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Verstappen cruises to Austrian Sprint win


Ahead of today's Sprint the air temperature is 17 degrees C, while the track temperature is 22 degrees. It is cool and overcast.

Since the Shootout Leclerc has been hit with a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Piastri.

Despite the best efforts of F1 bosses and the likes of Sky commentator David Croft, to promote the Sprint many remain unconvinced, and surely there were a few sighs of frustration at F1 Towers earlier when Lewis Hamilton was asked about the fact that he could only qualify 18th.

"The Sprint race doesn't really matter anyway," he told Sky Sports, an opinion that remains shared by many.

As the pitlane opens rain begins to fall.

"The steering is slightly bent," reports Gasly. "It's ok for slicks, but the last two corners are definitely Inters," says Leclerc.

Verstappen is informed that Turns 1 to the exit of Turn 6 are dry, while Sainz is told that this is as heavy as it will get and that the rain will end in five minutes with no further downpours to follow.

Despite Hamilton's indifference, the fact is that points are on offer today, and for the likes of McLaren, Haas and Alpine every little helps.

Russell believes the race will start on Inters but soon switch to slicks, at which point race control predicts a 30% chance of further rain.

At which point it starts to rain again.

All are starting on the Inters bar Bottas who has opted for a set of used mediums.

They head off on the formation lap, Perez running wide in Turn 3 indicating that Bottas is likely to have his hands full. The Mexican struggles again in Turn 6, as does Norris.

The grid forms, however Bottas peels off into the pits to switch to Inters.

They're away!

Perez gets better start than his teammate who moves across the track to head him off. Into Turn 1 the Mexican has the line and as they head towards Turn 3 they are side by side and while the world champion gets two wheels on the grass the Mexican holds him off.

The battle continues in Turn 3 as Verstappen now has he line, and as the Dutchman forces his teammate wide, Norris, running behind, almost comes to a standstill, while Alonos goes off track in order to avoid the melee.

He pushed me off, man," declares Verstappen, "what the f***!"

"What's wrong with Max, man?" asks Perez, feeling that it was he who was pushed wide.

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Hulkenberg Perez, Sainz, Stroll, Alonso, Albon, Ocon, Leclerc and Norris. Russell is up to 12th and Hamilton 13th.

Russell almost collects Magnussen as he passes the Haas for 11th, with Hamilton also sizing up the Dane.

However, a bold move sees Magnussen retake the place from Russell.

Norris is all over Leclerc as they battle for 9th, while Magnussen, having seen off Russell is catching the pair.

After 5 laps, Verstappen leads Hulkenberg by 2.9s, with Perez a further 1.8s behind.

Leclerc finally gets past Norris who was somewhat put off by the Alpine of Ocon just ahead.

"Need better shifts, please," asks Hamilton.

Asked for feedback on conditions, Stroll replies: "It's still Inters, but getting better."

Perez closes to within 0.8s of Hulkenberg but in these conditions there is no DRS.

Russell finally nails Magnussen again, however, the Dane hasn't given up and hangs on to the rear of the Mercedes.

"Do you think the track will dry?" Alonso is asked. "Potentially yes," he replies.

Hamilton passes Magnussen at Turn 3 but the Dane comers back at him in Turn 4, before the seven-time champ finally slams the door.

Leclerc is all over the back of Ocon, likewise Perez on a clearly struggling Hulkenberg.

As Perez sizes up Hulkenberg, Sainz keeps a watching eye, The Mexican finally getting by on the run to Turn 7.

Soon the German is passed by Sainz.

"Tell Alonso not to waste too much time fighting," urges Stroll of his teammate who is right behind.

Despite his best efforts, Leclerc is unable to make a move stick on Ocon, at one point the pair appearing to touch tyres. Right behind the battling pair is Norris, eager to pick up the pieces should it come to grief.

Russell and Hamilton close on the three-way fight between Ocon, Leclerc and Norris for eighth.

"It's drying quick, I don't think it's far off slicks," says Russell, as he then dives into the pits.

Leclerc runs wide in Turn 10 and Norris seizes the opportunity to claim 9th.

On Lap 17 DRS is enabled as Stroll closes on Hulkenberg, the Canadian making short work of the German.

Piastri follows Russell's example and pits for slicks.

Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (14.506), and as Hulkenberg finally pits, Russell goes quickest in S1.

As Hulkenberg rejoins in 12th, Hamilton pits, as do Magnussen, Sargeant, de Vries, and Zhou.

"Few people putting slicks on," Stroll is advised as Albon, Leclerc and Tsunoda all pit, with just 5 laps remaining.

Russell posts a new fastest lap (12.989).

Behind Albon, Leclerc and Hamilton are side-by-side, the Briton using all his experience and then some to overhaul the Ferrari driver.

In tenth, Russell continues to set a strong pace as he posts another fastest lap (12.020).

Leclerc is struggling and is passed by Bottas, as Hamilton sizes up Albon.

Hamilton and Leclerc are under investigation for causing a collision, but the stewards immediately admit that no further investigation is necessary.

Alonso is all over his teammate as Verstappen enjoys a 19.294s advantage over Perez.

A bold move sees Piastri passes Leclerc and then Albon for 12th as the Monegasque continues to harry the Williams driver. Courtesy of DRS the Ferrari driver eventually nails the Williams.

As they begin the final lap, Russell is hunting down Norris for the last of the points.

As Verstappen takes the flag, the Aston Martin pair are battling hard, Stroll somehow holding off his veteran teammate.

Russell passes Norris for eighth, the McLaren having been previously picked off by Hulkenberg who subsequently posts the fastest lap (10.180).

"That was pretty special," Piastri is told of his overtake on Leclerc and Albon.

"Told he is P9, Norris is nonplussed. "I don't know what happened he admits, "I went to anti-stall at Turn 3, it cost me everything."

Verstappen wins, ahead of Perez, Sainz, Stroll, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Ocon and Russell.

Norris is ninth, ahead of Hamilton, Piastri, Leclerc, Albon, Magnussen, Gasly, Tsunoda, de Vries, Sargeant, Zhou and Bottas.

Ahead of the medals ceremony - or whatever crap it is they give them this year - Verstappen is in animated conversation with his teammate who looks suitably uninterested.

Check out our Saturday gallery from the Red Bull Ring here.


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