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REPORT: Russell gets gift after Verstappen/Norris flashpoint

Matt Clayton
Monday, 1 July 2024

Max Verstappen and Lando Norris threatened to take one another out of their surprise fight for the lead late in the Austrian Grand Prix; when they did, the Mercedes driver was there to pick up the pieces for a very unexpected success.

George Russell and Mercedes aren’t kidding themselves; they didn’t have the outright pace to win the Austrian Grand Prix, but they put themselves in a position to should something go wrong in an increasingly fraught fight for victory between Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) and Lando Norris (McLaren). 

And when it did, Mercedes snapped a long drought at Red Bull’s home circuit, which made Toto Wolff’s smile a little broader than usual.


Until lap 51 on Sunday, it looked like Red Bull were back to their dominant early-season ways. Verstappen, from pole, had won his third Sprint race of the season on Saturday, and looked set to do the double on Sunday until a slow pit stop brought Norris, on fresher tyres for the final 20 laps, back into victory contention. 

The pair fought ferociously in the next 13 laps – punch and counter-punch, using every inch of track and plenty of run off, and incessantly complaining about one another over the radio. Then on lap 64, Verstappen and Norris touched at Turn 3, both ended up with punctures and in the pits, and Russell – who had sat in a comfortable third for much of the afternoon – was gifted a second career win, and the first for Mercedes since his first, in Brazil in late 2022.

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Verstappen was able to resume after a tyre change and a 10-second penalty for being deemed to have caused the clash to finish fifth, while Norris retired with damage. Both blamed the other for the incident afterwards – Norris said Verstappen was “reckless” and “desperate”, while Verstappen denied moving under braking. With Norris’ home race at the British Grand Prix coming up next Sunday, the news cycle won’t need any more fuel for the coming week …


Aussie watch

Wins lost, or podiums salvaged? It’s a legitimate question for Oscar Piastri, after the McLaren driver finished second in the Sprint and Grand Prix proper in Austria, but had potential victories slip through his fingers. 

Piastri swept up in the Sprint as Verstappen and Norris fought for victory on Saturday – a sign of what was to come with greater consequences on Sunday – to take second from third on the grid. Third was where he felt he should have been starting Sunday’s Grand Prix, too; a track limits penalty both irked him and dropped him to the fourth row, and he had to survive being hit by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari at the first corner to even be in a position to snare second 70 laps later after Verstappen and Norris had ensured neither of them could take the victory their pace suggested was inevitable. 

For Daniel Ricciardo – on the eve of his 35th birthday and in his 250th GP start – ninth was unexpected after RB struggled mightily in Spain just seven days earlier, and came after the Australian used all of his experience to repel Alpine’s Pierre Gasly for the final stint of the race. 

After missing Q3 on Saturday by just 0.015secs, RB put him in a position to score points with an early pit stop for hard tyres, which necessitated a final stint of hanging on and churning out mistake-free laps. It was tight, but Ricciardo made it work while finishing well ahead of teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who had his second straight anonymous weekend with 14th place.

In FIA Formula 3® action in Austria, Christian Mansell’s promising 2024 season continued its upward trajectory at the Red Bull Ring, the Australian moving into the top five in the world championship standings by finishing third and fourth in the sprint and feature races respectively. 

The ART Grand Prix driver was left kicking himself after taking his fourth podium of the year in the 21-lap sprint, slowing too early as a late-race safety car was called and losing the lead to ART Grand Prix teammate Nikola Tsolov and Hitech’s Martinius Stenshorne, who demoted the 19-year-old to third place with only one lap of green-flag running taking place after the safety car ended. 

“I just jumped a bit too early,” Mansell said. “Obviously made a very rookie error which sucks, but you can’t take it back.”

After his disappointment of Saturday, Mansell was a star of Sunday; from 11th on the grid, he stormed through the pack in the second half of the 26-lap race to finish fourth, just 2.1secs behind British driver Luke Browning (Hitech), the Williams F1 junior taking over the lead of the championship on 106 points with his second win of the year. 

With 20 points in Austria, Mansell moved up to fifth with 78 points.

Fellow Australian Tommy Smith finished 21st (sprint) and 22nd (feature) from 21st on the grid in Austria, the 22-year-old Van Amersfoort Racing driver falling to 25th in the standings ahead of next weekend’s seventh round of the season on the undercard of the British Grand Prix.


Unsung hero

Nico Hulkenberg, take a bow. The Haas driver already deserved plaudits for turning his Austrian GP weekend around from Sprint qualifying, where he was just 17th, by making Q3 for the Grand Prix proper on Saturday. 

But to finish sixth on merit, defeat Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez in a straight fight and help Haas score more points in one race (12) than it had in the previous 10 this season (seven)? As team boss Ayao Komatsu said: “I’m speechless”. 

Hulkenberg’s teammate Kevin Magnussen played his part too – the Dane was a season-best eighth – but the German was the star of the smaller teams on Sunday, and elevated Haas back above Alpine for seventh in the constructors’ standings. 


Number to know 

33: The number of races between Mercedes’ Austrian GP win and its previous victory, also by Russell at the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix. 

Austrian Grand Prix: top 10

  1. George Russell (Mercedes) 1hr 24mins 22.798secs
  2. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +1.906secs
  3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +4.533secs
  4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +23.142secs
  5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) +37.253secs (10sec post-race penalty)
  6. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) +54.088secs
  7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) +54.672secs
  8. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +60.355secs
  9. Daniel Ricciardo (RB) +61.169secs
  10. Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +61.766secs


Standings (top 5)

Drivers' championship

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 237 points
  2. Lando Norris (McLaren) 156 
  3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 150 
  4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 135 
  5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) 118


Constructors' championship

  1. Red Bull Racing (355 points)
  2. Ferrari (291)
  3. McLaren (268)
  4. Mercedes (196)
  5. Aston Martin (58)


Next race

Round 12: Great Britain, Silverstone (July 5-7)