Austria F1 Sprint Previews a Long, Difficult Race Ahead
And that’s before you factor in the possibility of rain.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen made a quick getaway once the lights went off at Saturday's Formula 1 Sprint Race, securing a Sprint win and pole position for tomorrow's GP of Austria. The Dutchman edged the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who looked plenty feisty throughout the session. Mercedes' George Russell and Sergio Perez rounded up the top five.
The Red Bull Ring's long straights and sweeping corners made passing difficult and managed to frustrate a fair share of drivers. Three DRS zones rolled out for this year's race added insult to injury for some. Lewis Hamilton was one of them, getting stuck behind the Haas of Mick Schumacher. Lap after lap, the German cleverly kept within one second of the car in front of him so he could keep DRS, and therefore Hamilton at bay. The Mercedes driver spent nearly half the race staring at the German's rear wing as a result.
“I hope it’s not like today. We’ll see. But fingers crossed,” Hamilton told F1 after the race.
Russell and both McLaren drivers, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, also failed to see much action during the 23-lap stint. With the two Ferraris ahead also benefitting from DRS due to their minuscule gap, Russell quickly found himself relatively alone. The McLarens had no one to race but each other after the opening laps, and it was a somewhat uneventful race for the duo who ultimately finished 11th and 12th place respectively.
It was the Ferrari drivers who provided most of the excitement on Saturday, as the red racers fought each other for position harder than one would imagine they're allowed to. Surprisingly, a call from the Ferrari pits never came (or was never broadcasted), leading us to believe that Leclerc and Sainz are now free to fight each other after the happenings in Silverstone. Despite how fun this looked on TV, the constant scrapping meant Verstappen was free to pull away.
"I think tomorrow is going to be a long race and tire management will be quite a bit more important compared to today so probably tomorrow, we cannot afford to do what we did today, no," said Leclerc to F1.
Sunday's race will be long and rain showers are expected throughout the day in Spielberg. Tire management—and likely tire selection, too—will play a big role in who steps onto the podium at the end of the race. If we've learned anything in 2022 so far, however, is that Verstappen and Red Bull will bring their A-Game, but we should never discount the Ferraris.
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