Russell wins Austrian GP after late Norris-Verstappen collision

Max Verstappen

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George Russell won the Austrian Grand Prix after a collision between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris while they were fighting for the lead.

Verstappen was given a 10-second penalty for causing a collision with Norris after he moved over on the McLaren driver while Norris was trying to pass. The Briton was forced into retirement.

It was a controversial climax to a battle over several laps as each complained about the other’s driving.

Russell’s win was Mercedes’ first since the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix. He was under pressure from McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in the final laps but was able to maintain his winning advantage.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took the final podium position ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, despite a five-second penalty for Hamilton for crossing the white line on pit entry for his first stop.

Verstappen crossed the line in fifth place, and held it despite his penalty because Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas was 23.7 seconds behind.

What happened between Norris and Verstappen?

Verstappen had appeared to be cruising to victory with a seven-second lead over Norris before his final pit stop, even though the McLaren had been closing in on the Red Bull and the world champion complaining his tyres were losing grip in the final laps of that stint.

But a slow stop for Verstappen as both pitted together for their final stops, and the choice by Red Bull to fit a set of medium tyres which had three laps of use on them while Norris had a new set set up a grandstand finish.

Verstappen and Norris rejoined the track with the McLaren just 1.7secs behind and the Briton was on his tail within two laps.

They fought hard for several laps. Norris complained that Verstappen made an illegal move under braking when he attacked at Turn Three on lap 55, with 15 to go.

Norris then passed the Red Bull into Turn Three on lap 59, only to run off the track on the exit, which earned him a five-second penalty for abusing track limits because he had already been given a black-and-white flag for the same offence.

After another close run through Turns Three and Four Norris then came on the radio to say Verstappen was repeatedly moving under braking and responding to his attacks in ways that are now allowed.

The critical moment came on lap 62. Norris attacked on the outside and Verstappen moved back towards him as they approached the corner.

The two cars touched, and both suffered punctures – Verstappen on the left rear and Norris on the right rear and that was the end of their chances of victory.

Verstappen managed to get around to the pits without too much damaged as his tyre stayed intact, but Norris’ tyre flailed on the rim and tore his rear body work apart and McLaren were forced to retire the car.

Verstappen scoffed at the 10-second penalty he was given for the incident but former F1 driver Jack Aitken, commentating for 5 live, said: “It’s very clear to me that Verstappen overstepped the mark. He was pushing the limits and it’s very clear from the rules by the book he was reacting too late.

“It’s a very difficult track to stay clean on but you still have to leave room for your competitors, leave them space if they come up the inside, and he wasn’t doing that today.

“He was lucky not to get a penalty before and the penalty for the incident with Norris was deserved.”

Finishing fifth means Verstappen still extends his championship lead, which is now 81 points ahead of Norris heading into next weekend’s British Grand Prix.

End of a long drought for Mercedes

Until the incident between Norris and Verstappen, Russell had driven a lonely race in third place.

He said he had been watching the battle develop on the TV screens around the track and knew that Norris would fight hard for the win after missing out in Canada and Spain.

A late virtual safety car led to some nervous moments at Mercedes, with Piastri just two seconds behind and with a tyre advantage, but Russell held on.

It was reward for strong progress from Mercedes in recent races after a series of upgrades to the car have brought them team much closer to the battle between Verstappen and McLaren at the front.

Russell said: “You’ve got to be in at the end to pick up the pieces and that’s what we were.

“They were going for it and I couldn’t believe how close we were to Lando and Max. You’re always dreaming but so proud to be back on the top step. We have made so many strides since the start of the season. The last few races have been incredible, more to come.”

Piastri was left to rue a controversial penalty he had been awarded for exceeding track limits in qualifying.

McLaren were very upset about the penalty and appealed against it, only for the appeal to be thrown out.

It dropped him from third on the grid to seventh, and without it he would have been in the fight at the front from the start, with all that might imply.

Sainz, like Russell, had a lonely race in fourth after an early fight with Hamilton was settled by the Mercedes driver’s penalty.

And behind Hulkenberg and Perez, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen took eighth from RB’s Daniel Ricciardo and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was 5.2secs from fighting back into the points after his car was damaged when he was sandwiched between Perez and Piastri at the first corner, requiring a stop at the end of the first lap to replace a damaged front wing.

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