Verstappen ends Mercedes run in Austria

In front of crowds of fans?

Charles Leclerc admits he has been left "angry" after he was bumped off track by Max Verstappen, taking away his hopes of a first ever victory in Formula One. Ten yards along the paddock, a beaming Red Bull team principal Christian Horner could not hide his delight.

Scuderia Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was leading the race over Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport's Lewis Hamilton in second place, and Hamilton was closing the gap to his German rival.

After moving to third in the drivers' championship, Verstappen said: "This is very important for us and also for the future, for Honda as well". Of course, it's disappointing to lose your first victory in the last few laps.

"For me it was the hardest race in terms of power unit management, temperature management, I've never had to manage it so much".

Driving a vehicle that was no match for Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull's challengers, he dropped back but not without giving Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen - the oldest driver on the grid - a fight.

Explaining the decision, the stewards said they "Car 33 [Verstappen] sought to overtake auto 16 [Leclerc] at Turn 3 on lap 69 by out-braking vehicle 16".

The stewards investigated the move but chose to take no action more than two hours after the end of the race. "If those things are not allowed in racing then what's the point in being in Formula One".

Hamilton said: "I don't feel like I have to write off the weekend. I think we're over-regulated anyway, but this is the right decision".

Verstappen had charged up the order from eighth on the opening lap after his Red Bull's anti-stall kicked in and dropped him from the front row. "I was just pushing as hard as I could but just limited by temperatures", said the Briton, who has won six of the nine races this season and holds a 31-point lead over Bottas in the standings.

"It's incomprehensible to think they would have changed the podium after a race like that".

"As we often said, we should leave the drivers free to battle", he added.

That would give Leclerc his maiden Grand Prix victory, but in the most frustrating of circumstances.

Starting fifth, he vaulted up to third at the start and passed Hamilton in a bold move around the outside at the first corner.

The Mercedes driver had qualified second but started fourth after collecting a penalty for impeding Kimi Raikkonen in Saturday's qualifying.

"Today exposed our Achilles heel", said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

"It's been a fantastic fight on the track, but the rules are clear, at the moment", said Binotto.

Pressure on team-mate Pierre Gasly continued to mount though as he could only finish seventh, a lap behind his team-mate. The matter was only settled two weeks later at the French Grand Prix when stewards decided the new evidence Ferrari submitted did not warrant a review. But the race stewards made a decision to take no action against Verstappen's move.

  • Julie Sanders