Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Ring, 2022Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2022

With Perez penalised, Verstappen needs all his Spielberg speed to resist Ferrari

2022 Austrian Grand Prix pre-sprint race analysis

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In the centre of the beautiful Austrian countryside sits the fittingly picturesque Red Bull Ring. And in the centre of the Red Bull Ring sits a large sculpture of a reared-up bull, horns primed and ready to charge.

The bull is such a major feature around the stunning Spielberg circuit that it can be spotted from most vantage points around the 4.3 kilometre course – except during the 10 minutes immediately following the final chequered flag during Friday’s qualifying session for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The orange smoke from flares around the grandstand that billowed eastward in celebration of Max Verstappen taking the sprint race pole position was so thick that it covered the famous 12-metre tall sculpture in its entirety. It may have been a visual metaphor for what the world champion will do to the hopes of anyone else denying him yet another victory around the circuit where he has enjoyed more success than at any other.

Verstappen’s last-gasp effort to deny Charles Leclerc and Ferrari and take only his third pole of the 2022 season may not have been blisteringly fast – at least in the first two sectors – but his superior speed through the final corner was enough for him to secure the prime starting position for Saturday’s sprint race. Worryingly for Ferrari, Verstappen expects Red Bull’s package to be even more potent in the coming two days.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Verstappen took pole by a tiny margin
“Normally I’d say qualifying is not our strongest point,” Verstappen explained. “So I just hope to have a clean turn one, a good getaway and from there onwards anything can happen. But I feel confident with the car we have.”

Verstappen’s confidence is backed up by the pace he showed in the only practice session of the day. On the timed laps Verstappen set in the afternoon practice, he was comfortably quicker than both Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr every time, whether on the medium or the soft compound. And with the Ferraris both looking to get by Verstappen in the sprint race, they will not be thrilled to know that the pole sitter had a clear top speed advantage at the top of the hill before the braking zone for turn four, hitting more than 4km/h more than both Ferraris and both Mercedes on their respective fastest laps in first practice.

As ever during sprint race weekends, Ferrari say they are treating the sprint race as effectively the first 100 kilometres of a 400km grand prix. The last time a sprint race was held in Imola, Leclerc got ahead of Verstappen at the start but lost out before the finish when Verstappen reeled in and passed the Ferrari which was suffering from graining tyres.

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Could the same occur on Saturday if Verstappen loses the lead at the start again? Pirelli’s Mario Isola believes the red-marked compound is a viable option during the 24 lap sprint on Saturday.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, overtakes Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Imola, 2022
Could an Imola sprint race repeat be on the cards?
“If you’re able to manage to avoid initiating the graining, then the performance of the soft is good,” Isola explained in response to a question from RaceFans.

“It’s also consistent enough for 24 laps to consider it as an option for the sprint. But the decision is very much in the middle between one and the other. Maybe tomorrow we have, like in Imola, half of the grid with the soft and half of the grid on the medium.”

Starting from third but fresh off the back of his maiden grand prix victory, Sainz believes the miniscule margin to Verstappen ahead is one Ferrari are capable of overcoming.

“I think starting P3 on the clean side, there’s everything to play for,” Sainz said. “It’s going to be fun racing here, with the amount of slipstream there is and tows and DRS etc – I think it’s going to be good fun. So we’re going to have a good weekend.”

Red Bull expected to have Sergio Perez to help keep the Ferraris busy looking in their mirrors during the sprint. However, the stewards handing him a belated penalty for exceeding track limits on his final Q2 lap which will see him start all the way down in 13th and with plenty of work to do to try and recover to the fourth position he originally claimed in Q3.

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That promotes George Russell and Mercedes to fourth on the grid for Saturday – an unlikely outcome given that he skidded into the barrier at the exit of the final corner with just under three minutes remaining in the session. It was, as trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin put it, a frustrating end to what was looking up to that point as a very decent qualifying session for Mercedes.

George Russell, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Two bent W13s is bad news for Mercedes
It’s also given them a headache when it comes to spare parts. “We’ve got our work cut out trying to get the cars onto the grid tomorrow,” said Shovlin. “We are still assessing the extent of it, but both accidents caused damage to several of the same components on each car, which makes it quite difficult from a spares point of view.

“We’ll do what we can to make sure that both cars are competing. If there is a silver lining to this cloud, it’s that the sprint race gives us some opportunity to make it further up the grid ahead of the main race. We’ll be working hard towards that objective.”

Lewis Hamilton will start down in ninth after his off earlier in Q3 than his team mate. But if there’s one driver who has shown how to stage a comeback in a sprint race, it’s Hamilton, after his impressive recovery in the Sao Paulo sprint race last year.

Esteban Ocon will be the highest placed Alpine on the grid on Saturday for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix when he starts from fifth. Sporting director Alan Permane explained how Ocon’s team mate Fernando Alonso may not have been able to realise his full potential in qualifying after picking up floor damage earlier in the session.

“Esteban has been solid today and improved lap after lap, session by session, which built him up nicely through to his last run in Q3,” Permane said.

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“Fernando can count himself slightly unfortunate after damaging the floor during his first run in Q3, which compromised some performance. We will, of course, be able to repair that ahead of tomorrow’s sprint race.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Haas produced another fine qualifying result
After Haas secured their best team result last weekend in Silverstone, the team will no doubt have been buoyed by another solid qualifying performance, with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher starting sixth and seventh on the grid. Having tasted points for the first time last Sunday, Schumacher is eager to add to that tally in the sprint race.

“If we hold position tomorrow, we have points and if we move forward, we gain even more,” said Schumacher. “So we’ll go for the more points option, hopefully.”

Haas were helped in their pursuit of reaching the final phase of qualifying by the absence of McLaren. The fourth-placed team in the constructors’ championship endured their worst qualifying results since the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix and while Lando Norris’s efforts to reach Q3 were visibly hampered by braking troubles, executive director Andrea Stella was quick to excuse yet another disappointing result for Daniel Ricciardo.

“On Daniel’s side, we had a compromised first practice that disrupted his preparations for qualifying,” Stella explained.

“Before experiencing a problem with his braking system, Lando demonstrated that our car had the pace to be in Q3 and fighting at the top of the midfield, so we’ll do our best this evening to solve our issues and be ready to fight for points tomorrow.”

Although the major points will be rewarded on Sunday, the handful of points available during the sprint race are no less valuable to those teams and drivers locked in close battles in the championship standings. However, if Verstappen’s practice pace is anything to go by, it’s likely there could be a lot more flare smoke emitted over the grounds of the Red Bull Ring over the final two days of the weekend.

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Complete qualifying times

PositionNumberDriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 time (vs Q1)Q3 time (vs Q2)
11Max VerstappenRed Bull1’05.8521’05.374 (-0.478s)1’04.984 (-0.390s)
216Charles LeclercFerrari1’05.4191’05.287 (-0.132s)1’05.013 (-0.274s)
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’05.6601’05.576 (-0.084s)1’05.066 (-0.510s)
463George RussellMercedes1’06.2351’05.697 (-0.538s)1’05.431 (-0.266s)
531Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’06.4681’05.993 (-0.475s)1’05.726 (-0.267s)
620Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’06.3661’05.894 (-0.472s)1’05.879 (-0.015s)
747Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’06.4051’06.151 (-0.254s)1’06.011 (-0.140s)
814Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’06.0161’06.082 (+0.066s)1’06.103 (+0.021s)
944Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’06.0791’05.475 (-0.604s)1’13.151 (+7.676s)
1010Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’06.5891’06.160 (-0.429s)
1123Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’06.5161’06.230 (-0.286s)Missed by 0.079s
1277Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’06.4421’06.319 (-0.123s)Missed by 0.168s
1311Sergio PerezRed Bull1’06.1431’06.458 (+0.315s)Missed by 0.307s
1422Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’06.4631’06.851 (+0.388s)Missed by 0.700s
154Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’06.3301’25.847 (+19.517s)Missed by 19.696s
163Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’06.613Missed by 0.024s
1718Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’06.847Missed by 0.258s
1824Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’06.901Missed by 0.312s
196Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’07.003Missed by 0.414s
205Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’07.083Missed by 0.494s

NB. Gasly should have taken part in Q3, but Perez was promoted before his fastest Q2 lap time was deleted due to a track limits infringement.

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2022 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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10 comments on “With Perez penalised, Verstappen needs all his Spielberg speed to resist Ferrari”

  1. Thank you for this article with a nice review and analysis and colourful lead-in.

  2. I reckon he’ll run away to wins in both sessions supposing he gets trouble-free runs.
    BTW, 400 km is quite an exaggeration for proper race distance, LOL.

    1. I don’t understand. 400km is exactly the combined race distance of a sprint race and regular race.

    2. They mean they’re treating it as a single race, with the 100km sprint being the first part of the 400km total.

      Which is of course nonsense because the points are disproportionate and you can repair the car between races. It’s definitely two different races with entirely different strategic approaches. In fact there are no strategic options for the sprint, it’s just put on whichever tyres will last the distance and don’t let anyone pass you.

  3. He doesn’t need to resist Ferrari. They’ll do that by themselves.

  4. Another poor decision by stewards. I wondered why they postponed decision on Perez, he exceeded track limits in Q2 and it was obvious to everyone watching. Only stewards slept it over.

  5. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
    9th July 2022, 8:53

    Sicne there will presumably be no pit stops, I’d say Ferrari have a challenge before them; how ever will they manage to mess up Leclerc’s race?
    Maybe put him on the wrong tire from the start?

    1. What wrong tyre? As Binotto says, it is just common sense to use the Hards for a sprint race.

  6. Seems surprising that Mercedes imply they don’t have a spare of every ‘corner’ component for each of their cars. Have they become complacent in the light of the lack of crashes from their drivers?

    1. I think it’s more a case of managing the budget. Crashing both cars is a low probability scenario so they wouldn’t necessarily budget to rebuild both of them if they had other spending that was considered more important.

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