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F1: Chequered Flag - Austrian GP Review

Charles Leclerc held off late pressure from Max Verstappen to win the Austrian Grand Prix and give his title credentials a boost at the Red Bull Ring.

The Ferrari was quicker than the Red Bull throughout the day and that extra pace, coupled with a superior strategy, saw Leclerc overhaul Verstappen from second on the grid.

The Monegasque racer reported problems later on in the race with his throttle pedal and Verstappen was able to close the gap following the conclusion of all the pit stops, leading to many nerves within his cockpit.

It was a mixed day for Ferrari after Carlos Sainz Jr retired late on with an engine failure - another mechanical black mark against the Scuderia this season which will concern team boss Mattia Binotto.

Lewis Hamilton finished third for Mercedes to continue his good recent form and make it a hat-trick of consecutive podiums for the seven-time world champion.

Verstappen still leads the Drivers' Championship but the gap has been cut to 38 points from Leclerc.

The Dutchman is 2/7 to win back-to-back titles while Leclerc can be backed at 3/1.

Pit stop strategy works well for Ferrari

Judging by Saturday's sprint race, it looked like Red Bull would have the edge at the high-speed Red Bull Ring, given how comfortably Verstappen took the chequered flag.

However, even though Verstappen led away from the off, the Ferrari was quicker and Leclerc was closing the gap the frontrunner had built up.

A lunge down the inside seemed inevitable and Leclerc opportunistically took advantage when Verstappen just left enough space going into turn three.

With Sainz looming in his wing mirrors, Verstappen opted to pit early while Ferrari stayed out, attempting to go with a one-stop strategy.

However, in a strategic game of cat and mouse, Red Bull's decision to pit Verstappen again later in the race saw Ferrari make the same move and Leclerc passed Verstappen on track once more but this time with less resistance.

Given Ferrari have been criticised at points this season for strategic blunders, this will have been a welcome result.

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Engine failure will concern Ferrari

Ferrari's lack of reliability could hamper them come what the end of the season as Sainz's luck ran out with just over 10 laps remaining.

Just as he was about to try and overtake Verstappen going into turn three, his car suddenly slowed down and by the time he got it to a standstill on the escape road, the power unit has gone up in flames.

It was doubly bad for Ferrari as not only did they lose points but they also missed the opportunity to take more points off Verstappen with an overtake inevitable.

Sainz was celebrating his first win in F1 last weekend at Silverstone but has been brought back down to earth with this problem.

Red Bull also suffer retirement

Verstappen will be content enough with his second-place despite starting on pole position given the comparative lack of speed his car had.

However, team mate Sergio Perez saw his race end effectively on the first lap after being tangled by George Russell going into turn three.

The Mexican was on the outside going into turn three but Russell oversteered and clipped him into a spin, dropping him to the back.

Perez tried to continue but the damage done to the side pod was too great and he subsequently retired, while Russell received a penalty for his part in the collision.

Hamilton rallied to third

Hamilton started eighth on the grid but raced well despite his car struggling for straight-line speed.

He is too far adrift to launch any sort of title challenge and it is doubtful whether he will be able to get any race wins this season without a big slice of luck, but Hamilton is driving the wheels off the Silver Arrows right now.

Third will be another welcome step in what has been a challenging 2022.

The next race will be at Paul Ricard in France in a fortnight's time and Verstappen will hope to repeat last year's success and get back to winning ways following Ferrari's two race wins.

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