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Verstappen and Leclerc battle gives F1 a timely lift

By Opta
VerstappenLeclerccropped

Spielberg, July 1: In a season that has been a poor advert for Formula One, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc's late battle at the Austrian Grand Prix offered an exciting glimpse of the future.

A week on from championship leader Lewis Hamilton cruising to victory in France and Valtteri Bottas giving Mercedes a sixth one-two of the year in a drab race, there was much-needed drama at the Red Bull Ring.

More often than not in recent years it has been Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel fighting it out to take the chequered flag, but they were vying for fourth spot late in Sunday's race.

It was Verstappen and Ferrari's Leclerc locking horns at the front, going wheel-to-wheel in the closing stages as Mercedes' dominance came to an end in Spielberg.

Red Bull driver Verstappen came out on top after passing the Monegasque on lap 69 of 71, forcing him off as he went on the attack at turn three.

"What the hell was that?" Leclerc barked over the radio after Verstappen, roared on by a huge army of Dutch fans, flew past him with a typically bold move.

Verstappen had dropped from second to eighth in a poor start but powered his way through the field to become the first non-Mercedes winner of 2019.

Leclerc's hopes of celebrating a maiden F1 triumph were dashed when the stewards deemed the Dutchman had not been in breach of the rules with his decisive overtake.

Three weeks after Vettel was stripped of victory at the Canadian Grand Prix after being adjudged to have forced rival Hamilton to break hard when he returned to the track, this time it was his team-mate who missed out.

Yet the gripping duel whet the appetite for further tussles between the two 21-year-olds - who set a record for the youngest one-two in F1.

"If those things are not allowed in racing, then what is the point in Formula One?" said Verstappen, who Red Bull boss Christian Horner ranks as the best on the grid.

Leclerc will surely not have too long to wait for a first win and after so much talk about the need for rule changes, a captivating finale and a lack of sanctions being handed out was a timely lift the sport.

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Story first published: Monday, July 1, 2019, 22:20 [IST]
Other articles published on Jul 1, 2019
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