Max Verstappen wins thrilling Austrian Grand Prix to end Mercedes’ unbeaten streak

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix in Spielberg. (AFP)
Updated 30 June 2019

Max Verstappen wins thrilling Austrian Grand Prix to end Mercedes’ unbeaten streak

  • Stewards were investigating Verstappen’s move to pass Leclerc as both cars touched
  • The Dutchman recovered from a poor start to work his way up to the front of the pack

SPIELBERG, Austria: Max Verstappen won the Austrian Grand Prix for a second straight year on Sunday as Red Bull ended Mercedes’ unbeaten streak this season.

The Dutchman recovered from a poor start to work his way up to the front of the pack from eighth place, and overtook leader Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari with just two laps to go.

However, stewards were investigating Verstappen’s move to pass Leclerc as both cars touched.

Starting from pole position for the second time in his career, Leclerc almost led the race from start to finish but ended up just missing his first career win.

Leclerc and Verstappen started the race 1-2 and, at an average age of 21 years, 265 days, they made for the youngest front row ever in a F1 race.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas completed the podium, ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who started fourth and lost time to replace the front wing of his Mercedes after 31 laps and finished fifth.

Hamilton posted the second-fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying but was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen. He started fourth as fifth-ranked Kevin Magnussen also lost five places for changing the gearbox in his Haas.

Verstappen seemed to lose hope of a repeat of last year’s triumph when his Red Bull barely moved as the lights at the start switched to green. He immediately lost six places and complained over the team radio about “clipping,” hinting at a lack of power likely due to a hydraulic issue.

Verstappen needed until the 10th lap to get back to fifth, after both Mercedes cars and the Ferraris.

Battling for victory with Leclerc at the end, Verstappen had the advantage of fresher and thus quicker tires.

In what was widely regarded as a risky strategy, Ferrari started on the soft tires while Red Bull and Mercedes opted for the medium compound.

While the tires helped Leclerc hold on to his lead at the start, they were affected more by the heat than the medium ones on the Red Bull cars.

While Leclerc switched to the hard tires in lap 22, Verstappen pitted 11 laps later and the newer tires gave him an edge in the final laps.

With track temperatures reaching 51 degrees Celsius (123 F), tire management was always going to be a key factor in the race.

At 4.3 kilometers (2.7 miles), the Spielberg track is among the shortest in Formula One. With inclines of up to 12 percent, it includes just 10 turns and four long straights, favoring cars like Ferrari with good traction and straight-line speed.

Hamilton (six) and Bottas (two) had combined to win all eight previous races this season. Dating back to October last year, when Verstappen won the Mexican GP, Mercedes’ winning streak consisted of 10 races, leaving the team one short of the all-time best mark set by McLaren more than three decades ago.

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won the first 11 races of 1988, the season that Senna won the first of his three F1 titles. Their winning streak was ended by Ferrari’s Gerhard Berger.

Mercedes failed to win an 11th straight race twice before, in 2015 and 2016.


Fernando Alonso ramps up Dakar Rally preparations with podium finish at AlUla-Neom cross-country rally

Updated 14 November 2019

Fernando Alonso ramps up Dakar Rally preparations with podium finish at AlUla-Neom cross-country rally

  • The result comes at perfect timing less than two months before two-time Formula 1 world champion tackles Dakar
  • Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi took first place

JEDDAH: Fernando Alonso continued his preparations for his Dakar Rally debut in Saudi Arabia by taking third place in AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally and secure his inaugural rally podium finish in the process this week.
The result comes at perfect timing less than two months before two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso takes the wheel for Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, the Middle East’s first-ever edition of Dakar Rally, which is hosted by the kingdom from 5 to 17 January.
“It was an ideal preparation for Dakar as we discovered new terrain that we will come across again at Dakar,” Alonso said.
“It is a great feeling to finish third and get the first rally podium in my life. The fact that it happened here in Saudi Arabia at this time gives us a lot of confidence going into Dakar,” Alonso added.
Starting in AlUla and extending over 765km before the finale in Neom, AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally was contested across four stages over five days, and the former Formula 1 champion said it was an “excellent training” for him on a similar terrain and in close weather conditions to what would be expected at Dakar.
Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi took first place at Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally, while compatriot Yasir Seaidan finished second, with Alonso rounding off the podium places.
Alonso, who made his desert rally debut in Morocco last month, was co-driven by five-time Dakar bike winner Marc Coma, and the Spanish duo will be together again at Dakar Saudi Arabia as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team.
The 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 champion got his campaign at Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally underway to a good start on Day 1 before taking the pace up a notch on the second and third days to set his team up for a podium finish on the last day. “We continue with our plan and preparations, step by step and adapting as fast as we can,” Alonso said of his plans ahead of Dakar.
Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will consist of 12 stages, allowing pilots coming from across six continents to discover Saudi Arabia’s rich past, live its modernized present, and meet its future as they race through the Kingdom.
The pilots will kick off Rally Dakar from Jeddah, the bride of the Red Sea, through to Neom, a fully sustainable city of the future, then pass by the historical sites of Riyadh to face the Empty Quarter, a huge desert of unbroken sand, to end in Qiddiya, a future entertainment, sports and cultural destination.
A criminal investigation was been launched after an armed man intercepted a vehicle taking part in the rally.