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Mercedes' Russell wins tense Austrian F1 Grand Prix

June 30, 2024 22:48 IST
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IMAGE: Mercedes' George Russell celebrates with the trophy on the podium after winning the Austrian Grand Prix. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

Mercedes' George Russell celebrated a surprise Austrian Grand Prix win on Sunday after Red Bull's triple world champion Max Verstappen and McLaren's Lando Norris collided late in the race while fighting for the lead.

Oscar Piastri finished second for McLaren, 1.906 seconds behind, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz taking third at Spielberg's scenic Red Bull Ring.

The gifted victory was a first for once-dominant Mercedes since November 2022, when Russell also triumphed in Brazil 33 races ago, and only the second of the Briton's Formula One career.

"It's not over until it's over," said a jubilant Russell after a race that saved its excitement for the last 20 laps, when the simmering battle between Verstappen and Norris suddenly boiled over.

"The team have done an amazing job to put us in this fight. You've got to be there at the end to pick up the pieces and that's where we were," added Russell. "I knew it (the collision) was a possibility. You are always dreaming."

Verstappen, who finished fifth, still extended his championship lead to 81 points over Norris. Russell had started third, with Verstappen on pole and Norris alongside the Red Bull on the front row, but the win was handed to the Mercedes driver after 64 of the 71 laps.

IMAGE: Mercedes' George Russell celebrates on the podium after winning the Austrian Grand Prix along with second placed McLaren's Oscar Piastri and third placed Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

Verstappen was more than seven seconds clear of Norris when a slow 6.5 seconds final pitstop on lap 52 allowed Norris, who stopped at the same time in 2.9, to come right back at his rival. The ensuing duel, with Norris on new medium tyres to Verstappen's used ones, saw the Briton repeatedly challenging for the lead.

Norris passed Verstappen on lap 59 but ran wide and collected a five second penalty for exceeding track limits after earlier warnings.

After more thwarted attempts, with Norris complaining that Verstappen was moving illegally while braking and the Red Bull driver accusing the Briton of 'dive-bombing' him, the pair made contact at Turn Three.

Both had punctures, Norris to the rear-left and Verstappen on his front-right.

The McLaren limped back to the pits, tyre flailing, to retire while Verstappen held on to fifth despite a 10 second penalty for causing the collision.

IMAGE: Mercedes' George Russell hugs team principal Toto Wolff and celebrates after winning the Austrian Grand Prix. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

While Russell took over at the front, Piastri -- demoted from third to seventh in Saturday's qualifying -- swept past Sainz at turn six on lap 65 before a virtual safety car was deployed due to debris on the track.

That created some more nervous tension but in the end Russell's win was safe. "I know it’s only my fourth podium in F1 but so close to a win, it hurts a little bit," said Piastri.

Mercedes' seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton was fourth, despite a five second penalty for crossing the white line at the pit lane entry.

After the most dominant season in F1 history last year, with Red Bull winning 21 of 22 races, four different teams have now won in 2024. Verstappen has won seven of the 11 but Ferrari and McLaren have also celebrated success with Silverstone next week likely to be another close battle.

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