Max Verstappen won the F1 sprint at the Red Bull Ring, beating the dueling Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as he drove to victory and secured a P1 start for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Verstappen came through qualifying with flying colors on Friday night in a session that saw both Mercedes retire in Q3, after which Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was thrown back to P13 on the grid for the sprint. This sprint format, new for 2022, awards points to the top eight instead of the top three.
Yellow flags were flown on the formation lap when Fernando Alonso’s Alpine failed to get off the grid – forcing him out of the sprint – before Zhou Guanyu’s brief stop at the last corner as he neared the grid prompted a second formation lap and the Alfa Romeo -Driver forced to start from the pits. The other 18 cars navigated through a veil of orange smoke to eventually begin a sprint of 23 laps instead of 24.
The top 10 started on medium tires with only four riders opting for soft tires. From pole, Verstappen enjoyed a quick start and closed the door on Leclerc, who tried to pass down his right side – briefly giving Sainz P2 at the expense of his teammate before the Monegasque hit back.
Sainz and Leclerc tried again on Lap 6 while Verstappen extended his lead to well over two seconds. Sainz’z attempted to overtake at Turns 2 and 3 on the following lap, which were blocked by Leclerc’s stubborn defense. The British GP winner fell behind and soon Leclerc was building a gap on his teammate.
Verstappen would continue to lead comfortably, eventually winning by 1.6s over Leclerc, who was closing at the very end.
Red Bull race
Red Bull race
George Russell started and finished fourth for Mercedes while Perez battled from 13th to fifth, the Mexican moving up five places over the first six laps, the next two ahead of the Haas riders on lap 10 and another ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon on lap 12 – although Russell proved too far away to catch him.
With the Haas pair keeping Lewis Hamilton at bay for much of the sprint, Ocon ended up in a comfortable sixth place. Crushed at Turn 1 and spinning the AlphaTauri off Pierre Gasly (P15), Hamilton worked his way back into the top 10 and spent the second half of the encounter chasing the Haas pair, his attempts to overtaking, yielding no results until finally beating Mick Schumacher on Lap 22 at Turn 4.
The seven-time champion failed to catch Kevin Magnussen, the Dane finished seventh and ahead of the Silver Arrow.
Valtteri Bottas was passed early for P9 by Hamilton and caught up when the Haas drivers held up the Mercedes but ended up behind Schumacher in 10th overall for Alfa Romeo.
Sprint highlights: Austrian Grand Prix 2022
After a tough qualifying session, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo edged towards the top 10 in the sprint, the Brit finishing ahead of his Australian team-mate despite running too far in an earlier attempt to pass Alex Albon.
The Williams driver received a five second penalty for forcing Norris off the track on lap 4 and finished 13th at the finish, but finished in favor of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll (P13) and Zhou (P14) in the Alfa Romeo thrown back to P16.
Gasly finished behind Albon but ended up being promoted to P15 while Yuki Tsunoda finished P17 on a difficult day for AlphaTauri.
Sebastian Vettel was the second pensioner to be spun by Albon at Turn 6, leaving him last – Aston Martin put him in the pits to pull out late with a car failure.
With the sprint win, Verstappen starts P1 for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix as he hopes to sweep the weekend and keep the roaring crowd at the Red Bull Ring on their toes.
“It was great to see [the fans] – Quite a bit of smoke at the end there with all that orange, but it was ok. I think a decent race, we had good pace from the start and I think after that we were very close. So it was good. It was how a sprint should go. Full throttle!” Said sprint winner Verstappen.
“Of course [the Ferraris] fought a bit too, so I had a little gap and after that we were quite similar in pace. So I’m assuming tomorrow will be another very interesting fight. Of course tomorrow’s race will be much longer, so it will be difficult for the tyres.”
Sergio Perez’s commanding start was the key moment as he starts the sprint from 13th on the grid in fifth place and now has a chance to help his teammate Max Verstappen at the front – or maybe even snatch the lead from his teammate…
Alonso was due to start eighth in the sprint but his DNF – actually a DNS – puts him in 20th place for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Albon and Gasly each lost six places on a tough Saturday.
Ricciardo and Norris each gained four places, but Perez made up the most places, eight, as he shot to P5 from his P13 grid position (P12 after Alonso was retired).
The Austrian Grand Prix begins on Sunday at 3 p.m. local time. Verstappen is looking to take the lead after finishing P1 in the sprint and extending his lead in the drivers’ standings. Visit our RACE HUB to see when and where to catch Sunday’s action.
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