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Red Bull's Max Verstappen secures first Formula One win for Honda since 2006

Kyodo

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen survived a stewards’ investigation to keep his win in the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, giving the team’s Japanese engine manufacturer Honda its first Formula One victory in 13 years.

With two laps to go, Dutchman Verstappen made a pass on the inside of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for the lead of the race, making wheel-to-wheel contact and pushing the Monegasque off the track.

Verstappen continued on to cross first, with Leclerc finishing 2.7 seconds behind, but race stewards looked into the move to determine its legality. After a three-hour wait, the stewards ruled the pass a “racing incident” and allowed Red Bull and Honda to keep the win.

“We passed Charles with a few laps to go so I’m extremely happy,” said Verstappen, who also claimed a bonus championship point for clocking the race’s fastest lap in his sixth career F1 win. “The move was close racing and if you can’t make moves like that I think it is better to stay at home.”

“It was an incredible race and I’m so happy to take the team’s second victory at our home Grand Prix.”

Red Bull team principle Christian Horner said the team had to suffer a tense wait for the stewards’ decision, but happily agreed with their call.

“What an unbelievable performance by Max today. To win the race here in Austria and to give Honda its first victory with a V6 hybrid is unbelievable,” said Horner.

“We came to Austria as outsiders and so to win here is a dream come true and I think that was Max’s best win.”

After struggling on its return to Formula One, the win gives Honda a first major return on its huge investment.

The Japanese automaker rejoined the sport in 2015 with the McLaren team, but three lean seasons in which it made more headlines for its failures than successes left it searching for a new partner.

In 2018, it moved to Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s junior team, and proved itself reliable enough for Horner and Red Bull’s management to take the leap for the top squad.

And it took only nine races in 2019 for the partnership to pay off, giving Honda its 73rd win in F1.

“It is a great pleasure for us to win once more in Formula One, especially because getting to this point has not been straightforward since our return to the sport in 2015,” said Takahiro Hachigo, Honda President and CEO.

“Formula One was our founder Soichiro Honda’s dream and it is in our company’s DNA. We went through some tough times over the past five years … I am speechless when I think about the enormous effort from all the Honda staff involved in this project.

After the win, Verstappen sits third in the drivers’ standings. He is behind only Mercedes’ reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas, the two drivers having won every race between them this season before Sunday.