Max Verstappen overcame Ferrari’s virtual safety car pitstop advantage to beat Charles Leclerc at Formula 1’s 2023 Austria race in what was still a crushing performance for Red Bull.
Verstappen began Leclerc’s run going into the first corner, then dropped him again following the initial safety car needed to clear debris from contact between the cars in the pack at Turn 1.
Verstappen drove past Leclerc and Sainz in the early stages, initially told to sit behind his team-mate and not attack, only to find himself frustrated after a few laps.
When Nico Hulkenberg retired in a Turn 1 run-off, he lost power immediately after his lap 13 stop, leaving all the top 10 runners, Fernando Alonso bar Hearts.
This led to the activation of the virtual safety car, which initially seemed too late to take advantage as the Ferraris passed the pit exit. No.
This created an off-set between the two leaders, with Leclerc beginning to close in on Verstappen, then closing half a distance up the grid as the Red Bull was brought to a hard-fought lap 24.
He immediately used the new rubber to clear Leclerc’s lead by 6.4 seconds in just 10 laps, Verstappen moved inside to clear Leclerc’s 6.4 seconds at Turn 3 on lap 35.
From there, Verstappen eased clear once more, only to be denied by Leclerc as Ferrari looked to move their driver into the three-stopper.
He came back with difficulty for the first time, lap 47, after 13.3 seconds.
Red Bull then shut down hopes of a strategic battle late on, with Verstappen brought in to go medium after two laps and then raced smoothly clear.
He had a 24-second lead by the time he called for a late stop on the softs to take a fast lap from Perez on the final lap, which he did by more than a second in 1m07.012s – and it cut his winning margin to 5.1. .
Leclerc won by 12.0 seconds from 15th place, as he put in a fighting effort from 15th place, which was aided by a five-second extra penalty for abusing track limits – the title became a dominant theme. Here were the two qualifying sessions.
Sainz, returning from his VSC stop behind Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris, had swapped places from fourth and fifth starting positions when the Mercedes went ahead on the outside line at the first corner.
Sainz fought back, but had to get Norris twice as he fell behind while serving his second stop penalty – similar to Leclerc for Harts but two laps ahead of the leading Ferrari.
Norris was trailing Hamilton at this point, another seven-time world champion who received a track limit violation penalty when he was vocally unhappy with his W14’s race pace.
Sainz and Norris were soon joined by Perez, and after he cleared the McLaren, he engaged in a long battle with Sainz, who continued to take TRS from ahead of the Turn 3 checkpoint, then battled against the Red Bull until Turn 4.
Although Sainz felt that Perez was “bullying” him, there was nothing he could do once Perez got TRS in Turn 4.
The scrap cost Leclerc three seconds in this position with nine laps to go, 12.4 seconds clear and the prospect of a final Perez chance never came.
Sainz and Norris came fourth and fifth, with Hamilton serving a penalty at his second stop, Alonso sixth, while George Russell in the other Mercedes fought back from a low starting position to take eighth.
Pierre Gasly finished ninth for Alpine, while Lance Stroll was 10th – the Canadian completing a three-stop strategy after losing out to Alonso at the start, then losing places when his VSC stop backfired. .
Other drivers penalized for track limits included 11th-placed Alex Albon, while Esteban Ogan was hit at the same time in addition, but was cleared at his first stop for being unsafe when he was released into the lane of Logan Sergeant. Allowing Williams and Ogan to enter his pit box.
Other drivers penalized for abusing track limits included Sergeant, Kevin Magnussen and Tsunoda, who took a second five-second victory for consecutive runs in the final corners.
Alfadouri was disallowed the full five seconds of Sunoda’s first penalty before working on his car in his second stop, while its second driver – Nick de Vries – was penalized five seconds for forcing Magnussen into a Turn 6 exit. Gravel during their battle over small spaces in half.
Hulkenberg was the only retiree of the race and every driver up to Alban was lapped – Gasley, Stroll and Williams thanks to Verstappen’s late stop.
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