George Russell Picks Up The Pieces In F1 Austrian GP

f1 grand prix of austria
Russell Picks Up The Pieces In F1 Austrian GPJoe Portlock - Formula 1 - Getty Images

George Russell picked up an unlikely victory for Mercedes at the Austrian Grand Prix after a battle between the top two in the championship, Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, ended in tears. Autoweek rounds up the talking points from the Red Bull Ring.

f1 grand prix of austria
Twice Norris lunged into the uphill right-hander of Turn 3 and both times Verstappen remained ahead.James Sutton - Formula 1 - Getty Images

Verstappen And Norris Come To Blows

The first 50 laps or so of the 71-lap Austrian Grand Prix had been a relatively tedious encounter, with Max Verstappen leading away from pole position, and Lando Norris slotting into second spot. Both were running a two-stop strategy and when they made their second stops on the same lap Verstappen’s lead was up to seven seconds. But a slow left-rear tire change, a mistake from Verstappen on his out lap, and an aggressive Norris suddenly propelled the McLaren driver into contention, and the pair lapped just a second apart. Twice Norris lunged into the uphill right-hander of Turn 3 and both times Verstappen remained ahead.


Norris felt Verstappen reacted and moved under braking the first time, with the McLaren skating wide onto the run-off, and on the second time it was Verstappen who took to the run-off to stay ahead. On both occasions it was six of one, half a dozen of the other. But on the third time Norris opted for the outside line under braking, Verstappen drifted across, and the pair collided. Verstappen sustained a left-rear puncture, Norris a right-rear puncture, and while Verstappen was able to pit for repairs and emerge fifth, Norris’ car sustained too much bodywork damage during his return to the pits and he was forced to retire. Stewards deemed Verstappen responsible, issuing a 10-second time penalty, but it did not influence his fifth position. It was a flash of the Verstappen of old, running rivals out of road, and pushing the boundaries beyond fair play.

Norris was unamused at the outcome.

“I expect a tough battle against Max, I know what to expect, I expect aggression and pushing the limits and that kind of thing,” Norris said. “But all three times he’s doing stuff that can easily cause an incident, and in the way it’s just a bit reckless, it seemed like a little bit desperate from his side.”

McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella was also irritated, pointing to “many episodes” in Verstappen’s past, hinting that previous indiscretions going unpunished has led to such tactics, though the reigning champion was calmer about the situation.

“It was not moving under braking because every time I moved, I was not braking already,” Verstappen said. “I think I know fairly well what to do in these kinds of scenarios and a few of those were really late divebombs, so it’s a bit of a just send them up the inside and hope that the other guy steers out of it, which is not always how you race. The move we got together was something I didn’t expect because I saw him coming, defend a little bit the inside then under braking we touch the rear tires and we both get a puncture from it, which of course is something you don’t want to happen.”

Verstappen’s greater gripe was with his own team’s execution of the race that allowed Norris to have a chance in the first place.

“Today has been awful, everything has been wrong, I’m complaining about the tires, we didn’t pit, I was stuck in traffic,” Verstappen said. “The first [stop] was really bad, the second one even more of a disaster, and then you give free lap time, six seconds over those two pit stops, then of course it’s a race again and that’s why we put ourselves in that position.”

Verstappen was also bemused at why the performance of the RB20 worsened as the race went on.

“It was just very bad, I have no explanation why suddenly the car just transformed from an OK balance in the first stint to just undriveable behavior afterwards,” he said.

Norris’ exit meant fifth-placed Verstappen was still able to extend his lead in the championship to 81 points.

f1 grand prix of austria
George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team celebrates his win in parc feme during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on June 30, 2024 in Spielberg, Austria.Vince Mignott/MB Media - Getty Images

George Russell Picks Up The Pieces

After qualifying in third place on Saturday George Russell quipped that he would sit back and hope to pick up the pieces, noting that Verstappen and Norris had been close during the preceding Sprint race.

Russell’s Christmases all came at once as he did in fact pick up the pieces when Verstappen and Norris came to blows, taking the lead after running in a solid third place through most of the race.

It marked a first victory for Russell and Mercedes since the penultimate round of 2022 in São Paulo, and only the second of Russell’s career, overcoming a difficult 2023, and an even worse start to the 2024 campaign.

“It’s a bit strange to win a race like this but it’s racing, I feel like we’ve missed out on one or two possibilities – Montreal was once, Singapore last year – and today it went for us, so it’s how the cookie crumbles,” Russell said.

Mercedes started this year firmly fourth-best, collecting the lower points-paying positions, after conceding that it had not struck the right balance with the design of its W15. But a raft of upgrades has propelled the Silver Arrows into contention behind Verstappen and Norris lately, meaning Russell was in the prime spot to benefit.

“The team have done an amazing job to get us closer to the fight at the front,” Russell said. “We have made so many strides since the start of the season. The last few races have been great and hopefully there is more to come. It's no secret that Max and Lando are a little bit ahead of us at present but we're now consistently putting ourselves in that third position.”

The most dramatic moment of Russell’s race came shortly after the contact, when an enthusiastic team boss Toto Wolff got on the radio and energetically informed Russell that he could win the race.

“Suddenly I had Toto screaming in my ear 'you can win this!' and I almost crashed when he screamed into my ears it was that loud,” Russell said. “It just goes to show the passion we all share. It has been a tough couple of years for us, feels great to be back on the top step.”

Russell’s Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton was fourth, hampered by picking up floor damage and a time penalty for cutting the pit entry line.

f1 grand prix of austria
Oscar Piastri finished fourth Sunday. James Sutton - Formula 1 - Getty Images

Piastri Fired Up By Qualifying Setback

Oscar Piastri initially qualified third but his lap time was deleted for a very marginal track limits infringement at turn 6, and he was demoted to seventh. Piastri put in a stirring recovery drive, rising up to fourth, which became second after the leaders’ collided. It equaled his best result in Formula 1, though he conceded to feeling mixed emotions at the outcome.

“We've made changes on the track here to get rid of the track limits issue,” Piastri said. “But this one corner [turn 6], for some reason, we moved the white line but not enough. After seeing the evidence on what I got my lap deleted for coming from a chopper cam that was only on me in pretty questionable resolution, that stung quite a lot. So, I had a bit of fire in me going into the race. So, I think some of my overtakes probably came from a bit further back than maybe they would have otherwise.”

f1 grand prix of austria
On the opening lap, Leclerc was squeezed between Oscar Piastri and Sergio Perez.Guenther Iby - Getty Images

Leclerc Thwarted By Rough First Lap

Since his magical masterclass in Monaco it has been a rough ride for Charles Leclerc, with just 12 points across the three events that followed the win. A dismal Ferrari performance in Canada, truncated by an engine failure, came before a low-key fifth place in Spain, and in Austria his hopes were wrecked on the opening lap. Leclerc, starting from seventh, was squeezed between Oscar Piastri and Sergio Perez, and while the contact was only minor it was sufficient enough to damage the front wing of the Ferrari. Leclerc was forced to pit, putting him out of sync with the remainder of the field, and in a race with no Safety Car or virtual Safety Car he was able to classify only 11th.

“We were hoping for a safety car, but it didn’t come, and I lost time behind Lando when I had fresh tires and could have pushed more,” Leclerc said. “The end result was that we couldn’t even score a point.”

Carlos Sainz at least salvaged a podium for Ferrari after being a beneficiary of the Verstappen/Norris clash.


2024 FIA Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix

  1. George Russell Mercedes

  2. Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 1.906 +seconds

  3. Carlos Sainz Ferrari 4.533 +seconds

  4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 23.142 +seconds

  5. Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 37.253 +seconds

  6. Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 54.088 +seconds

  7. Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 54.672 +seconds

  8. Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1'00.355 +seconds

  9. Daniel Ricciardo RB/Honda RBPT 1'01.169 +seconds

  10. Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1'01.766 +seconds

  11. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1'07.056 +seconds

  12. Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1'08.325 +seconds

  13. Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes + 1 lap

  14. Yuki Tsunoda RB/Honda RBPT + 1 lap

  15. Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes + 1 lap

  16. Valtteri Bottas Sauber/Ferrari + 1 lap

  17. Zhou Guanyu Sauber/Ferrari + 1 lap

  18. Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes + 1 lap

  19. Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes + 2 laps

  20. Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 64 - Retirement