Max Verstappen outduelled Red Bull Formula 1 team-mate Sergio Perez in a tense first-lap battle and then blitzed the field to win a wet-dry Austrian Grand Prix sprint race by 21 seconds.
Following pre-race rain that convinced everyone to start on intermediates, Perez made the better getaway and squeezed inside Verstappen into the first corner.
The champion immediately tried to retaliate on the corner exit, then had to put two wheels on the grass as Perez defended.
Verstappen then surged down the inside into the tight right-hander at the top of the hill and got ahead but had a twitch mid-corner that took him and Perez wide and caused something of a traffic jam behind.
Perez went down the outside run-off with enough momentum to inch back ahead down the outside into the next corner, where Verstappen took the lead for good on the inside line and left Perez vulnerable to opportunistic second-row starter Nico Hulkeberg, who slipped between the Red Bulls.
Both Red Bull drivers were disgruntled about the dice over the radio, with Perez asking “what’s wrong with Max?” after their Turn 3 near-miss and Verstappen saying on the slowing-down lap that Perez had risked triggering a big crash with how he defended out of Turn 1.
Once clear of Perez, Verstappen utterly dominated, with Perez stuck behind Hulkenberg until half-distance and unable to make any inroads on his team-mate’s massive lead even once he’d cleared the Haas.
Carlos Sainz was soon past Hulkenberg too and completed the top three two seconds behind Perez.
Hulkenberg then came into the clutches of the chasing Aston Martins, and once passed by Lance Stroll for fifth decided to join the increasingly large group pitting for slicks.
He ended up the best of the 11 drivers who did so as he came back through to sixth behind the battling Aston Martins – Fernando Alonso keen to attack Stroll on this occasion but unable to overtake him.
George Russell had been first to pit for slicks and then surged past midfield rivals who were lapping up to five seconds slower. That meant he took the final point in eighth for Mercedes, finishing just 0.009s behind Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who stayed on inters.
After qualifying 18th, Lewis Hamilton got straight up to 13th then made little progress before the moves to slicks. He eventually made it through to 10th behind third-place starter Lando Norris, who had lost ground in the opening corners.
Charles Leclerc spent the race in a variety of fierce wheel-to-wheel battles but it all only brought him 12th place, thanks mainly to being one of the last in the midfield to take slicks.
Alex Albon was in the same situation, a long period in the pits turning into 13th having run as high as seventh.
Valtteri Bottas mulled starting on slicks but took intermediates at the end of the formation lap and then stuck with them even as almost everyone else around him went to slicks. That left him last of all.
Sprint Qualifying Results
|Nyck de Vries