerc is hard on the heels of the race leader.

At the start of lap 9, Perez is lapped by the leading pair.

Behind the Russell DRS train, Norris, in ninth, heads a train of his own, with Ricciardo, Stroll, Gasly and Albon forming the carriages.

On lap 10, Leclerc tries a move at Turn 3, as Norris is given a 5s penalty for that clash with Perez.

"I cannot hold this long," warns Verstappen, who is told that he is not in the pit window.

At the end of lap 11, Russell pits, first serving his penalty, then having his front wing adjusted. HE rejoins in 19th.

However, Leclerc makes a surprise move on Verstappen at Turn 4 and catches the world champion on the hop.

The crowd falls silent.

Ricciardo, Gasly and Latifi all pit at the end of lap 12.

Next time around Verstappen pits, as Leclerc has his time deleted for the second time.

Verstappen rejoins in 8th on a new set of hards.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spielberg here.

A brilliant move sees Hamilton go through the inside of Schumacher at Turn 8 to take 5th.

Norris pits at the end of lap 14, rejoining in 13th, as Hamilton passes Magnussen for fourth.

As Magnussen pits, teammate Schumacher is fending off a charging Verstappen. The Dutchman eventually gets through.

Schumacher and Ocon both pit at the end of lap 16, rejoining in 10th and 14th, the German losing out badly due to traffic.

"Tyres are good mate," declares Hamilton as Verstappen climbs all over his rear.

The Briton holds off his rival for the first three corners, but on the long run to Turn 4 his Mercedes is no match for the Red Bull.

Elsewhere, Alonso is up to 8th and chasing down Zhou. There's no stopping the guy.

Lap 19 sees a new fastest lap from Verstappen (9.895).

Perez is shown the black and white flag for his multiple excursions beyond the track limits.

"Considering Plan E," Sainz is told.

In sixth, Tsunoda heads a DRS train, comprising Ocon, Zhou, Alonso, Magnussen, Norris and Schumacher.

A great battle sees Ocon pass Zhou and then Tsunoda for sixth.

Gasly is the latest to be shown the black and white flag.

Verstappen, having posted a new fastest lap (9.846), is told that Leclerc may go for a one-stop.

Alonso is in a five-way battle with the Haas pair, Norris and Zhou. Brilliant stuff.

"When, I didn't go off," insists Hamilton when told he's had another lap (time) deleted).

Schumacher passes Alonso to take tenth as Ricciardo and Russell close in on this continuing fight for 7th.

As Perez pits and retires, Leclerc finally stops. The Monegasque rejoins in third, 6.6s down on Verstappen, on hards.

At the end of lap 27, Sainz pits, thereby handing the lead back to Verstappen. The Spaniard rejoins in fourth, behind Hamilton. Alonso also pits.

Norris complains that Schumacher squeezed him under braking.

At the end of lap 28, Hamilton pits. It's a slow stop as there is an issue with the front-right. He rejoins in 5th but is immediately passed by Ocon.

Stroll pits at the end of lap 29, and as Hamilton passes Ocon, Leclerc posts a new fastest lap (8.984).

So, after 30 laps, with 41 remaining, everyone has stopped once.

Verstappen leads Leclerc, with Sainz third, ahead of Hamilton, Ocon, Magnussen, Schumacher, Norris, Russell and Ricciardo.

Gasly is handed a 5s time penalty for exceeding track limits.

On lap 33, on fresh rubber, Leclerc passes Verstappen with ease. "One lap I have front grip, next lap I don't, the car is so unpredictable," complains the Dutchman who is 4s ahead of Sainz.

Schumacher passes Magnussen for sixth.

Norris is the second driver to get a time penalty for track limits violations.

Absolutely brilliant stuff from Alonso as he passes Tsunoda, taking time out to wag a finger at the Japanese driver.

Verstappen makes his second stop at the end of lap 36, the Dutchman fitting another set of hards. He's now third, 19s down on the leader.

Verstappen is told to match Hamilton's lap times. "Why," he asks. "Because there are 35 laps to go," he is told.

As Norris closes on Magnussen, he has Russell for company.

Zhou is the latest to be handed a 5s time penalty.

For the second time this weekend, Vettel spins off track. Replay show that it happened after contact with Gasly.

"What is wrong with these people," asks the German.

Russell makes his second stop at the end of lap 40, as does Gasly. Meanwhile, Norris passes Magnussen in Turn 3.

Gasly is handed a 5s penalty for causing the collision with Vettel. He doesn't take the news well.

Magnussen and Albon both pit at the end of lap 42, as Hamilton is shown the black and white flag.

Russell passes Zhou for eleventh.

From out of nowhere, Bottas (17th), goes quickest in S1.

Schumacher and Norris both pit at the end of lap 44. The German rejoins in 10th, the Briton in 14th.

In quick succession, Russell passes Schumacher and then Stroll. However, the Canadian fights back and reclaims the position, only for the Mercedes driver to snatch it straight back.

As he recovers, Stroll finds himself under attack from Schumacher.

"Are other people getting this," asks Hamilton in terms of the track limits. He is assured that they are.

As Schumacher continues to harry Stroll, Magnussen closes in and in no time at all both the Haas drivers are through. A particularly nice move from the Dane.

Alonso is up to fifth but will have to stop again as he has only used one compound. He'll probably stop for softs late in the race.

Leclerc pits at the end of lap 49, as does Stroll. The Monegasque rejoining in third, 3.6s down on Verstappen, who is 12.9s down on Sainz.

Next time around Sainz pits, the Spaniard rejoining in third, 4.5s down on his teammate and 7s ahead of Hamilton.

"Box, box!" Hamilton is told at the end of lap 51. He duly obliges, switching to the mediums.

Not for the first time this afternoon, Leclerc is all over Verstappen, and again he passes the Red Bull driver with ease.

Meanwhile, Latifi has become the second retirement of the day.

All bar Alonso have stopped twice.

"What's the reason we went for this tyre," asks Hamilton. "Opportunities later in the race," he is told.

Now Sainz closes in on Verstappen, as Red Bull appears to have no answer to the Ferraris.

Oh no, as Sainz closes on Verstappen, smoke suddenly emerges from the rear of the Ferrari. "No, no, no," he cries and as he parks up the car is on fire, the engine having well and truly detonated.

The VSC is deployed as the Spaniard sits down by the side of the track disconsolate. His shock is echoed in the Ferrari garage.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spielberg here.

Leclerc pits, as does Verstappen and Alonso.

The race resumes on lap 60, it's: Leclerc, Verstappen (+ 4s), Hamilton (+ 26s), Ocon (+ 15s), Russell, (+ 0.3s), Schumacher (+ 7.5s), Magnussen (+ 2.9s), Norris (+ 0.8s), Ricciardo (+ 5.1s) and Albon (+ 6.5s).

Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (7.804), as Russell passes Ocon for fourth.

Norris passes Magnussen to take 7th and set off after Schumacher.

Oh dear. "What's happening with the throttle pedal," asks Leclerc. The news is passes on to Verstappen, who is told to "keep the pressure on".

Bottas passes Albon for tenth despite the Williams driver doing his very best to hold him off.

As Leclerc's throttle pedal issue continues, Verstappen is within 2.9s, with just 4 laps remaining.

Under investigation for an unsafe release, Alonso passes Albon for 11th.

"Turn 3 is so difficult," sighs Leclerc, though he maintains a 3s advantage.

As they begin the final lap, Verstappen is 2.052s down on the leader.

Alonso passes Bottas for tenth.

Leclerc takes the flag, much to the relief of his team... and the driver. "I was scared," he admits, "I was really scared."

Behind Leclerc, it's Verstappen, Hamilton, Russell, Ocon, Schumacher, Norris, Magnussen, Ricciardo and Alonso.

Bottas is eleventh, ahead of Albon, Stroll, Zhou, Gasly, Tsunoda and Vettel.

Other than losing out on a certain podium, that failure almost certainly means an engine penalty for Sainz, though in terms of the Constructors' Championship Perez' DNF somewhat eases Ferrari's pain.

Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but other than halting the Verstappen/Red Bull stream-roller, third and fourth puts Mercedes well and truly in the game.

A great fifth for Ocon, while Haas will be delighted to have both cars in the points, as will McLaren.

It remains to be seen whether Alonso will take a hit for that unsafe release, but Alpine will be ruing the fact he failed to start yesterday's Sprint.

"It's been a bit of a rough weekend," says Hamilton, who takes his third podium in as many races, "but really grateful that as a team we got third and fourth.

"I do want to say a thank you to the men and women in the garage who worked so hard to rebuild the car," he adds. "I had a brand new car on Saturday morning, I made a mistake on Friday, not something I do often."

"It was a tricky day," adds Verstappen, "seemed like we were struggling quite a bit with the tyres, and that happened on every compound. Too much degradation on the tyres, but second place is still a good result for us on a tricky day."

"It was a really good race," grins Leclerc, "the pace was there at the beginning. We had some good fights with Max, and the end was really difficult, I had some issues with the throttle, so it was very tricky.

"I definitely needed that one," he admits, "the last five races have been incredibly difficult for not just myself but for the team."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spielberg here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 10/07/2022
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