Leclerc wins for first time in seven races, but Verstappen happy with second place after an engine fire ensured Carlos Sainz could not complete a likely Ferrari one-two; F1 returns in two weeks in France with all sessions live on Sky Sports F1 from Friday July 22
Last Updated: 10/07/22 6:36pm
Charles Leclerc said it felt “incredible” to end a seven-race winless streak, as he overtook Max Verstappen three times and overcame a late throttle issue at the Austrian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver had not tasted victory since the Australian Grand Prix in early April, but moved back to second in the drivers’ standings and closed the gap to Verstappen to 38 points at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday.
Despite starting second, Leclerc had a clear pace advantage and overtook Verstappen on lap 12 before breezing past him on two subsequent occasions following pit stops, a dominant performance which he said the team “needed” after a difficult few weeks.
- Austrian Grand Prix: As it happened
- 2022 F1 season schedule: France next up
- Drivers’ standings: Verstappen out in front
He said: “It was a really good race. The pace was there. At the beginning, we had some good fights with Max and the end was incredibly difficult.
“I definitely needed that one. The last five races have been incredibly difficult for myself and for the team.
“To finally show that we have the pace in the car and we can do it is incredible. We need to push until the end.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was forced into retirement with an engine failure towards the end of the race and Leclerc also struggled with a malfunctioning throttle pedal in the closing stages.
And the Monaco driver conceded that he was lucky to make it to the chequered flag without being threatened by Verstappen.
“It would get stuck at 20 or 30 per cent throttle in the low speeds, so it was very tricky,” Leclerc said. “We managed to make it stick until the end and I am so happy.
“Weirdly [the throttle issue] was more or less the same time [as Sainz’s retirement], so I had it in my mind. I knew it was not a problem with the engine because it was the pedal that was feeling weird.
“Luckily it went until the end of the race.”
Verstappen: Better result than expected
Verstappen, who had briefly extended his world championship lead by winning the Sprint race on Saturday, said he was happy to take second place in the full race in Austria.
Sainz looked certain to claim that position before being forced to retire with 13 laps to go and Verstappen, who struggled to manage his tyres as successfully as Leclerc, conceded it had been an “off day” for Red Bull.
“It was better than expected,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“If you look at the whole race, we were lacking pace. There was a lot of deg and I don’t really understand why it was that bad.
“It looked like Carlos was also going to overtake me, but unfortunately he encountered engine trouble. At the end, to only lose five points over a weekend is not too bad on a bad day.
“It’s been a bit more tricky than I expected it to be today, but sometimes these things can happen.
“There was no grip and I could not manage my tyres like I wanted to because they were degrading a lot.
“It seems like we had a bit of an off-day and they had a very strong day.”
When asked if the title race could go down to the wire, he said: “If you look at today, it looks not that great for us, but things can turn really quickly so it’s a bit difficult to tell.”
F1 2022 heads to France in two weeks. Join Sky Sports F1 across the weekend of July 22-24 with all sessions live.