F1 Austrian GP race winner Charles Leclerc has admitted he needed the win in front of the Max Verstappen-heavy crowd at the Red Bull Ring.
Leclerc led into the closing stages of Sunday’s race when his teammate Carlos Sainz experienced a fiery power unit failure into Turn 4 and dropped out of the running up at the front. Red Bull’s hopes were solely on crowd favourite Verstappen to overcome the Monegasque following the Virtual Safety Car period to recover the burned-out Ferrari.
To add further tension to the Italian manufacturer’s afternoon, Leclerc’s throttle pedal began to stick open in corners, seriously threatening his chances of wrapping up a somewhat statement of a victory. His throttle was described by his race engineer as “sometimes not coming back to zero” when Leclerc asked what the issue was.
Verstappen only managed to catch the Ferrari by a few tenths of a second up until the chequered flag, but had the race been in its earlier stages, the problem would undoubtedly have cost Leclerc a chunk of time.
“I definitely needed it,” Leclerc said when asked how much his first win since the third round in Australia was needed for his championship campaign. “I mean, of course whenever I get to a new race since five races I have a smile on my face and I kept being optimistic, but obviously hard race after hard race, it just felt like everything was against me. So, finally we had a breakthrough good race today and it really feels good to have a win again.”
The overall pace of the F1-75 appeared to be stronger than in Saturday’s Sprint event for both drivers, with the Grand Prix winner admitting his surprise at the clear change overnight. Their main rival, Verstappen, dominated the Sprint on what has never historically been a track suited too well to the Red Bull package – ironic considering the brand’s ownership of the venue.
Leclerc attributed some of his improvements to his own driving technique, having worked on improving certain elements of his weaknesses that were found in the analysis of the race conditions from Saturday afternoon’s Sprint. When asked whether he could explain why there was this apparent disparity in car performance between Saturday and Sunday though, Leclerc replied: “Not completely.
“We’ve been working quite a lot on my driving yesterday night and I knew that I had a bit more pace on the medium,” he said. “But yeah, it was a surprise to do that much of a step forward. So we will have to analyse well to understand that.
“I don’t think it makes sense to go so much into the details but yeah, just the driving. I think there was two, three corners where I was struggling yesterday, which was especially Turns 1, 3 and 10, and I’ve been working on these three overnight and today was much better,” summed up Leclerc.
All of this however was almost so cruelly undone by an errant throttle issue, coincidentally directly in the aftermath of Sainz’s dramatic retirement from the race and huge subsequent points loss. Leclerc remarkably managed the problem with relative ease, without any sign of panic or succumbing to pressure, and gave Ferrari their second consecutive win.
“Not only a little bit stressful, very stressful!” Leclerc surmised after the interviewer’s summary of the late race drama. “The throttle was really inconsistent and in the middle of the corner it would get stuck to whatever percentage, so in Turn 3 it was very, very tricky because that’s where you don’t want any more speed in mid-corner.
“It was quite tricky to manage not so much in the high speed but mostly in the slow speed but at the end we managed to get the car to the end, which is great… While just quite a bit of lift and coast, to understand how much throttle would I have going into a corner.
“Not much more than that, to be honest, than just playing with the throttle on and off to try and… whenever it felt too bad, to have a bit less throttle in the corner, so yeah, it wasn’t easy, but it’s fine,” summed up Leclerc.
Here’s Charles Leclerc overtaking Max Verstappen: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2022-austrian-grand-prix-all-three-leclerc-overtakes-on-verstappen-at-the-red-bull-ring.1737976165044244408.html
Here’s what happened to Charles Leclerc at the end: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2022-austrian-grand-prix-charles-leclerc-survives-late-reliability-scare-to-win-at-the-red-bull-ring.1737976615121362290.html