Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc scored a dominant victory in Austria on Sunday, his first win since April’s Australian Grand Prix and an important result as he seeks to close the gap on Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen.
The Monegasque driver was able to overtake Verstappen on no fewer than three occasions, Ferrari switching its race strategy to match Red Bull’s and showing a combination of speed and confidence which has been lacking in recent races.
Carlos Sainz, winner of the previous Grand Prix in Silverstone, looked certain to catch Verstappen in the latter stages of the race to score a strong Ferrari 1-2, but his engine failed, a spectacular fire causing significant damage to the rear of the Ferrari. With Verstappen able to finish second it was the Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell which came home in third and fourth, ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Mick Schumacher in the Haas – the best F1 result so far for the young German driver.
“Ferrari beat Red Bull in a straight fight this weekend and that will give them a lot of confidence at this mid-point of the season,” said Mika Hakkinen. “Ferrari have worked hard to find the straight line speed they need to compete against Red Bull, but at the weekend we also saw that they had better tire performance on a circuit which normally suits the Red Bulls.”
“Tire performance is so critical in F1 and very much depends on the type of circuit, whether it places the emphasis on front or rear grip and the balance between them. The track in Austria tends to make rear tire wear more critical than the front, and this favoured Ferrari.”
“Although Max won the Sprint Race on Saturday in order to claim pole position, Charles already could see that his car had the performance to challenge for the win on Sunday. He even said so on the team radio! So although Max started the race strongly, Charles was able to stay fully in touch and overtake fairly easily as Max’s rear tires struggled.”
“Ferrari’s race strategies have caused some problems this year, but not on Sunday. When they saw Max switch to a two-stop strategy they followed, but by making their pit stops significantly later they always retained a strong tire advantage. This is the kind of confident strategy Ferrari will need to maintain if they are to consistently challenge Red Bull.”
“Carlos’s engine failure shows that Ferrari still have work to do on reliability and I am sure they must know where the problems lie. Charles cannot afford to have those kinds of failures if he is to close the gap to Max. In fact he needs Max to have a non-finish if the points gap in the World Championship is to really close down.”
“I was really happy to see Mick Schumacher drive another strong race for Haas and finish sixth, two places ahead of his experienced team mate Kevin Magnussen. Mick gets a lot of attention because of his father’s reputation, and that brings pressure with it. However he is a very calm, mature young guy – still only 23 – and he is clearly gaining confidence in himself and his car.”
“Last season was his first in F1, a year to learn during which Haas did not have a competitive car. This year we can see that the team has made good progress with the new car and regulations, so the chance is there for Mick to really show his capability.”