Race start, Red Bull Ring, 2023

Verstappen sees off Perez for commanding win in rain-hit sprint race

2023 Austrian Grand Prix sprint race

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Max Verstappen took a comfortable victory in the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race after winning a fierce scrap for the lead with his team mate on the first lap.

In a race that begin on a wet track which slowly dried out, Verstappen was challenged by Perez for the first couple of corners but managed to take back the lead by turn four. From there on he was never touched and went on to win by 21 seconds.

Perez finished second with Carlos Sainz Jnr taking third place for Ferrari.

Rain before the race left the circuit wet as teams prepared for the formation lap. All the field chose intermediate tyres except for Valtteri Bottas in 19th, who opted to risk starting on mediums. However, he was hardly able to keep up with cars ahead on the formation lap and pulled into the pits before the start to switch to intermediate tyres.

When the lights went out, Perez made a better getaway on the damp grid than his team mate and took the lead turn one. Verstappen did not take losing the lead lightly and battled back into turn three, retaking the place back from his team mate.

Nico Hulkenberg moved past Lando Norris into third place, which became second when Perez was hung out around the outside of turn four by his team mate, allowing the Haas driver to take second place.

Verstappen pulled away out front in the early laps, ahead of Hulkenberg, Perez, Sainz and the two Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso. Perez did not put Hulkenberg under pressure for second until finally getting within a second of the Haas on lap eight. However, to took until the 12th lap for Perez to finally take second place from the Haas, getting a better exit from turn four to sweep around the outside into turn six.

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At half distance, Verstappen’s advantage was almost 10 seconds over his team mate. Sainz demoted Hulkenberg down to fourth place as, behind, a three-way scrap was taking place between Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Norris.

With eight laps remaining, George Russell pitted from 11th place for soft tyres. After a slow out-lap, Russell set the fastest first sector which led to a flurry of activity in the pit lane, including Hulkenberg, Leclerc and Alexander Albon among other switching to dry tyres.

With only five laps remaining, drivers were reaching a point where they had to either pit or stick with their intermediate tyres for the rest of the race. The drivers on slick tyres were easily quicker, but had to make up significant time to catch the top seven drivers, who all remained on their intermediates.

Out front, Verstappen’s lead over his team mate had doubled. Sainz was two seconds behind Perez, while Alonso was pressuring his team mate for fourth but did not get close enough to attempt a pass. On the penultimate lap, Hulkenberg caught and passed Norris to take sixth place but was running out of time to catch the two Aston Martins ahead.

Verstappen cruised over the final lap to take the chequered flag and secure the eight points for victory in the sprint race. Perez lost almost a second per lap to his team mate on his way to second place, while Sainz in third was only two seconds behind the second Red Bull. The two Aston Martins finished fourth and fifth after Stroll successfully held off Alonso’s challenge over the final lap.

Hulkenberg climbed back up to sixth to finish the highest of those who pitted for slicks, while Ocon only just held off Russell to the line by nine-thousandths of a second – the Mercedes still claiming the final point as a consolation. Norris and Hamilton completed the top 10, but neither scored points.

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2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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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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30 comments on “Verstappen sees off Perez for commanding win in rain-hit sprint race”

  1. I’m going to watch the race from Alonso’s camera. For now this was an embarrassing race for Alonso. 70% of race he drives behind Stroll doing nothing, barely keeping up. In the last laps it looked like he didn’t care at all about the result. He was much faster but decided to let Stroll keep the position. One more lap, and they are losing to Haas.
    The team didn’t care as well. As long as Stroll is in front of Alonso they seem to be happy with any result. Even if it means no points/less points.
    I am sure they could get into the fight with Red Bull and Ferrari for top 3. Now I almost wish they lose to Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren in the constructors.

    1. Alonso’s best lap – 1:14.978
      Stroll – 1:15.531
      Perez – 1:15.492
      Sainz – 1:15.457

      As I said, this is embarrassing. I wonder what the team is thinking about Alonso’s performance in qualification.

      1. That could be just mostly time gained from having DRS. Also, don’t forget, he dropped as far as nearly 3 seconds behind him at one point. So, that could have just been laps in clean air coming up to his tail.

        He was also clearly only going to make the pass if he was sure there was no risk of contact. Between that and how difficult we know it is to pass when in the same car, it’s not crazy at all he didn’t get passed. Besides, we saw so few DRS passes (obviously primarily cause it was disabled for so long, but even after). Leclerc didn’t get by Ocon in a much faster car despite taking very big risks.

    2. He just kept both Strolls happy there and he probably doesnt care about that 1 point that much,title is gone anyway.Still i agree that this is not what i want to see from him.

    3. That was so frustrating to watch, he could’ve passed Lance at least four times during the last two laps. I never ever thought I’d see Alonso stop fighting. All so the bosses boy can feel like he can race a world champion? I guess he considers himself a mentor rather than racer now.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        1st July 2023, 21:36

        He did try to pass several times, but couldn’t quite pull it off, and as there was a chance of things going wrong if you go offline, that will be why he didn’t want to take the risk for the team. I believe that if he had the pace on the straight to easily pass, he would have done. He to me never looked to back out of a pass that looked like it was 100% going to be successful. He got outqualified by Stroll yesterday on merit anyway and also got passed by Stroll in the race. If Stroll could pass alonso at the start, if Alonso has superior enough pace at the end and he considered it worth the risk to do so, he will have passed.

    4. If he’s doing that (2nd time this season) to take some pressure off Stroll, it backfired completely.

      It couldn’t look more fake than that.

      1. Is alonso so good to time qualifying laps to end like half a tenth-1 tenth behind stroll?

  2. Jonathan Parkin
    1st July 2023, 16:42

    Just a clarification. Verstappen’s run of consecutive laps in the lead, does it include the sprint session or just the races

  3. A 21 second lead in a 24 lap race… alright then. The rest gets a ‘thanks for trying’, I guess.

    The track delivers though, some good sequences in that middle sector.

  4. Anyone else see Verstappen’s ‘I’m gonna drive straight on at this corner to keep my place move?’

    How was that not questioned by the stewards? He made no attempt to make the apex and caused a jam behind him.

    I really dislike this guy

    1. Nikos (@exeviolthor)
      1st July 2023, 20:08

      It is called defending.

    2. What I dislike is that Max accuses drivers of doing something illegal or dangerous in 85% of the cases where someone passes or attempts to pass him. That’s pretty hypocritical for a driver as aggressive as him. Maybe he’ll realize that the next time he’s driving a non-dominant car.

      1. The difference is in knowing the racing rules and in good execution paying attention to details. I say it was about time some-one brought back the purity in racing instead of the processional decade of Mercedes wins.

    3. Driving others off is allowed in F1, it’s good for the show!

      The FIA is very careful to pick stewards who ‘forget’ the part of the Code which explicitly – and they use that word – prohibit it.

    4. Didn’t Rodberg do the same thing to Hamilton in the dry? So the corner has precedent, stewards should be alert yo it.

      Anyway, yes i saw it and thought it was dirty

      1. Nikos (@exeviolthor)
        2nd July 2023, 3:32

        Rosberg was penalized because he was not ahead of Hamilton so it was deemed that Hamilton had the right to turn in when he wanted to. Also they collided so it could not have been investigated by the stewards.

        Verstappen was clearly ahead when they reached the corner and there was no collision.

        1. Nikos (@exeviolthor)
          2nd July 2023, 3:34

          I meant that the stewards could not have not investigated it.

          I wish there was an edit function…

    5. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      1st July 2023, 21:45

      Loads of other drivers did the same thing and it was mostly to do with the conditions. Verstappen did leave it a bit later than he should have, but he most certainly did attempt to go tighter than he did. You could see he just kept losing traction and did not want to go as wide as he did.

      What Perez did just before this I would consider to be very dangerous. He literally pushed Verstappen onto the grass. Now Verstappen could have chosen to back off – but still, Perez did not leave a cars width and Verstappen was almost fully along side. We know what can happen when a driver puts their wheels on wet grass while racing – remember Russell in Imola touching the grass then suddenly losing control and colliding into Bottas – and Bottas even left him plenty of room. Perez didn’t leave Verstappen any and it could have gone horribly wrong.

      If anything should have been investigated, it should have been this.

      There are several reasons why Verstappen pushing Perez wide won’t have been investigated:

      1: It was lap one and they are more lenient here.

      2: It was between two team mates, and no matter how severe accidents get, they are rarely looked into.

      3: Many drivers were doing the same behind due to tryes not being warmed up.

      1. Just smacks of Brazil/Saudi Arabia 2021 defence moves. Seems as soon as he’s under any kind of pressure Max pulls some dirty moves. I don’t see that as hard or fair racing.

        Can’t put it down to first lap incident/cold tyres, as he didn’t even make any steering inputs until he was way past the apex and Perez had been dispatched with. He’s lucky it was wet, in the dry half a dozen cars would have got past him.

    6. He made no attempt to make the apex and caused a jam behind him.

      Sounds terrible. What’s the offense for the stewards to look at though?
      Verstappen probably did push Pérez wide, twice, though Pérez claims he ‘let’ Verstappen pass after ‘failing to see him’ when he drove him wide onto the grass. Causing another driver to go more slowly than they want isn’t the basis for a penalty, though, unless it’s unsafe. If it were, Pérez would have been black-flagged for repeated infringements against Hamilton at Abu Dhabi 2021.

    7. Indeed, if you think about it, he ruined norris’ race too, he had a good starting position and many drivers passed him cause he ended up blocked by perez there.

    8. BW (@deliberator)
      2nd July 2023, 3:32

      @Brian “He made no attempt to make the apex and caused a jam behind him.”

      Can you point to the rule which says you have to make the apex?

      So as the rules are concerned, as long as you leave a car’s width for the other driver it really doesn’t matter where you place you car. If a driver chooses to go for the outside, they run the risk of having to go the long way around and/or end up out of position.

      1. Was behind coming to the corner, braked too late, dive bombed down the inside, couldn’t make the corner, wasn’t in full control of his car (see the rear end step out), forced another car off the track, backed up the other cars.

        At which point in that series of events do you think it was a ‘fair’ move?

  5. Saturday sideshow with established F1 drivers denying promising new talents useful experience in a (previous year) F1 car.

    1. And one of the best “races” of the year!

  6. Most of the time at least. Anyhow, the DRS does not benefit the driver ahead. With DRS the gap might have been a bit smaller

  7. BW (@deliberator)
    2nd July 2023, 3:27

    Leclerc really needs a decent result. Sainz has been the quiet and consistent achiever over the last few races while the Leclerc/Ferrari combination have been imploding.
    At the moment, it seems like it is only a matter of time before Leclerc suffers the same fate as Alonso and Vettel did before him.

  8. Huh? What’s wrong?

  9. It’s not up to me to give advice to a driver like Leclerc, but: He desperately needs to learn how to warm up the tyres more without them getting too hot. He needs to learn how to control that better, how to influence temps with set-up and changing his driving style to make it work when he needs to influence the temps in the desired direction. If he doesn’t he will be one of the biggest talents that faded. If tyre warmers are going to be banned it will get even worse!

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