Perez explains lap 1 near-miss with Verstappen in Sprint

© XPB 

Red Bull came away with another 1-2 victory of 2023 at their home circuit in Austria in Saturday's sprint race, but it could have been a very different story after Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez came close to "a really big shunt" on lap 1.

The race took place in wet conditions, making visibility at the start difficult for all concerned. It was also not the best of launches for Verstappen, who suffered wheel spin in the slippery conditions on the grid.

That gave Perez the opportunity to make a lunge for the lead, but his tight line into turn 1 put him on wet paint and sent him sliding wide - which allowed Verstappen to get a run on his teammate as they powered towards Turn 2. However, as Perez drifted towards the inside to protect his line, he forced Verstappen onto the grass.

“He pushed me off! What the f**k?" yelled Verstappen over the team radio at the time. "That could have been a really big shunt. We need to have a chat about that. It was not okay.”

For his part, Perez said that he had simply been unsighted and wasn't aware of Verstappen's presence. The confusion then allowed Haas' Nico Hulkenberg to briefly slot into second.

“A bit of a fight with Max and that obviously gave a position to Nico which he was very strong in the first few laps, so it was quite hard to get by him," Perez explained.

(L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 and team mate Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB19 battle for the lead at the start of the race. 01.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Sprint Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

“I think Max was angry that I went into turn 2, but I didn't see him there," he continued. "I just had a very bad turn 1 so I tried to protect. But once I realised that he was there, I opened up the door and gave the place back into turn 2 [actually Turn 3].

"It is all fine. We just spoke about it," he said, after the pair compared notes in the safety car garage after the end of the 24-lap sprint. "Even though we were 1-2, it was very bad the visibility out there."

For his part, Verstappen said: “It was a little bit of a hairy moment out of turn 1 and of course when you get forced on to the grass, it's very slippery.

“But we managed to keep the car under control and from there once we just did our race," he added.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB19. 01.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Sprint Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Verstappen was able to pull out a lead of almost a second a lap over the rest of the field, with Perez pinned behind Hulkenberg until the Haas' intermediate tyres started to degrade on lap 12.

Perez ended up finishing two seconds ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, but faces a much tougher challenge tomorrow when he will line up in 15th place on the grid for the Grand Prix after a disastrous miscue in qualifying.

Verstappen will start from pole again, and odds are that he will win by another huge advantage. Although that could very well depend on the changeable Styrian climate again.

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