The Saturday in F1 Austrian GP sprint weekend saw a dominant run at the front after a little spicy run in tricky conditions.
It was a wet F1 Austrian GP sprint race on Saturday and the two Red Bull drivers almost had an incident on Lap 1 when fighting for the lead in tricky conditions. Max Verstappen had a grass moment in the lead-up to Turn 3 but managed to hang on.
He immediately cleared Sergio Perez who lost to Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg then. By the time the Mexican got through him, Verstappen eased in to win the F1 sprint in a Red Bull 1-2 finish. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finally had a fine run in third but his teammate did not.
Charles Leclerc was busy fighting for the points at the fag end and even a tyre switch didn’t help him unlike Mercedes’ George Russell who almost had Alpine’s Esteban Ocon on the final lap after a brave call of slick switch to go from 15th to eighth.
But both the Aston Martin cars hung on in fourth and fifth on the intermediate tyres, where Lance Stroll managed to pass Fernando Alonso on Lap 1. The Spnaird did close in on the Canadian, but held on to his position to score more than Ferrari and Mercedes.
Verstappen: “I didn’t have a great start and then just had a lot of wheel spin, oscillations going on and then you just lose out massively. And then out of Turn 1 had a little moment there, where I had to go with two wheels on the grass, which was very slippery. But then got back on and braked quite late into Turn 3. And then it was all like, two or three wide going into Turn 4. And then we all settled in. And yeah, we knew… I think everyone knew that 24 laps on an Intermediate when the track is drying is quite long. So it was all about just trying to look after the tyres while trying to drive fast as well. But that’s not always the easiest. But yeah, I could extend the gap and look after my tyres quite well. And then in the last few laps I had a few cars around me with slick tyres also, you know, passing and fighting and I just had to stay alert. But I think the race itself went very well. Regarding Lap 1, I think, you know, we just spoke about it. Because when the moment happens, of course, you don’t know why it gets to that. But then after the race, we talked about it and it’s all good. I mean, it’s wet, so you cannot drive on the normal line anyway because there’s less grip there. That’s why also Turn 3, 4 especially, at the outside, in the beginning, had more grip, so that’s where you want to be with the car anyway. And then, of course, when it dries up, you start to move more and more to the inside.”
Perez: “I had a good start and went a bit deep into Turn 1 so at the exit, I’m just trying to protect my line, didn’t realise that Max was pretty much alongside me, and that he was into the grass. The visibility was quite poor, although it wasn’t raining that much on those first laps. Although I was leading, it was quite hard to see behind, and when I realised Max was there, it was just a little bit too late. And that was it. We spoke about it after the race and yeah, it was just a bit of a shame that I lost the place to Nico, but other than that, I think we got the maximum points for the team and that’s pretty much it.”
Sainz: “Obviously happy to be here, third, especially given how the day started, that I couldn’t even do the laps at the beginning of Q1, that I had to do a bit of a crazy lap at the end of Q1 to go though only on one push-lap in mixed conditions. And since then, really I’ve felt really comfortable in the car. Also did a couple of good laps in Q3 on used tyres, on Medium tyres. Today just flowed nicely through the Sprint, did a decent start and then kept my pace, followed Checo, was trying some laps to get closer but like always, the dirty air and the graining with the Inters, didn’t allow me to put any more pressure than what I did – but at least the pace was good and I had a very good day. This morning wasn’t easy. When you are in the middle of a Qualifying out lap and you realise you’ve lost the brakes and then you’re in the garage and you see the clock counting down then you see obviously all your rivals getting their laps in on a drying track, which is normally what do you need to do to gain confidence, I was pretty much thinking the day was a bit over, because I thought I was going to get out-Qualified in Q1 and all that.
“But then I did an out lap and I just closed my eyes and went for it. I did probably one of the craziest laps of my career, because I had one timed lap only and the track was drying and I didn’t know where the grip was and I just sent it and went P1 and yeah, I actually enjoyed it. Still, thinking about it, it was quite crazy, but so to be up here, P3 today after how the day started and how it went, it was a very good feeling. And I do believe we are on the right track. Hopefully this starts to be the beginning of the turnaround but the end of the turnaround is still far away, you saw it today with how far ahead Max was. But I want to believe this is the beginning of the turnaround. Let’s see tomorrow.”
Leclerc: “Not of Ferrari. Of myself, for sure, I am disappointed in the race overall – I haven’t been strong. But it’s been three races now that whenever I’m on slicks on a track that his half dry, half wet, I am nowhere. We need to understand on my side what I’m doing wrong in terms of driving. Obviously it seems to work on the dry, it seems to work also when it’s full wet, but when it’s in between the two I’m nowhere. Again, it’s been three races, qualifying in Barcelona where I thought there was a problem, Canada, and now here. We need to find it and improve in those conditions, as it’s compromising a lot our season, as it’s the third race in a row that we’ve had those conditions.”
Russell: “Conditions today were tricky, so I’m glad we made it from P15 to P8, almost P7. I feel confident driving in these conditions, so all things considered a solid result for us. We’re still far from where we want to be, but I definitely take the positives from today’s sprint. The shootout didn’t really go our way, we were faced with hydraulics issues, which meant we couldn’t run in Q2 and had to start the sprint from the back of the grid. There isn’t much to lose in a sprint race but there’s obviously a high risk of damaging the car in these wet conditions we’ve seen today. Tomorrow should be warmer and drier and I’m confident that we’ll be able to move forward during the race. We had a good car and good pace today so we’ll see what we can achieve on Sunday.”
Alonso: “I am happy with the overall points from today for Aston Martin. In the end we scored three more than Ferrari and eight over Mercedes so it’s a good Saturday Sprint for the team. It was a fun but fair fight with Lance, and it was only the last lap where we were very close into Turn Eight. We considered going onto the slicks, but we had seven laps to the end, and we felt like we had enough margin to those behind. The fact that Nico stopped one second in front of me and finished one second behind showed it was very close, but it was the correct decision. Hopefully we can score more tomorrow. The weather should be better, but we start seventh so we’ll see what we can manage and aim for a top-five finish.”
The Top 8 points had Hulkenberg and Ocon both where the German did switch onto the slick tyres and still maintained his points places albeit losing to the Aston Martin cars. Even the Frenchman took the gamble to not stop and managed to end up seventh.
Williams’ Alexander Albon gambled and ended up outside the Top 8 after running seventh early on. Likewise McLaren’s Lando Norris had a moment at Turn 3 on Lap 1 to drop to the fag end of the Top 10 which eventually put him in a train of F1 cars.
The constant fight meant he couldn’t get back into the points, but his teammate Oscar Piastri climbed up to 11th. Things didn’t work out for AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and also Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas who took a gamble early on.
Hulkenberg: “I’m happy first and foremost now. Three points on the board in the Sprint wasn’t really expected for us, so that’s pretty positive. My inters were going away from me, I was going backwards more than others and the track was kind of ready for slicks, so we opted for that decision, and it was the right call for us.”
Ocon: “On my side, in today’s race, it was good to have some battles with Charles, Lando, and George right until the end. The team managed the conditions well and we are pleased to bag a couple of points on a Saturday. Our focus now shifts to tomorrow’s Grand Prix when we have some ground to make up but I’m sure we can have a good race.”
Norris: “It was a tough race. I had an issue in Turn 3 where I went into anti-stall and unfortunately lost seven positions. It was difficult to make it back up from there, but we did a good job from then on out. I was happy with the decision to stay out and the pace seemed good, it’s just a shame that the issue in the beginning cost me. We’re starting in a good position tomorrow, so we will do what we can then.”
Albon: “It’s a frustrating way to finish what started as a good sprint race, with a great start. I was comfortable, managing quite a lot with Ocon behind me as he was fighting with Charles, so I had margin to save my tyres with a nice buffer. With tyres left on the inters, whilst obviously not being as quick as the cars behind us, I felt comfortable enough to stay there. I think with the Mercedes’ performing well on the slicks, we thought it was the right choice to pit but it didn’t work. At the end of the day, Ocon finished P7 so we could’ve had two P7’s in a row and 2 points is a big deal for us but it didn’t work, so we’ll look ahead to tomorrow and try refocus.”
Tsunoda: “I don’t know what to say about today’s Shootout, in the end, we just didn’t have enough pace. I tried to maximise our opportunity, but our lap time was deleted for the second time by millimetres, so there was definitely frustration. As for the Sprint Race, we finished only P16. It was tricky out there, and there wasn’t much we could do today. I wasn’t able to maximise my performance and extract the maximum out of our car, as we are especially lacking straight-line speed. The pace on the intermediate tyre was ok, but we are quite slow when it’s between dry and wet conditions. We’ve found similar limitations from other tracks, so we take the knowledge from past experiences, reset ourselves, and shift our focus to tomorrow. The pack is still tight, so you always have to be perfect, and you never know what can happen.”
Bottas: “We decided to take a gamble with the tyres today; it didn’t work out in the end, but I still think it was worth trying, as we had nothing to lose from where I was starting. Towards the final laps, we opted to stay out as everyone else pitted, in case anything happened. I found myself at the back of a train for a while, and in terms of pace, we have seen it was pretty close. Today has been quite tough, but tomorrow is a new day, and our starting position will be slightly better; we have managed to progress through the grid from there already, and that will be the goal again, hopefully putting up some good battles on track and getting back into the points.”
Here’s how F1 Austrian GP sprint panned out
Here’s how F1 Austrian GP qualifying panned out