In an intense battle for track position and grip at the start of the Austrian GP Sprint race, the top three drivers all encountered difficulties at the start of the Sprint race.
Nico Hulkenberg seized the opportunity and secure second place for Haas. However, the real drama unfolded when Max Verstappen forcefully pushed Sergio Perez wide off the track, hinting at tensions between the Red Bull teammates since their team order dispute in Brazil last year.
Verstappen managed to break away comfortably, with Hulkenberg maintaining second position while fending off Perez’s initial advances with similar lap times.
It wasn’t until lap 12 that Perez managed to reclaim second place, followed by Carlos Sainz at Turn 3 on the subsequent lap as Hulkenberg struggled with traction on the drying circuit.
As the race progressed, Hulkenberg became increasingly vulnerable, especially when the Aston Martins closed in on him.
Beyond the top eight positions, the spirit of the F1 Sprint was fully embraced by those competing, notably Kevin Magnussen, who fiercely resisted the pressure from Mercedes duo George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. The battle for track position and grip continued to intensify among the drivers.
After engaging in two thrilling battles, Magnussen had to accept defeat as the wear on Haas’s Intermediate tires became a hindrance.
An exciting back-and-forth fight between Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, and Lando Norris allowed Russell and Hamilton to enter the competition for the final points-paying position. The quintet provided a captivating spectacle at the Red Bull Ring.
Taking a Gamble on Slick Tyres
With nine laps remaining, Russell took a gamble by opting for Soft tires on his W14, hoping to change the dynamics of the Sprint race. The activation of the DRS by the FIA race control added another layer of excitement.
Following the Aston Martins’ overtaking manoeuvre, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Magnussen, Logan Sargeant, Oscar Piastri, Nyck de Vries, and Zhou Guanyu all made pit stops for Slick Tires.
Russell’s impressive sector times and increasing tire temperature prompted this strategic move. Alexander Albon and Leclerc followed suit, as several drivers aimed to outperform those who remained on Intermediate tires. Russell’s switch to Slicks proved pivotal as he managed to pass the Williams driver and secure seventh place.
With five laps to go, Hulkenberg rejoined the points battle by overtaking Pierre Gasly, who chose to stick with Intermediates. Meanwhile, Hamilton made a remarkable move, overtaking both Albon and Valtteri Bottas at the exit of Turn 3, although the Williams driver valiantly fought back for 11th place.
The decision to switch to Slicks came too late for significant changes in the running order, as those at the top held their positions skillfully on Intermediates.
Red Bull celebrated a dominant one-two finish, with Verstappen taking the victory ahead of Perez, while Sainz secured the final podium spot.
Aston Martin achieved a strong fourth and fifth place with Lance Stroll leading Fernando Alonso, while Ocon missed out on sixth as Hulkenberg narrowly beat him to the finish line.
Despite a valiant effort, Norris couldn’t withstand the onslaught from those on Slick tires, and Russell claimed the final point in eighth place, with Hamilton rounding off the top 10.
The race showcased thrilling battles, strategic tire choices, and moments of intense competition that left fans eagerly anticipating the race on Sunday.