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Leclerc hails 'breakthrough' as victory reignites title challenge

Charles Leclerc ended a difficult run of races as he returned to winning ways with victory over Max Verstappen at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc has described his victory at the Austrian Grand Prix as a "breakthrough" in his bid to get back on terms with Max Verstappen in the title race. Leclerc opened up a 34-point lead in the standings after starting his season with two victories and a second-place finish, but that was rapidly overturned after a series of challenging events. Retirements in Barcelona and Baku, an engine change in Montreal and strategic misfortune in Monte-Carlo and at Silverstone played a role, all while reigning World Champion Verstappen notched up victories and podiums. However, Leclerc was able to get back to winning ways in Spielberg, where Ferrari displayed superior race pace - and tyre management - than rivals Red Bull.

A much-needed win for Leclerc and Ferrari

With the difficult run fresh in his mind, Leclerc expressed satisfaction at getting over the line and notching up a third win of the season. It moves him back into second place in the standings, 38 points down on Verstappen. "I definitely needed it," Leclerc told media, including RacingNews365.com . "I mean, whenever I got to a new race, I had a smile on my face and I kept being optimistic. But obviously, hard races after hard races, it just felt like everything was against me. "Finally we had a breakthrough, a good race, and it really feels good to have a win."

Leclerc relives "very stressful" final laps

Leclerc's route to victory was made more challenging by late throttle issues, forcing him to change his approach. "Oh, not only a little bit stressful, very stressful!" Leclerc said of the final laps, with Verstappen closing back in amid the drama. "I mean, the throttle was really inconsistent and, in the middle of the corner, it would get stuck to whatever percentage. "In Turn 3, it was very, very tricky, because that's where you don't want any more speed. "It was quite tricky to manage, not so much in the high-speed [corners], mostly in the slow-speed, but we managed to get the car to the end, which is great."

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying