Russell wins in Austria as Verstappen and Norris collide

Mercedes’ George Russell claimed a somewhat unexpected victory in the Austrian Grand Prix after a hugely dramatic end to the race saw Max Verstappen and Lando Norris collide in the battle for the lead, dropping Verstappen down the order and forcing Norris to retire.

While Verstappen had made a strong start from pole position to hold P1 for much of the race, a thrilling duel with McLaren driver Norris unfolded when both made their final pit stops on Lap 52 of 71, where Red Bull suffered a rare slower stop due to an issue with the left rear wheel.

With the gap between them at less than two seconds, Norris was hot on the tail of his rival and made more than one attempt to snatch P1. But it all came to a head on Lap 64 when the pair made contact, causing both to limp back to the pits with punctures.

This allowed Russell – who had long been running in third – to sweep through to take the lead in the Mercedes, which he held until the chequered flag to claim the second race win of his F1 career.

In what may have been a small consolation for McLaren, Oscar Piastri took P2 ahead of the lead Ferrari of Carlos Sainz in third. There was then a sizeable gap back to the Silver Arrows machine of Lewis Hamilton in fourth, while Verstappen crossed the line in fifth, a position he kept despite being handed a 10-second penalty for the incident with Norris.

Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen marked a strong performance for Haas by taking sixth and eighth respectively, with the Red Bull of Sergio Perez sandwiched between them in seventh. Daniel Ricciardo claimed two points for RB in ninth, and the Alpine of Pierre Gasly rounded out the top-10.

It was an eventful day for Charles Leclerc, who recovered from a first-lap incident with Piastri to work his way up to P11 via four pit stops in the Ferrari. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon followed in P12, having earlier enjoyed a close battle with team mate Gasly.

Lance Stroll was the lead Aston Martin in P13 on what proved to be another tough day for the squad, ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda in P14 and the Williams of Alex Albon in P15.

Kick Sauber’s wait for their debut points of 2024 continues, with Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu crossing the line in 16th and 17th respectively.

Verstappen leads the pack into turn one.

Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap on his final tour, but ended the day down in P18, having struggled for pace in the Aston Martin throughout the event as well as being handed a penalty for pushing Zhou off the track earlier in the afternoon.

Logan Sargeant was the final classified runner for Williams in 19th, while Norris – carrying a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits – ultimately retired in the pits following the damage sustained in his clash with Verstappen, ending a day that had been filled with promise in an unhappy fashion.

After a busy Saturday at the Red Bull Ring – consisting of the third F1 Sprint of the season followed by Grand Prix qualifying, both of which Verstappen triumphed in – attentions turned to Sunday’s race, with the drivers and teams readying themselves for the 71-lap encounter.

There was just one small alteration to the grid ahead of the event. It was confirmed that Zhou would start from the pit lane due to changes being made to the set-up of his Kick Sauber after qualifying, though the Chinese driver had already been set to line up on the back row in P20.

The windy conditions looked to be posing some problems before the pack had even assembled, with Russell locking up into Turn 3 en route to the grid. He subsequently asked the team to check the steering, before being informed by his engineer that there had been a gust of 40kph at the top of the hill entering into the corner.

Despite the wind, it was also feeling warm as the field lined up on the grid. When the tyre blankets came off, it was revealed that every driver had opted to run the medium rubber, with just Zhou in the pit lane bolting on the hard compound. All bar the Aston Martin pair had gone for fresh tyres rather than used.

Pole-sitter Verstappen made a strong start to hold the lead, while Russell chased Norris for P2 but the McLaren man defended to keep the position. Hamilton, meanwhile, gained a place from Sainz to slot into P4 before going after his team mate.

Further back there was trouble for Leclerc, who suffered damage to his front wing following contact with Piastri into Turn 1. This forced the Monegasque to pit, dropping him nearly to the back of the field, while Piastri continued on and enjoyed a scrap with Perez.

Verstappen is pursued by Norris.

The Australian made a brief foray into the gravel after seemingly being pushed wide by the Red Bull. Up ahead, a thrilling intra-team duel unfolded between the Mercedes cars on Lap 3, with Hamilton pulling off a move on Russell into Turn 3.

Russell, however, soon utilised DRS to retake the position. Elsewhere, the stewards had noted a Lap 1 incident between Hamilton and Sainz for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, before opting not to investigate.

The battle between those two was seemingly not over, with Sainz retaking P4 on Lap 7 from the man who will assume his seat at Ferrari in 2025, while Piastri had also stolen P6 from Perez into Turn 6. Replays later revealed that Hamilton had been asked by his engineer to give Sainz a place back following their earlier fight.

Magnussen and Ricciardo were the first to make pit stops on Lap 10 to bolt on the hard tyre. The former’s team mate Hulkenberg pitted one lap later, emerging back on track close to Magnussen, but it was the Dane who remained in front in 14th following a brief battle between the two.

At the front, Verstappen had extended his lead to over five seconds from Norris as Lap 14 ticked down. But things weren’t going quite so well for Leclerc near the rear of the pack, with the Ferrari driver losing a spot to the Williams of Albon to drop down to P19.

Perez – running in seventh place – was reporting sidepod damage, having been caught up in the Lap 1 Leclerc/Piastri incident. Magnussen, meanwhile, was apparently not in the mood to save tyres after being asked to do so by his engineer, offering a sweary response to the request.

As many teams seemed to be contemplating switching to a three-stop strategy, Leclerc’s day continued to go from bad to worse, with the Monaco Grand Prix winner pitting for medium tyres to emerge at the very back of the field and seemingly on course to be lapped by Verstappen.

With most of the front-runners yet to pit, Norris was told by his engineer that the hard compound looked “poor”, though the Briton was reminded that he had two sets of mediums left, a possible advantage given that the Red Bull team did not have the same available.

Elsewhere, the stewards were being kept busy. Zhou voiced his annoyance after being punted off track by Alonso, prompting an investigation which resulted in a 10-second time penalty for the latter. Hamilton, meanwhile, had been noted for potentially crossing the white line on pit entry, and this gave the seven-time world champion a five-second penalty.

Norris’ car is retired from the race after his clash Verstappen.

On Lap 24 it was time for Verstappen to make his pit stop, with the Red Bull man followed by Norris as both put the hard tyres on, leaving Piastri to temporarily lead before the Australian pitted himself a couple of tours later.

Further work for the stewards came courtesy of Verstappen, with the Dutchman under investigation for an unsafe release in the pits between himself and Norris. And while Hamilton had been hit with a punishment, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was keen to keep his driver’s spirits up, jumping on the radio to remind that there was “everything to play” for.

Another man being given encouragement was Leclerc, who was informed that he could still score points despite running in P18. Race leader Verstappen, meanwhile, was given an update on his gears – was this an issue being managed by the Red Bull squad?

Elsewhere for the team, Perez had been hit with a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. The Mexican was running in seventh, eight seconds back from Piastri in sixth. Behind him, the Haas pair were managing to keep a train of cars at bay, with Hulkenberg leading from Magnussen in P8 and P9 respectively.

The teamwork did not seem to be quite so smooth for Alpine, as Ocon scrapped with Gasly for P11 before the former took the position. A struggling Alonso – who had just been overtaken by the duo – could only watch from behind and remark “wow” over team radio.

There was perhaps a sigh of relief for Red Bull when it was confirmed that the earlier pit lane incident for Verstappen would face no further action, with the Dutchman now eight seconds ahead of Norris.

But was the trouble over? On Lap 40 Verstappen was heard reporting that his tyres were “suddenly feeling really bad”, while Norris had pumped in the fastest lap. Others, meanwhile, were already making their second pit stops.

Over at Alpine, the battle was still ongoing, with Gasly determined to take P8 from team mate Ocon and ultimately doing so into Turn 4. Fortunately for the team, the move was smooth and without any contact, though both later dropped down the order after making their respective visits to the pits.

Haas recorded a valuable double points finish.

Norris, meanwhile, had eaten into Verstappen’s lead, cutting the margin down to six seconds, while Leclerc was also looking decent despite his earlier troubles, working his way forwards to P11 by Lap 46.

Like Hamilton, Albon was handed a five-second penalty for crossing the white line at pit entry, not ideal for the Williams man running in P15. Nearer the front, Russell made a pit stop from P3 for the hard compound, with Mercedes seeming to struggle with their tyres.

”I can’t hold this much longer,” Verstappen informed his engineer on Lap 48, referring to the lapped Haas cars behind him who were looking to find a way back past the world champion. This was followed by a remark that the “tyres are ******” a few laps later.

Come Lap 52 and both Verstappen and Norris dived into the pits for medium tyres. It was a slightly slow stop for Verstappen thanks to a stubborn left-rear wheelnut and, while the Dutchman still emerged ahead of his rival, the gap had closed to less than two seconds.

With Norris able to use the DRS to edge even nearer to Verstappen, a thrilling battle for the lead looked to potentially be on the cards as the race headed towards its final 16 laps. After attempting a failed move into Turn 3, Norris told his engineer, “He saw me move and then moved.”

Verstappen was clearly not feeling comfortable, commenting that it felt as if there was “something wrong with the car” amid a lack of grip, while Norris was shown a black and white flag for track limits as he continued to chase the Red Bull man down.

Norris tried a late move on Lap 59 into Turn 3 and, whilst he initially got ahead, the McLaren ran off the track, meaning that he had to let Verstappen back through again. This resulted in a track limits investigation for Norris, but the fight showed no signs of letting up.

The tables were seemingly turned two laps later when Verstappen had to run off the tarmac too following another duel for the lead. But the tensions boiled over when there was dramatically contact between the pair on Lap 64, resulting in both having to limp back to the pits with punctures.

While Russell swept through to take the lead as Piastri overtook Sainz for second, Norris – who had just been handed a five-second time penalty for track limits – remained in the pits and ultimately retired the car, with too much damage to continue.

Russell crosses the line to take victory.

Verstappen, meanwhile, returned to the track but was now down in fifth, while a Virtual Safety Car was ordered and Russell was told by team boss Wolff,” You can win this, George!” Elsewhere the stewards had decided that Verstappen was at fault for the Norris incident, handing him a 10-second penalty.

As Piastri tried to close the gap down to Russell at the front, it was ultimately to no avail as the Briton crossed the line to take the second race victory of his F1 career, prompting him to jubilantly declare, “It isn’t over until it’s over!”

The McLaren of Piastri was just 1.906s down the road when he took P2, with Sainz completing the podium for Ferrari in P3 ahead of Hamilton in P4. Verstappen, meanwhile, had held enough of a margin over sixth-placed Hulkenberg to keep fifth, despite his 10-second time penalty.

Perez managed to add to Red Bull’s lower-than-expected points tally in seventh, while Magnussen made it a double points score for Haas in eighth and the RB of Ricciardo and Alpine of Gasly completed the top-10.

Despite being forecast to reach a points-paying position, Leclerc just missed out in the end and took P11 via a total of four visits to the pits. Ocon claimed P12 after his earlier battles with his team mate, while Stroll was the lead Aston Martin on a difficult weekend for the squad.

Tsunoda and Albon followed in 14th and 15th respectively, from the Kick Sauber pair of Bottas and Zhou in 16th and 17th. Alonso crossed the line down in 18th, marking the end of a trying day for the Spaniard with the fastest lap, and Sargeant was the final classified driver for Williams in 19th.

Norris was the only retiree from the race following that dramatic collision with Verstappen, marking his first DNF of the season.

The action doesn’t stop as the next destination on the 2024 calendar will be the British Grand Prix, with the paddock heading straight to Silverstone for the third race of this triple header.

Discover more from Marking The Spot

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *