Max Verstappen comfortably won the sprint race from pole at the Austrian Grand Prix while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr nearly collided as they retired behind him on Saturday.
Verstappen got off to a good start and was unfazed afterward over 23 laps of the 4.3-kilometre (2.7-mile) Red Bull Ring packed with Dutch fans dressed in orange setting off orange flares and cheering the Formula 1 champion.
“It was a decent race,” Verstappen said. “Tomorrow will be an interesting battle. The car is good.” Verstappen’s second sprint win of the season gave him eight more points. Leclerc had seven points for second place and Sainz had six for finishing third with the best eight points.
Verstappen has improved to 189 points overall and leads Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez by 38 points and Leclerc by 44.
George Russell collected five in fourth place. Perez drove superbly from 12th to fifth and scored four points. Esteban Ocon was sixth for Alpine, followed by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Lewis Hamilton, who scored a point on the day after crashing in qualifying.
The final sprint positions set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. Verstappen will start in the lead as he aims for a fifth victory on his team’s circuit at Spielberg.
Sainz passed Leclerc at the start, only for Leclerc to quickly catch up and reclaim second place.
The Ferraris grappled when Sainz tried to pass his team-mate on lap six, with Leclerc holding him back. Sainz started again on the next lap, going inside but Leclerc dove back inside as the tension grew between them. “I had a good start, a few fights at the start with Max in Turn 3, then Charles,” said Sainz. ”It was a lot of fun, as it should be. . . race.” Leclerc did the hard work and Sainz didn’t have another attempt, cooling his tires instead.
“Probably a bit overheated the tires, running behind Charles,” said Sainz. “I had to back up and finish the race.” Hamilton attacked Mick Schumacher in the closing laps, but Schumacher defended aggressively until Hamilton passed him on lap 21.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso was eighth on the grid but there was a problem with his Alpine car and he did not start.
“Five minutes before the start we saw that the car wouldn’t start,” said the Spanish driver.
Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu’s engine cut out on the formation lap and forced the Alfa Romeo driver out of the pit lane a week after surviving a crash at the British GP.
Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel retired when Aston Martin told him to take the car back to the garage on lap 22. He was later summoned to appear before the stewards for his behavior at a pilots meeting, although it was not immediately clear why.
Earlier, British GP winner Sainz led the second practice session ahead of Leclerc, with Verstappen finishing third. Ferrari raced with its original Prancing Horse logo on the 90th anniversary of its first appearance in motorsport, at Spa-Francorchamps in 1932.
Russell placed seventh in practice and Hamilton ninth. Mercedes had to repair both cars after they crashed towards the end of Friday’s qualifying session. PA SSC SSC
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