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Verstappen retains Austria win after stewards’ investigation

Max Verstappen in celebratory mood, but stewards investigate © APA/AFP / GEORG HOCHMUTH

SPIELBERG, Austria, Jun 30Max Verstappen retained his victory for Red Bull in a thrilling Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday following a stewards’ hearing.

The 21-year-old Dutchman won the race after forcing his way past Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari in a wheel-bashing passing move two laps from the end of a race that was a shot in the arm for Formula One after the soporific French GP.

The incident was swiftly put under official investigation by the race stewards, who confirmed the result nearly three hours after the race ended.

In a statement, the FIA said: “We did not consider that either driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the incident. We consider that this is a racing incident.”

The outcome meant more disappointment for Ferrari after they were on the wrong side of a stewards’ decision in Canada, where Sebastian Vettel was deprived of victory after he had won the race. That race was handed to Mercedes’ defending five-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who had finished second.

Leclerc has twice suffered disappointment and frustration when seemingly set for victory, having missed out in Bahrain where he was foiled by a late engine problems.

His barnstorming victory in Austria came after a thrilling charge following a terrible start that saw him drop to seventh on the opening lap, after starting alongside pole sitter Leclerc on the front row of the grid. The two drivers made up the youngest front row in F1 history.

It was the 21-year-old Dutchman’s sixth career win and ended Mercedes record run of eight straight wins this season and ten overall. It also delighted a huge orange-clad army of Dutch supporters.

– ‘The right result’ –

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Leclerc finished second for Ferrari ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Vettel and Hamilton.

Hamilton now has 197 points in the drivers’ standings, 31 ahead of Bottas, with Verstappen third on 126.

“It’s the right result, the right thing for Max, for Formula One and for Honda,” said Red Bull team chief Christian Horner.

“It’s been a very stressful last few hours,” said Verstappen. “But it is the right result and the right result for F1.”

Before the stewards delivered their verdict, Verstappen said the incident was merely “hard racing” and that if he were penalised there would be “no point in F1 — and we should all go and stay at home.”

Horner said the sort of wheel-to-wheel racing that sparked the investigation was essential for the future of Formula One.

“This is what we need – drivers going wheel-to-wheel and fighting each other,” he said.

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