Verstappen holds off McLaren challenge to take 3rd sprint race victory of the season at Austrian GP

SPIELBERG, Austria — Formula 1 leader Max Verstappen held off an early attack by Lando Norris before pulling away from the two McLarens to comfortably secure his third sprint race victory of the year Saturday at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen finished 4.616 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri to make it three wins out of three in sprint races this season, with Norris another 0.732 seconds back in third.

The dominant Verstappen has also won seven of the 10 grand prix races this season as he aims for a seemingly inevitable fourth straight F1 title, but he was put under serious pressure early on in this one.

“We had to work for it,” Verstappen said.

Norris started second behind Verstappen and stayed glued to the Red Bull for the first few laps, using his DRS to attack the championships leader. Norris even managed to overtake Verstappen briefly on lap five after a daring move on the straight leading into a sharp turn, but the Dutch driver responded by quickly retaking the lead at the next corner.

Norris ended up being overtaken by his teammate as well during that sequence, but Piastri could not seriously challenge Verstappen after that and the Red Bull driver gradually extended his lead over the 23-lap race.

Verstappen said the key was to get out of the range of the McLarens’ DRS system, which allows the chasing driver to reduce the drag by opening up the rear wing of his car to get a burst of speed.

“It was a good first lap but once the DRS opens it is very hard to get out of it, took a few laps,” Verstappen said. “Few exciting battles as well but once we cleared the DRS I could do my own race. We have two cars pushing flat out making things difficult for me.”

The race was shortened by one lap after an aborted start led to the drivers having to make a second formation lap.

The win extends Verstappen’s lead over Norris by two points in the overall standings, with the defending champion now leading his rival by 71 points.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who is third in the overall standings, only managed to come seventh in the sprint race and dropped to six points behind Norris.

“A good race between us, especially with Max at the beginning was good fun,” Norris said. “I don’t think we had the pace to go for Max, he was too quick for us today.”

Qualifying for Sunday’s main Austrian GP is held later Saturday.


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