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Austrian Grand Prix: Charles rules in Max domain

Victory was Leclerc’s third of the season, fifth of his career and first since Australia in April
Representational image.
Representational image.
File photo

Reuters   |   Spielberg   |   Published 11.07.22, 01:42 AM

Charles Leclerc held off Max Verstappen to win the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday in front of the Red Bull driver’s legion of fans.

The win was Leclerc’s third of the season, fifth of his career and first since Australia in April. It was also the first time he has won from anywhere other than pole position.

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This was a three-horse race, two of them prancing, one of them actually a bull, until Carlos Sainz’s car blazed with 15 laps to go, bringing a virtual safety car and pitstops for Leclerc and Verstappen. The superior pace of the Ferraris made a one-two seem inevitable until then, but suddenly Verstappen was five seconds behind Leclerc, no longer being pincered by teammates, and setting the fastest laps of the race in pursuit.

“What’s happening with the pedal?” Leclerc asked his team, having earlier been assured it was OK when he reported a “strange” feeling. Red Bull reported the issues to Verstappen with glee and he whittled away at the deficit but it remained at 1.532sec when the chequered flag was waved, giving Leclerc his first grand prix win since Australia in April. Verstappen leads his rival by 38 points in the drivers’ standings.

George Russell started and finished fourth but it was Lewis Hamilton, his teammate, who led for Mercedes, far behind the top three but clear of the rest until Sainz’s retirement opened the door to the podium. Hamilton was one of several drivers pinged by race control for exceeding track limits on corners, a ruling he described as “BS”.

Verstappen opened up an early lead of more than a second over Leclerc but the Ferrari was showing up faster by the sixth lap, now within DRS territory. Leclerc darted up the inside of turn three on lap ten but could not retain the position, and locked up moments later. “I cannot hold this long,” Verstappen said.

Hamilton lost a place to Mick Schumacher, his duelling partner from the sprint.

Hamilton upset

Hamilton said he was “disgusted and disappointed” by reported racist and homophobic behaviour from spectators attending the grand prix at the Red Bull Ring. F1 issued a statement ahead of Sunday’s race saying it had been made aware that some fans had been subject to “completely unacceptable comments” by others in the crowd at Spielberg.

“We take these matters very seriously, have raised them with the promoter and event security, and will be speaking to those who reported the incidents,” the Liberty Media-owned sport added. “This kind of behaviour is unacceptable.”

 The circuit is owned by Red Bull and the race has become popular with Max Verstappen fans letting off orange flares.

There have been reports on social media of some drunken male fans harassing female spectators and also making homophobic chants.

Hamilton took to Instagram to send a message to his 29 million followers.

“Disgusted and disappointed to hear that some fans are facing racist, homophobic and generally abusive behaviour at the circuit this weekend,” said the Briton, who is outspoken against racism and in defence of LGBTQ+ rights.



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