Charles Leclerc survived a late throttle scare to win the Austrian Grand Prix for Ferrari on Sunday and move back up as Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen’s closest rival.
Red Bull’s Verstappen had to settle for second, with a comfortable 38 point lead over the Monegasque after 11 of 22 races.
Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton completed the podium for the third race in a row. “I was scared. I was really scared,” said a relieved Leclerc over the team radio after taking the chequered flag at the Red Bull Ring with Verstappen in his mirrors and one and half seconds behind. He overtook the Dutch driver three times in the race but feared the win might still slip away as he battled a throttle problem over the last few laps. “It would get stuck at 20 or 30% throttle in the low speeds, so it was very tricky. We managed to make it stick until the end and I am so happy,” said Leclerc. Leclerc’s Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz had already retired with an engine failure, his car rolling to a halt and flames erupting from the rear, with 14 laps to go while chasing a likely Ferrari one-two.
Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez, who had been second overall, also failed to finish with his car damaged in a first lap collision with Mercedes› George Russell, who ended up fourth despite a five second penalty.