Verstappen beats Piastri in Austria GP sprint race

Max Verstappen won the Austrian Grand Prix sprint from pole after fending off front-row starter Lando Norris in an early duel.

The sprint was reduced by a lap after an aborted start owing to photographers standing behind the barriers at Turn 1, and Verstappen had no trouble keeping Norris at bay off the line when the race eventually got going. But Norris and teammate Oscar Piastri, starting third, clung close to the back of the Red Bull Racing car, the advantage of which was notably reduced without the benefit of DRS. It was a great boost to the chasing McLarens, who were both able to click open their drag reduction systems at the end of the first lap to harry the championship leader.

Norris was the fastest man on track on the second lap, but his looks on either side of the Dutchman at the top of the hill at Turn 3 were deftly closed, holding him and Piastri at bay. It took a deep lunge from a long way back on lap 5 to force the issue, with Norris block passing down Verstappen inside at Turn 3 to relieve him of position.


It was to be short lived, however. Norris ran wide, and Verstappen was able to get a strong launch off the corner to run side by side on the run down to Turn 4, where he pried open the door down the inside of the downhill right-hander to take back the lead.

It caught Norris unawares, so much so that an opportunistic Piastri was able to barge through the open door after Verstappen. The two teammates were neck and neck down to Turn 6, where a gutsy move around the outside confirmed Piastri in second and bumped Norris down to third.

It was Piastri’s turn to chase the lead, but it was a forlorn pursuit. By lap 9 the Dutchman’s lead stretch just over 1s, and without DRS the chasing McLarens were unable to follow him up the road. It was a cruise for the title leader form there, with Verstappen claiming victory by 4.6s.

“Once DRS opens, it’s very hard to get out of it,” Verstappen said. “It took a few laps – a few exciting battles as well.

“You could see two cars pushing flat out trying to make it difficult for me. We had to work for it in that race.”

Norris dropped back from Piastri through the middle phase of the race but closed back in the final laps to pressure his teammate to cough up second place. The Australian wouldn’t be defeated, however, to take his best sprint finish and equal best finish in any session of the season.

“I finished one spot higher than I started but didn’t quite have good pace in the second half of that one,” he said. “Some things to look at for this afternoon and for tomorrow’s race, but we’ll definitely take the points. It’s a good haul.”

Norris was disappointed to have lost two positions in as many corners, but he was left optimistic that his team could close the gap to the front for Sunday’s grand prix.

“A good race between us, especially with Max at the beginning,” he said. “There were some things I definitely should have done better in my battle, but I understand that.

“The pace of the car was very strong, especially at the end of the race. I don’t think we probably would’ve had the pace to go with Max … but tomorrow’s another day, and we’ll try again.”

George Russell lost fourth place to Carlos Sainz on the first lap, but by lap 8 the Mercedes driver had resumed the position, leading home the Spaniard and teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Charles Leclerc gained three places off the line to finish seventh ahead of a wayward Sergio Perez, who crossed the line a lonely eighth for the final point of the sprint.

Kevin Magnussen has a strong race to ninth, up two places on the grid, ahead of Lance Stroll, likewise up a pair of places. Those gains came at the expense of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, both down three places on the first lap.

Yuki Tsunoda finished 13th ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who will see the stewards after the race for forcing Fernando Alonso off track late in the race at Turn 3, costing the Spaniard a place to Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian and Spaniard finishing 15th and 16th.

Logan Sargeant finished 17th ahead of teammate Alex Albon, who started from pit lane with setup changes, and Sauber teammates Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.

Story originally appeared on Racer