Verstappen wins Austrian Grand Prix sprint race

Max Verstappen © Gallo Images

Max Verstappen led teammate Sergio Perez home with a dominant display as Red Bull stormed to a comfortable one-two in Saturday’s wet-dry sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The defending double world champion and series leader added eight points to move into a 70–point lead in the drivers’ title race as he won by 21.102 seconds.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finished third ahead of the two Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and two-time champion Fernando Alonso with Nico Hulkenberg finishing sixth for Haas ahead of Alpine’s Esteban ocon.

Mercedes’ George Russell took a bold eighth ahead of Lando Norris in his upgraded Mercedes and teammate seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton who had started 18th.

The Red Bull drivers exchanged sharp words after an opening lap battle that saw Verstappen run wide on the grass at one point, but they recovered to triumph.

“Once I got back in the lead, it was a good race,” said Verstappen. “I had to manage the tyres, 24 laps is a lot for ‘inters’ and we had a hairy moment out of Turn One.”

Perez said: “I had a good start and a bit of a fight with Max before I lost a position to Nico. I had to fight to get back past him.

“I think Max was angry at Turn Two, but I didn’t see him there. Visibility was so bad. I gave him the place back.”

Heavy rain showers left the track in semi-wet conditions and everyone except Valtteri Bottas began the race on intermediate tyres, the Finn, starting 19th, gambling on dry mediums. He pitted for intermediates after the formation lap.

Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari started ninth, after taking a three-place grid penalty for impeding Oscar Piastri, before the lights went out and Perez out-started Verstappen to prompt an opening lap scrap for positions.

Hamilton, from 18th, rose to 13th through the plumes of spray while the champion recovered to pull 1.5 seconds clear of Hulkenberg with Perez third.

After four of the 24 laps, Perez was still grumbling about his tussling teammate. “What’s wrong with Max, man?” said the Mexican, who had lost a place as a result of their duel.

The flying Dutchman soared five seconds clear by lap 10 and eight by 12 as Perez passed Hulkenberg for second at Turn Five while Hamilton finally overtook Kevin Magnussen after a wheel-to-wheel battle.

Lacking traction, the German driver struggled on the exit from slow corners, Sainz blasting by on lap 13 before Russell pitted for slicks on lap 17, rejoining last, as the track dried. By lap 20, he was 10th.

Hulkenberg and Hamilton led a group of others who followed for dry tyres with five laps remaining, but the Red Bulls had the luxury of track positions and remained out on intermediates to the flag.

Verstappen also heads the grid for Sunday’s main race where he is hunting his seventh win from nine this year.

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