Verstappen, Leclerc clash over controversial pass

Race winner Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium with Toyoharu Tanabe (JPN) Honda Racing F1 Technical Director.
© XPB 

Max Verstappen might have stood on the top step of the podium in Spielberg immediately after the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, but the Red Bull driver's victory remains in doubt.

The race stewards are reviewing the way in which Verstappen forced his way past long-time leader Charles Leclerc in turn 3 on lap 69, where he appeared to force the Ferrari off track in the process.

"It’s hard racing, otherwise we have to stay at home," Verstappen said, defending the way in which he had achieved a back-to-back victory at the Red Bull Ring.

“If those things are not allowed in racing, then what’s the point of being in Formula 1?” he added.

Red Bull principal Christian Horner believed that Verstappen had given the Ferrari enough room during the corner.

“Leclerc's got the opportunity. He's fully alongside, he's fully up the inside," Horner argued. And at that point, [Max] just can't get out the way. Leclerc has to concede the corner at some point.

“It's clean, he's right there. Obviously he comes in aggressively, but what are you supposed to do?

“This is hard racing between two guys of the future. And, if they take this victory away from Max here, in my view it would be stealing from Formula 1.

“This is what we need - drivers going wheel-to-wheel and fighting each other," he added. "This is just what Formula 1 needs."

But Leclerc was clearly fuming, even though he chose his words carefully in the immediate post-race interviews with Martin Brundle.

The podium (L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari, second; Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing, race winner; Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1, third.

“I’ll let the stewards decide," he said. "It was pretty clear in the car, I don’t know how it looked from the outside.

"Overall the race was good, but at the end I had a bit more degradation than I thought so Max came back.

“I was on the outside just like the lap before,” he continued.

“The lap before was completely fine: he left the space, a car width on the exit of the corner. But he didn’t on the other lap.

“I had to go wide and then I didn’t have any chance to come back. It’s a shame," he added. “We’ll see what the decision is.”

Leclerc's opinion was backed by Ferrari team manager Mattia Binotto.

"It's been a fantastic fight on track, but the rules are clear for the moment," he told Sky Sports F1 after the race.

"The regulation is causing a collision, forcing a car off track. I think both of the situations were there. We trust the work of the stewards.”

However Leclerc's team mate Sebastian Vettel's view suggested that he could see both sides of the argument and wasn't keen to see the stewards weigh in.

"I haven't seen what happened. If it wasn't fair, it wasn't fair," he told the media. "But I'm not a fan of passing on these decisions to people somewhere sat in a chair.

"I think we are the best to judge, in the car, and it's racing, you know? We're not fighting for the kindergarten's cup," he said. "I think, we are all adults. Some older, some younger. But they should leave us alone."

A decision from the official FIA race stewards is expected at about 7pm local time.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90 leads at the start of the race.

If the victory stands, it will mark an impressive fight back for Verstappen who dropped five places at the start when the anti-stall device on the RB15 kicked in.

“After that start I thought the race was over, but we just kept pushing hard,” Verstappen admitted. “The pace was actually not too bad, got a big flatspot on my first tyre.

"After the pitstop, we were flying, you could see on the straight we had good pace as well [and] we could make a pass."

"Of course extremely happy for the whole team," he continued. "And also for Honda - we just started working together this year, to win here is incredible."

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