Max Verstappen Overtakes Charles Leclerc to Win Thrilling Austrian F1 Grand Prix

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2019

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 30: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 leads Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 30, 2019 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Charles Coates/Getty Images

Red Bull's Max Verstappen passed Charles Leclerc with just two laps remaining to win a gripping Formula One Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas—who finished third—late in the race to move up into second before eventually getting past the Ferrari to lead. Leclerc had led the majority of the race from pole position but was unable to prevent the Red Bull man overhauling him on fresher tyres.

A front-wing issue for Lewis Hamilton meant he had to settle for fifth on what was a rare off day for Mercedes.

Of the front-runners, it was Verstappen who got off to the worst start, as he stalled on the grid and saw both Mercedes drivers fly past him. It meant a change of strategy for the Red Bull man, as his focus shifted towards making gains late in the race.

Up front, Leclerc got away safely, although was kept honest by Bottas and Hamilton, who were close by.

The dynamic of the battle for the lead was changed by outside factors in these early stages. First of all, Vettel's hopes of a win were effectively ended after a mistake from the Ferrari garage left the German waiting in his pit box:

Formula 1 @F1

LAP 22/71 It's a bad pit stop for Vettel - 6.1 seconds after Ferrari didn't seem to have the tyres ready 😬 #AustrianGP 🇦🇹#F1 https://t.co/crCn9CMpOF

Per F1 journalist Luke Smith, they later said there was an issue with the radio: 

Luke Smith @LukeSmithF1

Ferrari confirms there was a problem with the mechanics radio, meaning they did not hear the call for Vettel to pit #F1 #AustrianGP

When Bottas came in, Leclerc followed, as Ferrari sought to prevent any undercut from the Finn. However, that allowed Hamilton to temporarily move into the lead and with open track ahead of him, the world champion pumped in some quick lap times.

Eventually, Hamilton's charge was ended after he took one corner a little too exuberantly and damaged his front wing: 

Formula 1 @F1

LAP 31/71 It takes just 11 seconds for @MercedesAMGF1 to change Hamilton's front wing But that's a long time in F1, he's down to P5 #AustrianGP 🇦🇹#F1 https://t.co/6rCs39Mn1S

That stop meant Hamilton was out of the running for a podium place, with Leclerc in the lead ahead of Bottas and Vettel. However, that order was to be disrupted by Verstappen, who had worked himself up into fourth and was on newer tyres at the end of the race.

The Dutchman rolled up to the back of Vettel, and after some initial resistance from the Ferrari man, the Red Bull swept past and into third. Verstappen was then onto Bottas and was able to get past the Mercedes with complete ease: 

Sky Sports F1 @SkySportsF1

Max Verstappen is charging at #AustrianGP! He’s passed Vettel and Bottas and is now just 3s behind race leader Charles Leclerc Can he do it? 8 laps to go – tune in to Sky F1 NOW! Blog: https://t.co/dsFCYRqRzo https://t.co/bOwX1N9oFJ

Leclerc was now in Verstappen's site with 15 laps to go. F1 journalist Tom Bellingham was enjoying the Red Bull man's drive: 

Tom Bellingham @TommyWTF1

Even as a big fan of Verstappen I wanted Leclerc to win this. But this drive... I've changed my mind. #AustrianGP

Per WTF1, it was now a straight scrap between two of the sport's best prospects for the victory: 

WTF1 @wtf1official

Leclerc vs Verstappen for the win. The future of F1 right here #AustrianGP

Verstappen chopped down the five-second gap with ease, and with five laps remaining, the Dutchman was less than one second off the leader.

After Leclerc somehow held off Verstappen's attempt to get past with three laps to go, the Red Bull man did get the job done on the next lap, albeit he did make contact with the Ferrari on his way through: 

Formula 1 @F1

LAP 69/71 He does it now, Leclerc running wide #AustrianGP 🇦🇹#F1 https://t.co/xxjvESsxr0

It was quickly confirmed that the move was going to be investigated by the stewards. Autotrader's Phill Tromans said he could understand why Leclerc was unhappy: 

Phill Tromans @PhillTromans

I can see why Leclerc wouldn’t be happy with that pass, but I really hope the stewards don’t penalise Verstappen for it. Great race. #F1 #AustrianGp

The drive was a measure of Verstappen's immense potential and an illustration of why so many consider him to be the best overtaker in the sport.

After a season that's been dominated by Mercedes, it was refreshing to see Red Bull and Ferrari puff their chest out Sunday. On this evidence, for fans of F1, the prospect of Leclerc and Verstappen battling it out for race wins for years to come is thrilling.