Verstappen eager to test Red Bull pace vs McLaren in sprint

Max Verstappen says the sprint at the Austrian Grand Prix will give a telling indication of the relative pace differences between Red Bull and McLaren this weekend.

McLaren has consistently been a threat to Red Bull since introducing an upgrade in Miami, with Lando Norris winning in Florida and then finishing second to Verstappen in Imola, Canada and Spain. After taking pole position for Saturday’s sprint by under 0.1s from Norris once again, Verstappen says the trend appears to be continuing but he’s keen to learn more in the shorter race.

“We started off the day well, the car was already in a good window — a little niggle with the sensor but we fixed that quickly — and then heading into qualifying I think the car was pretty strong. I could push,” Verstappen said. “Of course there are always areas where we can do better, so we’ll look at that tonight, but definitely a good start to the weekend.


“At the end of the day, when really everyone is pushing flat out [McLaren] are again behind me, so for sure they are quick as well. We seem quick in the high speed, which is nice around here, hopefully we can keep that going also tomorrow, but of course the sprint race will give us an early indication of how the pace will be in the race for every car so I’m looking forward to that.”

Norris had a similar outlook to Verstappen having looked most competitive in the final part of sprint qualifying compared to the earlier phases, and he says he’s confident he can take the fight to the Red Bull driver over the 24 laps.

“I think reasonably good, to be honest — I never got quite comfortable until probably my final lap,” Norris said. “So I’m happy with that. Close, as it has been the whole year, so no difference, but it must have been a nice lap by Max and a good position for the race tomorrow.”

Oscar Piastri will start from third as both McLarens secured strong grid positions, and the Australian says it was a relief to bounce back from a challenging weekend in Barcelona.

“The position is quite good obviously but the last lap, there were a couple of corners I could tidy up,” Piastri said. “It’s nice to at least know where the time is — obviously a bit of a rough one last weekend, so I feel like we’re back on the pace. The new front wing was working well, so excited for the rest of the weekend now.

“The gap to Max is not massive and I know there were a couple of big mistakes on that lap, so we’re definitely in the mix.”

Story originally appeared on Racer