SPIELBERG, Austria—It might be the land of the sound of music, but Max Verstappen has made it his own tune so far this weekend, taking pole position for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix on Friday, winning Saturday morning’s sprint shootout, and finally, comfortably taking the sprint event in the afternoon at the home Red Bull Ring, ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finishing in third.
“The start wasn’t ideal a bit of wheel spin but after that after lap one, once we got back in the lead it was good just managing the tyres, knowing if it wasn’t going to rain anymore then you know 24 laps on the intermediate is quite a lot, but they were hanging in there.” Verstappen said afterwards.
“Of course, the last five laps on the slicks were quite a bit faster but on the slicks for us so far in the lead it didn’t make sense for us to pit and just hang in there with the inters which worked well.”
The circuit itself for the main sprint event already had light rain, with all the drivers except Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, who started 19th, tried things out on slick tyres. However, just as the race began, the Finn dived into the pits even before the 24-lap race began and changed to intermediates.
Verstappen had his only challenge of the day, trying to block Perez at the first corner, but at turn three, the Mexican went wide, complaining later that his teammate had forced him off the circuit. But the idea was Perez did not see Verstappen.
"I think Max was angry that I went into Turn 2, but I didn't see him there.” Perez stated. “Once I realised he was there I opened the door and gave back the place. We just spoke about it. The visibility was very bad out there.
But this gave the advantage to Haas F1 ‘s Nico Hulkenberg, who shot into second, but as the rain began to subside and the track started to dry, the German fell back and realized like many other drivers by lap 11, had to change to slick tyres.
Verstappen was one that did not change his tyres, but it did not bother him, as the Dutchman easily won the sprint, with Perez taking second. Sainz came across seconds later in a lonely race in third, with the two Aston Martin battling it out in the final laps, with Lance Stroll just finishing ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso. Hulkenberg did recover with his slicks and at the end, just edged out Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, another victim of continuing to use his intermediates, for sixth place. George Russell took the last sprint point in his Mercedes, who was the first driver in the race to change to slicks.
Sunday’s race is a 71-lap event, that might have just as much rain as on Saturday, so it will be interesting how the result is.
By Mark Gero