Scuderia Ferrari leaves Austria with a second and fourth place courtesy of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, which came at the end of a great race that was closely fought right from the start to the end of the 71 laps.
Start. Charles got a perfect getaway to keep the lead, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian also shot off the line and by the end of the opening lap he’d already made up three places to cross the line sixth behind Raikkonen and Norris. Sebastian pursued the English McLaren driver and got past on lap 4, then two laps later he also dealt with the Finn in the Alfa Romeo.
Pit stop. On lap 21, Sebastian was the first Scuderia Ferrari driver to pit, replacing the Softs on which he started with Hards. The German’s stop took longer than usual, because of a radio problem, which meant the mechanics were not quite ready in time. This cost Sebastian around three seconds, as he rejoined behind Gasly in eighth place. Charles came in on the next lap, rejoining right behind Hamilton and Verstappen yet to stop.
Mid-race. At the halfway point, when all the leaders had pitted for the first time, Charles had a five second lead over Bottas, with Vettel closing fast on Verstappen and Hamilton. On the hard tyres, the Dutch Red Bull driver was lapping faster than Sebastian and caught the number 5 SF90 on lap 49, getting ahead one lap later. The team reacted immediately, switching Vettel to a more aggressive two stop strategy. Sebastian set off on Soft tyres, seven seconds behind Hamilton.
Close finish. On lap 56, Verstappen caught Bottas, passed him and set off in pursuit of Charles, with fresher Hard tyres. The Dutchman caught Leclerc with six laps to go. On lap 68, he passed Charles at Turn 3, but the Ferrari man made the most of the SF90s good traction to retake the lead on the next straight. One lap later, Verstappen attacked again at the same place, but collided with Charles, which forced him to run wide.
At the same time, Sebastian caught Hamilton and passed him a lap later. Verstappen took the flag 2.7 seconds ahead of the Ferrari man. Third was Bottas, just seven tenths ahead of Sebastian. The next round takes place at Silverstone in a fortnight’s time.
Investigation. The incident between Charles and Max was reviewed by the Stewards. Almost three hours after the end of the Grand Prix, the decision was announced that it had been a racing incident and that no further action would be taken and so the classification remained the same.
Charles Leclerc: “It was a positive weekend overall. Unfortunately, it did not end as we would have liked it to. My first stint was good and our pace was there. We pitted early to prevent losing our track position to Bottas.
“This made the second stint longer and more challenging than expected, as the rear tyres degraded quite a bit towards the end of the race. Second place is not what we wanted, but we gave it our all and made good a step forward this weekend. I am conviced that this will bring further progress for the next few races and allow us to achieve the success that we want.”
Sebastian Vettel: “I’m always positive and today the team gave me a great car to drive and I think this was a better weekend for us, maybe like in Canada a few weeks back. I’m disappointed about how things went for me yesterday but today’s race was fun for me from the cockpit and I enjoyed some good wheel to wheel battles, pushing throughout.
“I’m also disappointed for Charles as he did an excellent job and was very strong all weekend. All in all, I’m happy in one sense but unhappy in another, because we could have had both cars on the podium this weekend, one of them on the top step.
“As for the car, we know what’s needed: we need more downforce. We are strong at tracks like this and the one in Canada and we know what we have to do to improve the car, but it’s not easy and it can’t be done in just one day. I’d like to thank all the team in Maranello because all of them are very passionate about this and are working like mad to improve the car. This year’s Ferrari is definitely good enough to win races.”
Mattia Binotto Team Principal: “Every race has a tale to tell and today’s was a great one, featuring some exciting battles. For our part, we have shown that we are continuing to improve. Charles drove a really strong race from start to finish and indeed he was fantastic all weekend.
Seb also had an excellent race: on the hard tyres he attacked and pushed to the maximum even if in doing so, they wore quickly. From that, it’s clear his two stop strategy was not planned in advance, but adopted as his race evolved. There’s obviously disappointment for the radio problem we had at Seb’s pit stop. Not all the mechanics heard the call and that cost him precious time.
“With regards to the decision of the stewards, we fully accept it, even though we don’t believe it is the right decision. They are the judges and we have to respect that. However, even though I am first and foremost a Ferrari fan,
“I think it’s time for F1 to turn the page and to look ahead. As we often say, we should leave the drivers free to fight, as overall this will be good for the sport and good for F1. So ‘bravo’ to Verstappen, he drove a fantastic race today as did Charles. There will be new opportunities for us in the future.”