Battle of the 21 year olds: Winner Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the Austrian podium. Picture: REUTERS
Battle of the 21 year olds: Winner Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc on the Austrian podium. Picture: REUTERS

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc are already hailed as future superstars of Formula One but Sunday’s battle of the 21-year-olds in Austria was the clearest glimpse yet of what might lie ahead.

Throw McLaren’s 19-year-old British rookie Lando Norris into the youthful mix as well and the sport looks set on a glittering course.

All three put in standout performances throughout the weekend at Spielberg to put more established drivers into the shade.

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Ferrari’s Leclerc and Red Bull’s Verstappen thrilled the crowd with a wheel-banging, race-deciding battle in the closing laps.

They were the youngest top two finishers in F1 history and Verstappen, a six times race winner, had never before stepped up to the top step of the podium without having at least one champion on a lower rung.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas — at 29, the old man on podium — finished third for Mercedes.

Leclerc’s three previous podium finishes, all third places, were with Bottas’s five times world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton taking the winner’s trophy. This was new territory for both youngsters.

Ferrari’s four times champion Sebastian Vettel, 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, now with Alfa Romeo, and Hamilton had to settle for whatever points they could get in the Styrian sunshine.

The late collision between the Red Bull and Ferrari, ruled a racing incident by stewards, and their differing opinions over the fairness of it, also injected an early bit of needle into the fledgling rivalry.

While Leclerc and Verstappen kept the fans, many thousands in Dutch orange, on the edge of their seats, Norris also impressed.

Starting fifth, he vaulted up to third at the start and passed Hamilton in a bold move around the outside at the first corner.

Driving a car that was no match for Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull’s challengers, he dropped back but not without giving Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen — the oldest driver on the grid — a fight.

Finishing an impressive sixth, his display in Austria came a week after a gritty drive into the points in a hydraulically hobbled McLaren that won him the “Driver of the Day” accolade at the French Grand Prix.

Birth of a low-flying motorsport

Airspeeder octocopters will race 20m off the ground (or water). Picture: SUPPLIED
Airspeeder octocopters will race 20m off the ground (or water). Picture: SUPPLIED

Airspeeder — a radical new airborne motorsport — will make its global public debut at this week’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, the world’s largest automotive garden party.

The new series combines the format of Formula E, the thrills of air racing and the glamour of F1, according to series sponsor Equals, a UK provider of money management solutions.

International media and VIP guests will be treated to a flying display and race around an aerial track at the Goodwood Aerodrome during the festival weekend. A static display of the Airspeeder Mk. IV, claimed to be the world’s first piloted octocopter, will take centre stage.

Developed by Alauda Racing, an Australian startup with the long-term ambition to use its technology to develop a world-beating flying sports car for sale to the public, the Mk. IV octocopters will hit speeds of 200km/h as they fly 20m above the ground, and offer a power-to-weight ratio superior to an F-18 fighter jet.

The first international Airspeeder World Championship — featuring five teams and 10 pilots — will take off in 2020.

Matt Pearson, founder and CEO of Alauda Racing, and the driving force behind the Airspeeder race series, said: “Flying cars are no longer a fantasy, they are a reality and Goodwood Festival of Speed is the perfect place to introduce Airspeeder to the world. We’ve taken design cues from the golden era of racing, and we’re sure the tens of thousands of enthusiasts present will instantly appreciate this evolution of motorsport. Totally absorbing, and all electric, it will appeal to a whole new generation of race fans.”