Mercedes' George Russell celebrates with the trophy on the podium after winning the Austrian Grand Prix. Image Credit: AFP

Spielberg Bei Knittelfeld: George Russell beamed with delight on Sunday after taking full advantage of a sensational late crash between series leader Max Verstappen and his title rival Lando Norris to win an action-packed Austrian Grand Prix.

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It was the British driver’s second career victory and Mercedes’ first success in 33 outings, endorsing their improved form in recent races, but his triumph was overshadowed by the 64th lap collision that wrecked both Verstappen’s and Norris’s races — and left the Dutchman defending his reputation.

Red Bull’s three-time champion was adjudged to have caused the accident by swerving to his left to hit Norris’s McLaren causing punctures to both cars.

Verstappen managed to pit and finish fifth, despite receiving a 10-second penalty for his reckless driving, but Norris retired after limping to the pits in his damaged car.

Deflating moment

Russell came home 1.906 seconds clear of Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren with Carlos Sainz third for Ferrari ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen.

It was a deflating moment, too, for the hordes of Verstappen’s ‘orange army’ fans in the grandstands at Red Bull’s home circuit, the Red Bull Ring.

“Ridiculous!” said Verstappen who tried to defend his actions in the face of widespread criticism of his driving.

“Incredible!” said Russell, who started from third on the grid and predicted on Saturday that he would watch the Verstappen-Norris battle and “try and sneak through”.

Mercedes' George Russell reacts after winning the Austrian Grand Prix. Image Credit: AFP

Tough fight

“It was a tough fight out there at the beginning of the race just to hold on to that third place and I saw on the TV that Max and Lando were getting pretty close,” said the Briton after the race.

“I knew Lando would want to try to get that race win. He was fired up.

“The team has done an amazing job to put us in this fight and you’ve got to be there in the end to pick up the pieces. They were going for it. It was a cool fight though!”

Sainz said: “It was going to happen at some point between these two.”

‘Not fair’

Norris was left crestfallen at the outcome of his race and damage to his friendship with the champion.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “Disappointment. I wanted a good race but it was not fair in the end. I did a good job and I don’t think it was right. It’s tough to take.

“There is a rule that you are not allowed to react and to move three times and he did that, three times.

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Max Verstappen drives ahead of Lando Norris during the Austrian Grand Prix. Image Credit: AFP

Incident affects Norris respect

“I didn’t run into him and the third time he ran into me. He was slower and he ruined his race as much as he ruined mine.

“There was nothing more that I could do. I did my best. It was not my own fault. There are rules and if they are not followed there is nothing I can do about it.”

Norris added that his respect for Verstappen had been affected by the incident.

“It depends what he says to me,” he said. “If he admits it, OK. If he says ‘I was stupid’ and admits he ran into me and it was reckless then small amount of respect. Maybe.”

Verstappen and his Red Bull team took a defensive position and blamed Norris for his aggressive approach.

“It’s easy to see this from the outside and to judge and whatever,” said Verstappen.

“And everyone has their own opinion. He is so late on the brakes with his dive bombs. But it is what it is and it is never nice when you come together.”

Car getting worse

He added that he needed to look back and see how it happened.

“We had a bad strategy and bad pitstops so we also created this for ourselves. The car felt weird and it got worse and worse.”

Nico Hulkenberg came home sixth for Haas ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas, Daniel Ricciardo of RB and Pierre Gasly of Alpine.

Charles Leclerc finished 11th in the second Ferrari after a race of four pit-stops following a first lap incident.