SPIELBERG, Austria -- It took a few hours to be confirmed as valid, but Max Verstappen's victory at the Austrian Grand Prix will live long in the memory.
The Dutchman turned in one of the best displays of his career to pass three rivals on track to win the race. The last of those, his wheel-banging move on Charles Leclerc three laps from the end, was the subject of a stewards' investigation immediately after the race.
Hard but fair: "It's hard racing otherwise we have to stay home. If those things are not allowed in racing, what is the point of being in F1?"
It's difficult to argue with Max Verstappen's assessment of the events at Turn 3 on lap 69 of the Austrian Grand Prix. He got a slipstream from Charles Leclerc, darted to the inside and had his car fully alongside as they entered the corner. From that point onwards, Verstappen was dictating the way the rest of the corner played out and, unsurprisingly, ran Leclerc wide and off the road to take the lead on the exit.
It had some similarities with the Nico Rosberg/Lewis Hamilton clash at the same corner in 2016 -- the difference being that in 2016 the defending car (Rosberg) had the inside line and the attacker (Hamilton) had the outside. Rosberg was given 10-second penalty for failing to leave Hamilton "racing room" but that was under a different rule book and before F1 vowed to "let drivers race". What's more, while Rosberg clumsily forced Hamilton towards the edge of the track and made no effort to take the apex, Verstappen got the balance right and took a normal-enough approach considering his line of entry to the corner. Once he turned in, he never deviated from turning right and Leclerc was simply left high and dry.
It was hard racing and that's what the 80,000-strong crowd paid their money to see, so it was a relief to see the stewards declare it a "racing incident" some two hours after the two men had visited them after the race.
The kids are alright: An old U.K. television advert used to carry the tagline, "the future's bright, the future's orange". The same could be said about Formula One. Max Verstappen is a ridiculous driving specimen and it's fair to wonder what he could do to the F1 record book with a championship-winning car or two.
The hordes of Dutch fans who travelled to this race were treated to a thrilling spectacle here for the second year in a row. Of his six career victories to date, this one has to be considered one of the best just for the charge through the field at the end and the moves which helped him claim it at the end, especially the one which saw him get past Leclerc.
But the man who lost victory on track deserves a mention in this, too. Regardless of the stewards' decision, you can argue Leclerc left way too much space on the second incident, which allowed Verstappen to dictate the move on the apex. But Leclerc has shown flashes of brilliance this season and what had happened between the pair one lap before the contentious collision was fantastic to watch. On lap 66 Verstappen had tried a move down the inside, as he did a lap later, but on the first occasion there was no contact. Leclerc got a good exit from the corner and was able to power back in front of Verstappen and retain the lead into Turn 4.
It was good, hard racing by the two young men Lewis Hamilton had complimented on Saturday afternoon after qualifying. It's not difficult to see why he rates them both so highly. Whenever Hamilton does decide to call it a day, Verstappen looks ready to step into his shoes as the man to beat on the grid -- Leclerc might not be too far behind, either, and it shouldn't be too long before he finally gets that maiden victory under his belt.
Mercedes' Achilles heel: For the first time this year, Mercedes wasn't in the running for victory on Sunday. We knew the car lacked straight-line speed, which was always going to hurt at the Red Bull Ring, but it was surprising how far the car was off the pace in Austria.
Ironically, the reason for the lack of pace is actually linked to the team's dominance at the first eight rounds. The shrink-wrapped bodywork of the Mercedes means the car has performed well all year but has also come with the downside of being marginal on cooling. The team opened up the bodywork in Austria but it wasn't enough to combat the heat and high altitude, which saw temperatures spiral out of control.
"Today exposed our Achilles heel," team boss Toto Wolff said. "We couldn't really race with our car -- we were just trying to keep it alive and cool it properly. A bad day for us but, as we say, the bad days are the ones when we learn the most to come back stronger."
After the race, Valtteri Bottas revealed he was unable to use the usual race modes and had to lift and coast to stop the power unit overheating. That also explain why he hardly put up a fight when Verstappen came past on lap 56. But don't be fooled, business is expected to return to normal at Silverstone.
Honda takes its first win since 2006: Toyoharu Tanabe's tears on the podium told you all you needed to know about the importance of Red Bull's Honda-powered victory on Sunday. The Honda F1 boss was sent by Red Bull to claim the constructors' trophy on Sunday in a fitting tribute to the hundreds of millions of dollars the Japanese manufacturer has spent on its F1 programme since its return to the sport in 2015.
Honda was on the brink of leaving F1 after its relationship with McLaren burned to the ground in 2017, but Red Bull saw the potential in the Japanese car giant and signed a Toro Rosso deal for 2018 before a full works deal was agreed with Red Bull for this year. The Honda engine is still lacking power compared to Mercedes and Ferrari, but it is now in the right ballpark and has powered Verstappen to third in the championship after nine rounds.
There is still a very long way to go for Honda, but the win on a track where 79 percent of the lap is spent at full throttle represents a massive step forward. It also releases a pressure valve back in Japan while helping to cement the relationship between Red Bull and Honda for the near future.
A timely bit of entertainment: After the horribly dull French Grand Prix, F1 needed a race like this one. That race led to some questions being asked of the sport -- many of which were fair, given the crucial point in the 2021 negotiations are at currently.
The wait for the result to be confirmed wasn't great, and is something F1 needs to find some solution to in the future, but the verdict meant the on-track fight at the end should remain the story.
This Austrian Grand Prix was a reminder of how entertaining an F1 race can be when drivers are able to push and overtake each other. It vindicated the push for the variables F1 races need in terms of strategy to make these kind of contests -- the usual one-stop races we get rarely lead to such classics, but this had various things at play which all contributed to the final outcome on track. With Mercedes struggling, it also removed the element of predictability which has plagued some of F1's recent races.
So credit where it is due, this was a great spectacle. One good race shouldn't mean people assume there is nothing wrong with F1 as it is currently, but it also should serve as a reminder that, if the right changes are made in time for 2021, the championship could look very good indeed.
McLaren on fire: McLaren's season is really coming on strong. Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz are starting to stand out in the midfield and both men delivered an exceptional performance on Sunday. Norris was in a feisty mood at the start, dicing with Hamilton for a brief spell, and spent the final stages of his race keeping Pierre Gasly at bay in the Red Bull.
Carlos Sainz managed a long opening stint from the back of the grid to finish eighth in what is quickly turning into the most impressive patch of form in his F1 career. Given how badly Gasly has been performing at Red Bull this year, Helmut Marko might be wondering if he gave the wrong man the nod when Daniel Ricciardo decided to jump ship to Renault last season.
Just don't mention the whole "Honda victory" thing to McLaren, because otherwise there haven't been many other negatives to the orange team's season so far.
Another quirky moment: In all the waiting around for the stewards decision to drop it emerged Robert Kubica, who finished last and was lapped three times, had won F1's regular 'Driver of the Day' fan vote. All trace of the result was inconspicuously removed from the website in the hours after the race. And they say the customer is always right...