F1: Leclerc on the podium in Austria despite post-race controversy

leclerc podium austria

Charles Leclerc secured Ferrari’s best result of the 2023 so far on Sunday and the manufacturer’s 800th podium finish in F1 with a second place finish on Red Bull’s home track in Austria.  

While the Monegasque driver was unable to beat the seemingly unstoppable force that is Max Verstappen, Leclerc just was over five seconds behind the eventual race leader, who cemented Red Bull’s 10th consecutive win. The manufacturer is now just one race win behind the all-time record of 11, which was set by McLaren in 1988.  

Sunday marked Leclerc’s second podium finish of the 2023 season and Ferrari’s 800th in its F1 history. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre

Third place went to fellow Red Bull driver Sergio Perez.

The results further down, however, were controversial. Leclerc’s team mate, Carlos Sainz, saw his fourth-place finish revised down to sixth after a series of post-race time penalties were handed to eight drivers after some 1,200 violations of track limits were flagged.

Consequently, Lando Norris rose to fourth, Fernando Alonso to fifth and George Russell to seventh from eighth; a result that saw him swap places with team mate Lewis Hamilton.  

Communication blamed again for Sprint impediment  

The race weekend in Austria also saw the second Sprint race in the 2023 F1 calendar.  

There is a new format to the Sprint this year, with Saturday being entirely dedicated to the event. The day begins with a “shootout” qualifying round in which all 20 drivers are given 12 minutes to lay down the fastest time possible. The slowest five are then dropped out of the race. A further 10 minutes of racing then takes place before the next bottom five are dumped out of the running. The quickest 10 drivers then proceed to the final third round of qualifying and later the race. 

It was in the first round of qualifying for the Sprint race that Leclerc incurred a three-point grid penalty for blocking McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri.  

The event occurred as Leclerc slowed down to head into the pits, with Piastri last reported to have been six seconds behind him. The slow-moving Ferrari turned out to be right in the path of the Australian’s car and the loss of momentum cost the driver a half-second in time as well as his spot in the race. Piastri ultimately came in 17th, while Leclerc squeaked through in 15th.  

Leclerc said it was lack of information that caused the problem, and that he could have reacted if he had been warned. This was echoed by officials, who argued that Ferrari “could have done better” to communicate how fast Piastri was approaching. 

“Accordingly, we determine that although this was not entirely the fault of the driver, and that the team’s lack of communication was the major contributing factor, a grid position penalty must be imposed as Car 81 was ‘unnecessarily impeded’, because there is no doubt that the situation could have been avoided,” read a statement from race stewards.  

Sainz came in third in the Sprint race, securing himself six points. Leclerc failed to make it to the final round, coming in 12th overall.

While Sainz earned a podium during Saturday’s Sprint race, he spent Sunday defending Leclerc’s position – and was thanked for it by his team mate. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre

Silverstone in Leclerc’s sights  

25-year-old Leclerc is already looking to the next round in Silverstone at the weekend, saying, “It’s good to be back on the podium. We maximised what we have and the upgrades we introduced this weekend worked well. The team has done an excellent job and we will keep pushing in this direction. I also want to thank Carlos as he made my life a bit easier by putting up a great defense against Checo. Now we go to Silverstone which, with Spielberg, is among my favourite circuits. Hopefully we can take advantage of the new upgrades we have on the car again and offer a bit more of a challenge to Red Bull in the next round.” 


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Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre