Max Verstappen wins the second sprint of the season. The two Ferraris fight each other in Spielberg. Charles Leclerc emerges victorious from a duel with teammate Carlos Sainz. Mercedes cannot follow the top cars.
So far, Red Bull and Ferrari have met on an equal footing in Spielberg. In qualifying on Friday evening, Max Verstappen and his pursuers in the red cars were within 82 thousandths. Thanks to pole position, the Red Bull star started the sprint race with an advantage, which decided the starting grid for the main race on Sunday. And the world champion asserted itself again against the red competition.
At the start, Verstappen fended off Charles Leclerc's attack in the first corner and then Carlos Sainz in the third corner. After that, the World Championship leader roared to an unchallenged victory in his Red Bull. With the second sprint success after Imola, Verstappen got the eight extra points for the second time. "We had good pace," summed up the sprint winner. "It was a bit tricky with the tyres. Luckily I was able to get a gap in the beginning. Later in the race we and Ferrari were about the same time."
Leclerc second ahead of Sainz
Ferrari outbraked themselves. Instead of chasing Verstappen, Sainz and Leclerc fought each other. On the opening lap, the Monegasque countered his team-mate and slipped through again on the inside lane before the fourth corner. In rounds six and seven, Sainz wanted to reverse the order within the team, attacked but failed. Leclerc extended his elbows as far as possible.
The Ferrari command post let its drivers do what they wanted, which made the fans and Verstappen happy. Leclerc ultimately asserted himself confidently against his Spanish garage neighbor and limited the damage in the World Cup. He only lost a point against Verstappen. The two will start from the front row in Spielberg for the second time on Sunday. What should encourage Leclerc: He shortened the gap at the back and saw the checkered flag 1.6 seconds after Verstappen. "We're fast. We can beat them tomorrow," he radioed his team. Sainz finished third.
Mercedes couldn't follow the top two teams of the season. George Russell started the Mini-Grand Prix from fourth place and also saw the checkered flag in this position. A few tenths of a second per lap were missing over the distance. In total, Russell lost more than 13 seconds in 23 laps. It wasn't the tires. The majority of the field chose the medium tire for the sprint. Only Alexander Albon, Lance Stroll, Nicholas Latifi and Sebastian Vettel tried the soft tires.
Perez catching up
The second Red Bull driver magically caught up on the track.Sergio Perez gained five positions right from the start. As the race progressed, the Mexican grabbed the two Haas drivers, Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen, and the Alpine with Esteban Ocon at the wheel. The Frenchman ended up unchallenged in sixth place.
Teammate Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, didn't ride at all. A technical breakdown - apparently with the battery - prevented him from starting. While the field started its warm-up lap, the Spaniard stood on the starting grid in his Alpine jacked up and with the tire blankets on. The mechanics couldn't get the A522 with starting number 14 to run in the pit lane either.
A first corner collision prevented Lewis Hamilton from getting a better result. The Mercedes driver was wedged between Alexander Albon in the Williams and Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri. The Silver Arrow hit Gasly with the right front wheel and sent him into the run-off zone. The Frenchman was lucky not to roll over.
Schumacher misses points
Hamilton then fought with the Haas. Magnussen gave Schumacher long slipstreams plus DRS, which helped the German protect against the oncoming Mercedes. Schumacher successfully blocked his pursuer several times in turns three and four. However, the 23-year-old was due three laps before the end. Magnussen had pulled too far, Schumacher lost DRS, Hamilton had it, and thus snagged the US race car.
He couldn't get past the second Haas. Magnussen took seventh place, earning two points. Hamilton finished eighth ahead of Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas, who rounded out the top 10 but falls to the back of the grid on Sunday's grid due to an engine penalty.
Sebastian Vettel's messed up weekend continued. The Heppenheimer initially made good progress from the last place on the grid. Then his Aston Martin and Albon's Williams met on lap eleven in the sixth corner. Vettel sailed into the gravel bed and freed himself in reverse gear. Two laps before the end, the four-time F1 world champion retired with a damaged car.