RACE DEBRIEF

    The 2020 Formula 1 season is now incredibly close, so to get you raring to go for first race of the season at the Red Bull Ring next week, we’ll be streaming the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix in full, on F1.com, Facebook and YouTube this Saturday, June 27 at 1400 UTC (1500 BST). Here’s why you won't want to miss it...

    When the F1 circus rolled into town for the Austrian GP last year, Mercedes had, incredibly, won all eight races of the season so far. The form book may have said the Silver Arrows were destined for a ninth victory, but Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc had other ideas...

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    How they stood before the race

    Of Mercedes’ eight wins in the first eight races of 2019, Lewis Hamilton had taken a staggering six of them. However, Austria was not their happiest hunting ground: in the 2018 race, they had suffered a first double-retirement, since the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

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    The sea of orange-clad fans wanted nothing more than to see a run of Mercedes victories stopped

    As Mercedes stumbled, Max Verstappen had taken victory for Red Bull at their home Grand Prix for the first time in 2018, while Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel completed the podium for Ferrari that year.

    Coming into the 2019 race, the drivers' championship standings saw Hamilton way in front on 187 points to team mate Valtteri Bottas’s 151, while Vettel was in third on 111 and Verstappen was on exactly 100 back in fourth. Ferrari’s new recruit, Charles Leclerc, had 87 points to his name, the heartbreak of a lost win at Bahrain no doubt still eating away at him.

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    The background

    A mixture of high temperatures, high altitude and the Austrian circuit’s challenging layout itself combined to cause trouble for the top three teams on the first day of practice. Small errors left the likes of Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen struggling to set competitive times before Leclerc then shot to the top of the charts in FP3 – a sign of things to come.

    The Ferrari man secured his second career pole position in a qualifying session that saw the Scuderia, Red Bull and Mercedes all feature in the top three for the first time in 2019 – with Leclerc himself setting a new lap record for the team’s first pole at the circuit since Michael Schumacher in 2003.

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    Charles Leclerc took his second-ever pole position in F1, but there was work to be done...

    READ MORE: Mercedes fire warning to rivals as they confirm ‘a chunk’ of upgrades for Austria 2020

    Although Hamilton qualified second, 0.259s off pole, he was demoted to fourth having blocked Kimi Raikkonen in Q1. That put Verstappen on the first row, and Bottas in P3. Vettel struggled with mechanical issues and was down in 10th.

    Meanwhile, as this was the first race at the Red Bull Ring since Austrian hero Niki Lauda had passed away the prvious month, Turn 1 was renamed in his honour.

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    A fan's tribute to the late Niki Lauda, three-time Formula 1 champion hailing from Austria

    Four key moments

    1. The start – Bottas jumped Verstappen for P2 as the Dutchman was bogged down by the anti-stall on his Red Bull RB15, leaving Leclerc in the lead. Hamilton himself was mired in a battle with McLaren’s Lando Norris, while Raikkonen enjoyed a terrific start from seventh on the grid to join that fight.

    2. The first pit stops – Bottas was called in to pit from second place on Lap 21. Vettel, who had managed to haul himself up to the sharp end, followed, and his stop was a relatively leisurely 6.6s. Leclerc then came in as well, leaving Hamilton the last of the leaders to pit. But front-wing damage after a trip over the kerbs hampered the Mercedes man and Leclerc was soon back in front. Verstappen stayed out until Lap 31, which would turn out to be crucial.

    READ MORE: Every Formula 1 team’s biggest challenge in 2020

    3. Verstappen rallies – The Ferraris had a power advantage on the day but on Lap 50, Verstappen managed to pick off Vettel as he began to make his way up the field from P4 after his first stop on Lap 31. An exhaust sensor issue did little to put the Red Bull driver off and he continued to take P2 from Bottas at Turn 3. He was looking quick and menacing.

    4. Late drama – Just five seconds split Verstappen and Leclerc after that move on Bottas, and as Verstappen had newer tyres than the Ferrari, he began to close in. Lap 68 was when Verstappen tried to pass at Turn 3, with no success. Then, with just two laps left, Verstappen moved to the inside at Turn 4. The two banged tyres and Leclerc was forced to the run-off area as Verstappen took the lead with a forceful move, and then brought home the win.

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    Verstappen celebrates his first win of 2019 while Leclerc was left ruing that late encounter

    The headlines

    Leclerc left fuming – Unsurprisingly, Verstappen and Leclerc disagreed over the legitimacy of that Lap 69 pass. The stewards said it was A-OK, but Leclerc said “it was pretty clear in the car”. Verstappen’s view? “If those things are not allowed in racing, what is the point of being in F1?”

    Mercedes’ hot streak was over – Mercedes run of eight wins on the trot was finally over, largely thanks to an engine cooling issue which left them unable to challenge the Ferraris and Red Bulls – a problem which left Hamilton bemused. “I don’t really understand why we haven’t prepared for this race particularly, but we’ve been struggling in that area with temperature, and today you saw the worst of it,” he said after the race, having been pipped to P4 by Vettel on the final lap.

    McLaren master the midfield – Norris managed a P5 qualifying performance, and his fight with Hamilton at the start showed brilliant potential from him and the team. Furthermore, Carlos Sainz started at the back and managed to finish eighth. This was a key race in their season which eventually saw them beat Renault to fourth place in the championship.

    Giovinazzi loses his hair – A first World Championship point for Antonio Giovinazzi meant that he lost some of his luscious locks as part of a pre-agreed bet, with none other than Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur wielding the scissors.

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    Star performances from Norris and Sainz left McLaren fans beaming

    How to watch

    Tune into this 2019 thriller when we stream the race in full on F1.com, Facebook and YouTube on Saturday, June 27 at 1400 UTC (1500 BST).

    And if you want to watch more classic Grand Prix action you're in luck, as we’re offering F1 TV Access FREE for 30 days. That’s right, 1,400 hours of unrestricted, on-demand F1 content available to stream right now, including race highlights, season reviews, on-boards, qualifying highlights and much more! Click here for more details.