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Russell wins Austrian GP after Verstappen and Norris clash

George Russell won a dramatic Austrian Grand Prix after Max Verstappen and Lando Norris took each other out of the race in a fraught battle for the lead.

Verstappen led the race comfortably from pole position until his final pit stop on lap 52. Norris followed him into the lane, having shadowed the Dutchman throughout the race at a distance of around 10s, but a slow 6.5s stop for Red Bull Racing slashed that down to just 2.9s.

Verstappen was lumbered with three-lap-old medium tires, while Norris benefitted from new rubber. Immediately the Englishman began taking bites into the lead, and just two laps later he was within DRS range and prodding the leader’s defenses.

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“Something’s wrong with the car, man,” Verstappen complained over radio after covering a move in the big braking zone at Turn 3. “No grip.”

Norris was harrying the leader hard — too hard, in fact, for the stewards, who showed him the black and white flag on lap 58 for flouting track limits three times.

The triple indiscretion would bite him on the following tour, when an overly ambitious lunge on the brakes down Verstappen’s inside into Turn 3 sent him off the circuit. He reluctantly ceded the position to his rival on the run down to Turn 4, but the stewards would eventually hand him a 5s penalty.

It added only greater impetus to Norris’s parries, however, with the battle taking on a new and more frantic energy.

On lap 61, he took a tighter line into Turn 3. It forced Verstappen to cover the inside line into Turn 4, prompting complaints from the McLaren driver that the Dutchman was moving under braking. On lap 63, Norris was late on the brakes into Turn 3 to block pass Verstappen, but the Dutchman took to the run-off zone to keep the lead.

“He has to give the position back; I was ahead at the apex,” Norris complained.

“He forced me off again,” Verstappen countered. “He’s just dive-bombing. That’s not how you overtake.”

As if by response, Norris changed up his tactics into Turn 3 on lap 64, dummying the Dutchman to give himself a shot on the racing line. Verstappen responded late, squeezing him to the edge of the circuit, causing minor but devastating contact.

 

Norris picked up a rear-right puncture. Verstappen’s rear-left tire failed. Both were forced to limp back to pit lane, their victory aspirations finished. The McLaren driver retired in his pit box, the damage to the rear of his car from his disintegrating tire too severe to continue.

Verstappen was sent back onto the track with a set of soft tires to finish fifth. He was slapped with a 10s penalty for causing the collision, but it had no material effect on his finishing position.

“That’s just ridiculous,” he radioed on his cool-down lap. “You can just send it left and right. What do you want me to do?”

Heartbreak for the two rivals was an opportunity for Russell, who cruised through the carnage to inherit the lead with eight laps to go. He was fortunate to be there, having had to fend off both Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton in a busy opening few laps, but the Briton was untroubled converting it to his second grand prix victory.

“Incredible,” he reflected. “I think it was a tough fight out there at the beginning of the race just to hold onto that P3. The team have done an amazing job to get us in this fight. You’ve got to be there in the end to pick up the pieces, and that’s where we were.”

Oscar Piastri was a fast-finishing second, up from seventh on the grid after having his fastest lap of Q3 deleted for a marginal track limits violation.

That close call turned his race into a question of what could have been, having spent the grand prix picking through Hamilton and then Sainz to suddenly find himself second and just 1.9s behind the victorious Russell.

“That’s a lot of what ifs and maybes, obviously starting from yesterday,” he said. “I know that it’s only my fourth podium in F1, but so close to a win — it hurts a little bit.

“Happy with another podium, but when it’s that close, you can’t help but hurt a little bit.”

Sainz claimed third, succumbing to Piastri with six laps to go after seeing off Hamilton earlier in the race, to collect Ferrari’s first podium since the Monaco Grand Prix in May.

“I think it’s a good result,” he said. “I think we can be quite happy, quite proud of that.

“To come away with 15 points and P3 is quite a good result.”

Hamilton finished fourth ahead of the penalized Verstappen.

Nico Hulkenberg overcame a race-long duel with teammate Kevin Magnussen to finish a highly lucrative sixth for Haas. He had to hold off Sergio Perez to get there, the Mexican finishing two places behind his crashed-out teammate.

Magnussen’s straight-line speed kept him ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who scored two precious points for RB as he battles to save his F1 career, while Pierre Gasly beat teammate Esteban Ocon in a bitter battle to 10th.

Charles Leclerc lost his front wing pincered between Piastri and Perez on the first lap and could recover to only 11th, falling 5.2s short of points.

Ocon finished 12th ahead of Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu, Fernando Alonso and Logan Sargeant.

Story originally appeared on Racer