That was an epic Austrian Grand Prix as Max Verstappen takes victory from Charles Leclerc in an exciting race, scoring Honda its first win since returning to the sport.
Verstappen fell down to eighth on the opening lap but charged through the race order and caught Leclerc late on before winning a wheel-to-wheel battle to secure the victory.
However, his race-winning pass – which resulted in minor contact and pushed Leclerc to the run-off, denying Leclerc a first Formula 1 win – led to a post-race investigation from the stewards.
Leclerc finished second, with Valtteri Bottas third as Mercedes’ perfect win record at the start of 2019 has finally ended.
Leclerc led from pole position and despite being on a strategy his rivals felt was “risky” managed to keep the lead Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas at length throughout the Austrian Grand Prix.
He then held on to withstand a late assault from Verstappen, who fell from second to eighth on the opening lap but charged back to score Red Bull Racing’s best result of the season with Honda.
Leclerc maintained his pole advantage, aided by the anti-stall kicking in on Verstappen’s Red Bull and dropping the home favourite back to seventh at the first corner.
Verstappen then fell to eighth as teammate Pierre Gasly passed him around the outside at Turn 3, but he retook the position around the outside of the penultimate corner.
As Leclerc built a small lead over Bottas at the front, Sebastian Vettel and Verstappen worked their way up the order.
Vettel started ninth after an engine-related problem in qualifying but was up to fourth by lap six, and Verstappen had made it to fifth three laps later.
Despite being on harder tyres that Mercedes thought would be an advantage to Leclerc’s softs, Bottas was the first driver to pit on lap 21, with Vettel stopping the same lap.
Vettel lost a big amount of time because a radio problem for Ferrari’s mechanics meant they did not get the instruction he was pitting.
Leclerc covered Bottas’s stop one lap after his pursuer, releasing Lewis Hamilton into the race lead as the other Mercedes and Verstappen extended their opening stints.
Hamilton pitted on lap 30 after quickly losing a lot of time over the last couple of laps of his first stint thanks to front wing damage likely picked up when he ran wide over the sausage kerb at Turn 1 – now renamed as Lauda Kurve, in honour of Niki.
The time loss and lengthy stop to change his wing meant Hamilton rejoined eight seconds behind Vettel despite the Ferrari driver’s own slow stop, and when Verstappen pitted one lap later he rejoined ahead of Hamilton as well.
While Leclerc held a lead of around four seconds out front, Verstappen – 12.9 seconds off the lead in fourth after stopping – began his charge.
It took him 17 laps to chip away at Vettel’s deficit but once in DRS range he quickly mounted an attack.
Vettel repeatedly struggled to make the apex of the Turn 3 right-hander at the top of the hill and on lap 50 of 71 Verstappen took advantage with a good run out of the corner, and used DRS to get ahead into the braking zone and pass Vettel around the outside into Turn 4.
Once clear of the Ferrari, which immediately made a second stop for soft tyres and rejoined behind a muted Hamilton, Verstappen quickly caught Bottas.
Both Mercedes drivers’ pace was reduced because of temperature management, and Verstappen nailed Bottas for second on the run up to Turn 3 on lap 56 – having only just reported a brief loss of power.
That released him to try to catch Leclerc, six seconds up the road with 15 laps left.
By the time just five laps remained, Verstappen was on the Ferrari’s gearbox and attacked on the outside into Turn 3 and 4, but Leclerc just held on.
The next lap, Verstappen dived inside Leclerc with a brilliant move at Turn 3, but Leclerc just held on around the outside and was able to outdrag the Red Bull down to Turn 4.
With three laps ago Leclerc half covered the inside but Verstappen moved right to the edge of the track, forced Leclerc wide – and the two bumped wheels as Leclerc tried to hang on again on the outside.
Leclerc took to the run-off and complained over the radio, while Verstappen accused his rival of turning in on him.
Verstappen was told to get his head down and escape, which he did – crossing the finishing line almost three seconds clear.
However that incident between the two at Turn 3 is currently being investigated. Hopefully the race results will stand as this is motor racing.
Behind the top three, Vettel used his soft tyres to catch and overhaul Hamilton for fourth.
Championship leader Hamilton was limited to a muted fifth place, but only lost five points to teammate and title rival Bottas.
Lando Norris made up for his heartbreaking end to last week’s race in France by winning the best of the rest battle for McLaren in sixth.
He kept the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly comfortably at bay to score the best result of his rookie season.
Carlos Sainz executed a long first stint to rise to eighth from the back of the grid, while Alfa Romeo duo Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi completed the point scorers – Giovinazzi finally banking his first Formula 1 point in the process.
Austrian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 71 1h22m01.822s
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 71 2.724s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 71 18.960s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 71 19.610s
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71 22.805s
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 70 1 Lap
7 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 70 1 Lap
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 70 1 Lap
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 70 1 Lap
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 70 1 Lap
11 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 70 1 Lap
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 70 1 Lap
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 70 1 Lap
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 70 1 Lap
15 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 70 1 Lap
16 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 70 1 Lap
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 70 1 Lap
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 69 2 Laps
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 69 2 Laps
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 68 3 Laps
1 Lewis Hamilton 197
2 Valtteri Bottas 166
3 Max Verstappen 126
4 Sebastian Vettel 123
5 Charles Leclerc 105
6 Pierre Gasly 43
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. 30
8 Lando Norris 22
9 Kimi Raikkonen 21
10 Daniel Ricciardo 16
11 Nico Hulkenberg 16
12 Kevin Magnussen 14
13 Sergio Perez 13
14 Daniil Kvyat 10
15 Alexander Albon 7
16 Lance Stroll 6
17 Romain Grosjean 2
18 Antonio Giovinazzi 1
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0
1 Mercedes 363
2 Ferrari 228
3 Red Bull-Honda 169
4 McLaren-Renault 52
5 Renault 32
6 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 22
7 Racing Point-Mercedes 19
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 17
9 Haas-Ferrari 16
10 Williams-Mercedes 0