Verstappen enjoys success in 'flat out' sprint

1st for Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing. 09.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Sprint
© XPB 

Max Verstappen seemed to have little trouble in converting his pole position in Friday's qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg into victory in today's sprint race and the top spot on the grid for tomorrow's Austrian GP.

Although the Red Bull didn't get an ideal start to today's 23-lap race, which took two formation laps to get going after problems for Fernando Alonso and Zhou Guanyu, he was more than up to keeping the lead into turn 1 from Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc continued to scrap with his Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz for the rest of the sprint, allowing Verstappen to stretch out the lead before finally easing off in the final laps once victory was secure.

"It was like a sprint should go, quite flat out!" Verstappen told the media in parc ferme after the end of the race. "It was alright, it was a decent race.

"We had good pace at the beginning," he explained. "It was just the first few laps. Of course they were also fighting a little bit, so I had a bit of a gap

"I think after that we were very closely matched, so it was good," he added. "I think we were quite similar in pace, so I do expect tomorrow it's going to be a very interesting battle again."

1st for Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18. 09.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg

Given that today's sprint lasted just over 26 minutes and took place on one set of tyres, it's a very difference challenge to the one they will face in tomorrow's full-length Grand Prix.

"Of course the race is always going to be quite a lot longer," he acknowledged. "It's going to be quite tricky on tyres.

"[But] the car is good, just a few things to fine tune. Overall we've been really competitive again this weekend."

Verstappen was helped by riding on the crest of fan power on Saturday with huge support from the crowd in the grandstands and camping grounds.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 and Dutch fans. 09.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Sprint

"It was great to see," he said of the flag-waving fans letting off canisters of Dutch-themed smoke after the finish. "Got a lot of smoke at the end, with all the orange!".

Winning today's sprint adds eight points to Verstappen's championship tally so far, with a total of 189 points. However the big prize comes tomorrow at the en dof the full length Grand Prix.

There was also good news for his team mate Sergio Perez, who had started the race in 13th after his final qualifying Q2 time was deleted by race stewards on Friday evening costing him nine grid positions.

The sprint gave him the chance to regain all but one of those dropped spots and he finished the race in fifth place, meaning he will be be able to play a role in the team's strategy on Sunday afternoon.

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