Pole-setter Verstappen wins Sprint Race ahead of Austrian GP
Spielberg (Austria), July 9 (IANS) Max Verstappen won the F1 Sprint at the Red Bull Ring here, getting the better of the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, as he secured a top position on the grid for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.
Defending champion Verstappen had aced qualifying on Friday evening, in a session that saw both Mercedes crash out in the third qualifying session (Q3), after which Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was bumped down to P13 on the grid for this Sprint. This new-for-2022 Sprint format award points to the top eight instead of the top three.
The race got off to a slow start as yellow flags came out on the formation lap when Fernando Alonso's Alpine failed to get off the grid -- forcing him out of the race - before Zhou Guanyu's brief stoppage at the final corner approaching the grid prompted a second formation lap and forced the Alfa Romeo driver to start from the pits. The other 18 cars navigated a haze of orange smoke to finally commence a Sprint of 23 laps rather than 24.
The top 10 began on medium tyres, only four drivers having opted for softs. From pole, Verstappen enjoyed a rapid start and shut the door on Leclerc, who attempted a pass down his right-hand side -- briefly giving Sainz P2 at his teammate's expense before the Monegasque hit back.
Sainz and Leclerc were at it again on Lap 6 while Verstappen stretched his lead to well over two seconds, Sainz'z attempts to pass at Turns 2 and 3 on the following lap were thwarted by Leclerc, who closed him out with dogged defending. The British GP winner dropped back and soon Leclerc built a gap with his teammate.
Verstappen maintained a comfortable lead and eventually won by 1.6 seconds over Leclerc, who began to close in at the very end.
George Russell started and finished fourth for Mercedes, while Perez battled from 13th to fifth, the Mexican gaining five spots in the opening six laps, the next two off the Haas drivers by Lap 10 and another off Alpine's Esteban Ocon on Lap 12 - though Russell proved too far away to catch, according to a report on the F1 website.
Lewis Hamilton's attempts to get past them were thwarted by the Haas pair, Ocon ended up a comfortable sixth. Hamilton, who was squeezed into Turn 1 and tapped the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly (P15) into a spin, worked his way back into the top 10 and spent the second half of the race stalking the Haas pair, his attempts to pass yielding no results until he finally got the better of Mick Schumacher at Turn 4 on Lap 22.
The seven-time champion couldn't catch Kevin Magnussen, the Dane finishing seventh and ahead of the Silver Arrow.
Valtteri Bottas was passed for P9 by Hamilton early on and caught up when the Haas drivers stalled the Mercedes' progress, but ended up 10th overall for Alfa Romeo behind Schumacher.
After a tough qualifying session, McLaren's Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo inched towards the top 10 in the Sprint, the Briton finishing ahead of his Australian teammate despite running wide in an earlier attempt to pass Alex Albon.
The Williams driver was given a five-second penalty for forcing Norris off track on Lap 4, finishing 13th at the flag but being bumped down to P16 to the benefit of Aston Martin's Lance Stroll (P13) and Zhou (P14) in the Alfa Romeo.
Gasly finished behind Albon but was promoted to P15 at the flag, with Yuki Tsunoda ending up P17 on a difficult day for AlphaTauri.
Sebastian Vettel was the second retiree having been tapped into a spin by Albon at Turn 6, which left him last -- Aston Martin bringing him into the pits to exit late on with car damage.
With Sprint victory, Verstappen starts P1 for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix as he hopes to sweep the weekend and keep the raucous Red Bull Ring crowd on their feet.