Verstappen wins sprint at Austrian Grand Prix
SPIELBERG, Austria — Reigning Formula One champion Max Verstappen continued his dominant form by winning the sprint from pole at the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday to extend his championship lead over Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to 70 points.
The closest Verstappen came to losing his grip on the race was when Perez overtook him at the start and they almost bumped into each other when jostling for position into the corner. Verstappen was clearly annoyed by the incident immediately after the race and complained about it on team radio, but downplayed it later and said the two teammates had already cleared the air.
“We don't need to make this a big story, you know? It's what happens sometimes. We talk about it, we clear it, and that's fine. That's how human beings work. Sometimes you question, you answer, you solve it,” he said, before adding in a lighthearted tone. “You don't need to write a whole article about it ... I hope. Or maybe you can, to get the clicks.”
It was Verstappen's fifth straight win when including the past four Grand Prix races. Verstappen starts the full race from pole position on Sunday, when he will aim for a 42nd career GP win to move one ahead of the late Ayrton Senna and stand alone in fifth place on F1's all-time list of winners.
Verstappen collected eight points in the sprint — which he also won here last year — and Perez got seven for finishing second. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. collected six points with third place in the 24-lap sprint.
It was a welcome boost for Perez following a dip in form. Since earning his second victory of the season at the Azerbaijan GP in late April and following up with second place at the Miami GP to maintain his title push, he has drifted away after finishing 16th, fourth and sixth.
“I mean I haven't lost it (my confidence), from winning races to all of a sudden being a very bad driver,” the 33-year-old Mexican driver said. “I know that I've had a rough period. Many drivers have had that, but it seems to be even bigger when a Red Bull driver has it.”
Aston Martin's Lance stroll took fourth place (five points) ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso (four points), Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg (three points), Alpine's Esteban Ocon (two) and Mercedes driver George Russell (one).
In wet and rainy conditions at the Spielberg track, Perez jumped past Verstappen at the start.
“The start wasn’t ideal," Verstappen said. “A bit of wheel spin.”
After Verstappen and Perez almost collided, Perez then dropped back to third behind Hulkenberg and Verstappen, who regained the lead.
“We could have had a really big shunt,” Verstappen said over team radio of the near miss with Perez. “We need to have a chat about that.”
They did just that, clearing the air moments after climbing out of their cars.
With the track drying up, Russell was the first to change his wet-weather tires for quicker ones on Lap 16, followed by teammate Lewis Hamilton and Hulkenberg.
Leclerc, who started from ninth after being given a three-place grid penalty, moved onto medium tires late on but placed 12th.
Verstappen also qualified for the sprint in first place.
The shortened qualifying format — known in F1 as the “sprint shootout” — set the grid for the sprint race, where Hamilton started from 18th place after being knocked out of the first part of qualifying. Hamilton looked pensive as he walked back through the paddock to rejoin his Mercedes garage.
He placed 10th in the sprint. The Austrian GP is the second of six F1 events with a format featuring a sprint race on the Saturday. Perez won the season's first sprint in Azerbaijan.
Verstappen and other drivers were annoyed with the race stewards on Friday for being too strict about staying within track limits during qualifying for Sunday’s race, where Verstappen starts from the the pole ahead of Leclerc and Sainz.
F1 president Stefano Domenicali has paid tribute to Bob Fernley, the former deputy team principal of Force India, who died at the age of 70. His death was announced by F1 on Friday night. No further details were given.
“He was such an important part of Formula 1 and his love and passion for the sport will live forever,” Domenicali said.
Fernley worked briefly with McLaren as president of its Indianapolis 500 return project until he was fired in 2019 when Fernando Alonso failed to qualify. He replaced Domenicali as chairman of the FIA’s single-seater Commission from 2020 to 2022.
Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, who joined Force India in 2017, called Fernley “a great person and leader” on Twitter.
Fernley left the team when it was sold to the Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll in August 2018. Stroll changed the team’s name first to Racing Point and then Aston Martin.
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