Verstappen dominates Austrian GP sprint

Andy Hone/Motorsport Images

Verstappen dominates Austrian GP sprint

Formula 1

Verstappen dominates Austrian GP sprint

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Max Verstappen dominated the Austria sprint race ahead of the squabbling Ferrari drivers to inch open his world championship lead.

Verstappen got away cleanly from the line, while Carlos Sainz followed him into the first corner from third on the grid, jumping teammate Charles Leclerc, who started on the front row.

The Spaniard attempted to challenge the Dutchman into Turn 3 but went deep, and Leclerc took his opportunity to cut down his inside and get the better exit. The Monegasque was later on the brakes on the inside of Turn 4 and took the place back, demoting his teammate to third.

Sainz wasn’t done yet, however, and for seven laps he harried Leclerc for the place — music to Verstappen’s ears, with the title leader opening up a gap on the field as the red cars squabbled.

They almost came to blows on lap 6, when Sainz nearly tapped Leclerc into a spin at Turn 3, and then again on the following tour, when the Spaniard felt he’d been run out of road by his teammate exiting Turn 4. Hostilities subsequently ceased, and the gap between them grew as they settled into a rhythm.

By then Verstappen had gained a comfortable buffer in the lead, and although Leclerc chipped it down to 1.6s at the flag, his win was never really in doubt.

The intra-team Ferrari battle made things easier for Verstappen. Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Leclerc took the line second, shipping just one point to Verstappen in the title fight.

“We are quick,” he radioed on his cool-down lap. “We can get them tomorrow. We just need to stay calm in the first part of the race and not fight, because I was saving in the first few laps.”

Sainz came home third and 5.6s adrift of his teammate.

George Russell held fourth throughout, his Mercedes not on Ferrari’s pace but well clear of the midfield.

Sergio Perez put in a mighty recovery drive to rise from 12th on the grid to fifth, including making up four places at lights out and a sweet combination move on the Haas drivers.

Esteban Ocon was demoted to sixth by the rising Mexican, but his Alpine stopped in the first sector after taking the checkered flag.

The team also lost Fernando Alonso from the race before the start, with a technical problem requiring him to be wheeled off the grid.

Kevin Magnussen hung on to seventh place ahead of a charging Lewis Hamilton. The Briton had started ninth but dropped to 11th at the first corner in a collision with Pierre Gasly, and he spent much of the final part of the race battling with Mick Schumacher. The German defended sternly but ceded the place three laps from the finish after falling out of DRS range of his teammate, making him easy pickings for the Mercedes.

Schumacher finished out of the points in ninth and just 0.3s ahead of Valtteri Bottas in 10th. The Haas driver was later put under investigation for an unspecified start procedure infringement.

McLaren teammates Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were closely matched in 11th and 12th, up from 15th and 16th. Ricciardo had the better pace in the race and asked to be allowed past to challenge Bottas, but the team opted against it. Like Schumacher, the Australian was also put under investigation post-sprint for a start procedure infringement.

Lance Stroll finished ahead of Zhou Guanyu, who started from pit lane after his engine switched off on his way to the grid at the end of the first formation lap.

Gasly recovered from his first-lap crash to finished 15th ahead of Alex Albon, who served a five-second penalty for forcing Norris off track early in a robust defense of 11th.

Yuk Tsunoda finished 17th ahead of Nicholas Latifi and Sebastian Vettel, who retired with two laps to run with damage from a trip through the gravel after a bump with Albon.

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