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F1: Back and forth at the front of the pack ends with Charles Leclerc’s first win in seven races

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

The 11th round of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship marked a crucial riposte for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the battle to be world champion as he took victory in Austria, yet a second place finish for Max Verstappen of Red Bull means there remains significant ground for Leclerc to narrow the points gap.

DOMENICA 10/07/2022 credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office
Charles Leclerc celebrates following his win at the Großer Preis von Österreich 2022.

Many came into the Austrian GP weekend expecting another week of dominance for Red Bull, whether through their own competence or a matching lack of it from their rivals at Ferrari. Verstappen’s previous dominant record at Red Bull’s home race, including wins in the previous two seasons, and subsequent sprint race victory on Saturday, sparked a celebratory attitude amongst the ‘Orange Army’ who flocked in their thousands to Spielberg. Living up to their name, the smoke of orange flares cloaked the track during the formation lap as Verstappen lined up in P1 flanked by the Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard full of confidence following his maiden win at Silverstone in the previous round. Behind them lined up the Mercedes of George Russell in P4, impressive despite an incident in Friday qualifying with an overtly friendly wall, and the additional Red Bull of Sergio Perez.

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – JULY 09: Sprint winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 waves as he passes his fans during the F1 Grand Prix of Austria Sprint at Red Bull Ring on July 09, 2022 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202207090573 // Usage for editorial use only //
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The lights gave way to an immediate, typically confident Verstappen move as he cut across the Ferraris into the sharp first turn of the Austrian track, where Carlos Sainz was forced off the road amongst the congestion. The close battling of the first lap continued as early on Russell and Perez came together at a tight Turn 4, the Mexican’s hopes of regaining his earlier form in the championship rubbished as he span into the gravel, even as he was continue for some laps after. The race pace of the dual Ferraris came into its own as the rhythm began to settle after the first few laps, Leclerc overtaking Verstappen on Lap 12 following several laps of dogged chasing from the Monegasque. Such was the pattern throughout the rest of the race, as even a confident strategy call from Red Bull saw an immediate pit stop at the end of the very same lap failed to bear down on Leclerc who regained the lead following his own, later pit stop, 10 laps later during Lap 37. With Leclerc imperiously darting ahead, Verstappen and Sainz found themselves both juggling the second position. The Spaniard’s luck once again deserting him, Sainz had to withdraw in tempestuous circumstances as marshals scrambled to assist him as an engine failure engulfed his car in flames. Ferrari’s mechanical woes even threatened the race leader, Leclerc’s throttle beginning to fail towards the close of proceedings, another element of jeopardy that failed to stop his eventual fifth win in Formula 1. There is surely a feeling in the Italian garage that is almost bittersweet, as these persistent issues remain and prevent the team achieving an even bigger points haul in the wider championship battle. Conversely, perhaps the happiest team on the grid post-race will be a contented Mercedes, their redemption arc from the melancholy of the earlier part of the season continuing with a third successive podium for Lewis Hamilton and an excellent recovery from George Russell to P4.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22, leads Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-22, and Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13 during the Austrian GP at Red Bull Ring on Sunday July 10, 2022 in Spielberg, Austria.
(Photo by Mark Sutton / LAT Images)

Looking around the grid, it was the battle for 8th through the body of the race that sufficed to draw attention away from the chasing at the front of the pack. The push for more pure racing and jeopardy in the 2022 regulations was surmised by a congested yet exhilarating race between variously Kevin Magnussen, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon and Mick Schumacher alongside other cameo appearances, with at one stage the track three cars abreast going into the first turn. It was Mick Schumacher, finishing the race and setting another career record of P6, who was voted Driver of the Day, increased recognition for the driver who had such a short while ago come under immense pressure from his mishaps this season. He and Magnussen continue the celebrations of a resurgent point-scoring Haas team, while Aston Martin and Alpha Tauri disappointed once again. Ocon and Fernando Alonso in the Alpines both finished in the top half, Ocon continuing his good form throughout the weekend and the wily Spaniard weathering a grid penalty for a new engine by finishing the race in tenth position. Unfortunately for Alfa Romeo and Williams, they must suffer the ignominy of a shared mention, as their race weekends were almost non-descript; save Nicholas Latifi’s retirement, also ignored on the broadcast.

As with all Grand Prix weekends, a final race of mixed emotions, technical incidents and incredulous frustration with the FIA and officiating. Leclerc’s win ensures his continued presence in the championship battle heading to France in a few weeks’ time.


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