Off-track controversy threatens to overshadow thrilling Austrian GP

Verstappen claimed second place while team-mate and championship rival Sergio Perez was forced to retire

By The Newsroom
Monday, 11th July 2022, 9:58 am

Post-race fines and statements condemning fan behaviour at the Red Bull Ring threatened to overshadow the brilliant race which developed in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc won the race by passing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen three times on the track to claim his first win since April ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.

But the trio were fined €10,000 afterwards for celebrating with their teams before officially being weighed.

Red Bull Racing also put out a statement following the race after allegations of abuse aimed at supporters of Hamilton in particular.

Speaking afterwards, crowd favourite Verstappen said: “It was incredible to receive the support I did from the fans this weekend, but I’ve been hearing a few shocking things.

“It’s clearly wrong and what’s been happening is not right at all - I shouldn’t need to say this on a weekend that should be a celebration of Formula One at our home race.”

The incidents came after what was another excellent Grand Prix following the British GP a week ago. Like a week ago too, Sergio Perez was involved in a first lap incident when he collided with Mercedes’ George Russell as the pair battled for fourth. The damage to the Mexican’s car forced him into retirement a few laps later.

While Verstappen raced away in the early stages, Leclerc hunted the Dutchman down to take the lead, prompting the Red Bull team to change his strategy. On an alternative pit-stop routine to Ferrari, Verstappen retook the lead when Leclerc stopped later on, but was soon mounting his second pass on the championship leader to lead once more.

This happened again after the pair stopped again, with Leclerc looking on course for a smooth route to victory, and team-mate Carlos Sainz, winner at Silverstone, was closing in on Verstappen until his Ferrari’s engine blew in fiery circumstances, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car.

Both the leaders stopped for fresh tyres and Verstappen appeared to have the slight edge over the leader, but ran out of laps to catch him.

His win means Leclerc takes over in second place in the championship ahead of non-scoring Perez, with Verstappen’s lead now 38 points.

Verstappen said: “We were just a bit too slow today, we were doing the best we could with the strategy but the Ferraris were extremely fast.

“Of course, we need to understand why we had so much degradation with the tyres, I’m not sure exactly what happened, no matter which compound we used none of them seemed to work well.

“Although we didn’t win today, we still walked away with a lot of points. In difficult moments you need to score points and we did that today.”

Perez added: “It was a big shame that we had our race ended so early. I had the whole race ahead of me and I thought I had good opportunities coming my way, so it was very painful. We had a lot of damage to the car and we were going nowhere so we had to retire.

“I gave all the room I could to George on lap one, there was enough room for both cars not to crash and unfortunately, we ended up colliding, I don’t know what else I could have done.

“Today has hurt us in both Championships and hopefully we can recover the ground.”