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Max Verstappen Dominates Austrian Grand Prix Sprint Qualifying

Red Bull driver, Red Bull car, Red Bull Ring: World Championship leader Max Verstappen scored the third Sprint Qualifying victory of his career ahead of Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on Saturday (July 9). Verstappen will not only start tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix from first, he extends his championship lead to 38 points over teammate Sergio Perez

It was a smooth lights-to-flag victory for driver No. 1, after defending from both Ferraris on the first lap, the Dutchman kept a cool two-second gap on second place for all 23 laps. 

Verstappen, speaking to Sky after the conclusion, summed up his race simply: “It was good, like a sprint should go. Flat out.” 

The sprint went 23 racing laps of a planned 24, due to technical issues for two cars on the grid that necessitated an additional formation lap and saw Fernando Alonso fail to start and Zhou Guanyu start from pit lane.

Sainz’s strong start from third on the grid let him challenge Verstappen for the lead in turn three, but opened himself up to a challenge from Leclerc. The two Ferraris scrabbling for position allowed Verstappen to open up his crucial lead. 

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Leclerc and Sainz drove each other hard for second and third, trading positions several times in the opening half of the race and barely giving each other an inch through the many overtaking zones in the Red Bull Ring’s first sector. 

Post-race, Leclerc described the battle as “a small fight with Carlos,” and when asked if the Ferraris should work together tomorrow, said “I really hope so.” Sainz, who scored his first Grand Prix win last time out in Silverstone, offered similarly muted commentary, calling it “good fun” and emphasizing “the most important thing is we are both in the fight.”

After having several qualifying times disallowed for track limits violations, Sergio Perez started from 13th. However, the true pace of his Red Bull car allowed the Mexican driver to scythe through the field, recovering to fifth place in the final tally behind Mercedes’ George Russell

By the middle stages, the closest battle on the track was between Haas’ Mick Schumacher and seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton for eighth place and its one championship point.

Hamilton, who started ninth due to a crash in qualifying and dropped to 11th following contact with Pierre Gasly on the opening lap, had the stronger pace, but Schumacher’s wily defending and DRS assistance from teammate Kevin Magnussen kept the faster car at bay lap after lap. Only after Schumacher fell outside of the one-second window to his teammate in front was Hamilton able to pass him on the entrance to turn four. 

Alex Albon was a magnet for trouble, the Williams driver first receiving a penalty for forcing McLaren’s Lando Norris off-track, and later understeering into Sebastian Vettel while the two were fighting outside the points. 

The Formula 1 Rolex Austrian Grand Prix airs tomorrow, Sunday July 10, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.

ROLEX AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX STARTING LINEUP

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
  4. George Russell (Mercedes-AMG)
  5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
  6. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
  7. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
  8. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG)
  9. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
  10. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
  11. Lando Norris (McLaren)
  12. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
  13. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
  14. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
  15. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
  16. Alexander Albon (Williams)
  17. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
  18. Nicolas Latifi (Williams)
  19. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
  20. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
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