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F1: Ferrari's Leclerc stuns Verstappen to win in Austria

July 10, 2022

Leclerc overtook Verstappen three times to triumph, even as the other Ferrari on the track went up in flames. The surprise win means the second half of the season could be much more exciting.

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari celebrates after winning the Austrian Grand Prix
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc is back in second place in the drivers' standingsImage: Johann Groder/AFP/Getty Images

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc achieved a surprise win at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday, leaving championship leader Max Verstappen trailing in second and breathing new life into the title race.

Defending champion Verstappen had already added eight points to his season tally after winning Saturday's sprint race, which awards limited points and also set the grid for Sunday's full race. The sprint idea is being trialled at select races this season. Verstappen had also topped Friday's qualifying race. 

Supported by hordes of orange-clad Red Bull fans at his Austrian team's home track at Spielberg, the Dutchman was expected to dominate the race. He got away from pole position well but was overtaken by rival Leclerc on the twelfth lap.

The Red Bull driver has generally been quicker this season but the man from Monaco performed the perfect pass to seize the lead. Verstappen was back in front twice after pit stops, but Leclerc easily got past him both times. This suggests that Ferrari's upgrades may have closed the gap and could prompt a thrilling second half of the season.

Verstappen moaned about the performance of his car and the Red Bull team will likely just hope it was an off day. Verstappen now has 208 points with Leclerc second on 170.

Leclerc, who has had back luck with engine reliablity and botched team tactics this year, had never previously won a race when not on pole.

Sainz' Ferrari on fire

Ferrari's sporadic problems this year were highlighted by Leclerc's teammate, Carlos Sainz, who won his first Grand Prix in Britain last weekend. In Austria, Sainz had to leave his car in a hurry as flames engulfed his engine, when he retired in second spot.

Carlos Sainz jumps as his car is engulfed with flames
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz had a lucky escape after suddenly losing powerImage: James Moy/empics/picture alliance

Leclerc had also complained of throttle pedal problems late on in the race but hung on.

Verstappen's Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, who worked his way up to fifth from 13th in Saturday's sprint race, had a bad start to the main race as he was clipped by Mercedes' George Russell and went to the back of the pack before retiring. Russell had to serve a five-second penalty for the contact but fought his way to fourth.

Seven-time F1 champion, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, Verstappen's big rival last season, came third. Earlier Hamilton said he was disappointed that Red Bull fans in Austria celebrated following a crash he suffered on Friday. "A driver could have been in hospital and you are going to cheer that?" he complained.

There were also reports of discriminatory abuse between fans.

Ahead of the race, Germany's four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel was given a suspended fine for walking out of the drivers' briefing after expressing frustration at recent stewards' decisions. The Aston Martin driver finished 17th and last, after being forced onto the gravel halfway through the race.

Fellow German Mick Schumacher, son of F1 great Michael, was voted driver of the day after his highest ever F1 finish of sixth for the Haas team.

"Hopefully we have more races in the future where we can pick up lots of points," he told Sky Sports.

Alfa Romeo's Guanyu Zhou of China, involved in a spectacular crash in Britain, was back just a week later and placed 14th.