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Max Verstappen during the sprint shootout

Max Verstappen triumphs during a chaotic sprint shootout at the Austrian Grand Prix

The Austrian Grand Prix hosts the second sprint weekend after Azerbaijan. In Baku, Charles Leclerc took pole for the sprint and the race with Sergio Perez going on to win both races. But what will happen at the Red Bull Ring?

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Max Verstappen takes pole in the sprint shootout at the Austrian Grand Prix as Mercedes struggle

The cars queuing in the pit lane at the start of the sprint shootout at the Austrian Grand Prix
The cars queuing in the pit lane at the start of the sprint shootout at the Austrian Grand Prix. (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter)

The rain has arrived at the Red Bull Ring. During yesterday’s qualifying for the race on Sunday, Max Verstappen comfortably took his fourth consecutive pole position. Although the Red Bull driver found himself under investigation for impeding Kevin Magnussen, with the stewards deeming no further action was needed.

Following the ruling, McLaren announced that they had sent a petition for the right to review to the stewards. The petition concerns the penalty Lando Norris received during the Canadian Grand Prix for ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’. The case will be heard on Sunday morning ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

But Saturday is all about the sprint, with the grid already set for the race on Sunday. Who will triumph in the sprint shootout? And will they be able to convert pole to a sprint race victory?

Shootout one

The 20 drivers have a shortened 12 minutes to get out of shootout one compared to usual qualifying. With the rain arriving overnight, the cars were queuing in the pitlane to get out on track, with the two Williams leading the way. Most of the grid opted for slick tyres with select cars choosing to check track conditions with a set of intermediate tyres.

Reliability woes for Carlos Sainz

Sainz complained early on believing he had a brake-by-wire issue, with the Ferrari returning to the pits with smoke coming from the brakes. At the same time, Zhou Guanyu spun his Alfa Romeo at the final part of the track causing yellow flags but the Chinese driver was able to recover the car.

Track limit violations are back with Verstappen and Zhou both having early lap times deleted. Times were tumbling throughout the session with Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, and even Nyck de Vries featuring at the top of the timesheet. But with five minutes to go it was Lando Norris with the quickest time. He was swiftly replaced by Alex Albon for a short period before the two Red Bulls were back on top.

Problems for Leclerc and Hamilton

With three minutes left Perez, after a poor qualifying on Friday, was quickest with a 1:07,085. In the closing stages of the session, Charles Leclerc appeared to impede McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, with the stewards set to investigate the incident. Hamilton took the fastest time from Perez, but had his lap time deleted. Leclerc, with one minute to go, was down in P16 and appeared to be struggling but got his car out of the bottom five to P8.

As times were tumbling it was between Hamilton and Leclerc as to which driver was going to fail to get out of shootout one. The seven-time world champion got stuck in traffic and could not improve, with the Ferrari driver sneaking in to the next session. Meanwhile, George Russell reported a hydraulics failure over team radio at the end of the session.

Incredibly, since he missed the majority of shootout one, Sainz set the fastest time of the session with a 1:06.187. Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll, and Fernando Alonso round out the top five. What a session this is turning out to be.

Out of shootout one:
  • Zhou
  • Piastri
  • Hamilton
  • Bottas
  • Sargeant
Shootout two

The clock resets with ten minutes set to determine which ten cars will be able to compete for pole position. With the first set of times on the board, Verstappen was back on top with a 1:05.624. He was followed by Alonso, Norris, Stroll, and Ocon. Russell was the only driver to not have set a time, with the Mercedes mechanics trying to fix his hydraulics issue.

As the clock dips below five minutes, Hulkenberg, Yuki Tsunoda, Pierre Gasly, de Vries, and Russell sit in the bottom five. But with the times improving, Leclerc appeared in the drop-out zone once more, but he had three minutes left to improve his time.

Russell out of the sprint shootout

Mercedes announced that Russell was out of the sprint shootout, with the Brit set to start the sprint race in P15. Not an ideal scenario for Mercedes with Hamilton down in P18.

With two of the big names out of contention for shootout three, there are plenty of spaces left for other drivers. Kevin Magnussen was up in P4 and Hulkenberg in P9. Could Haas get both drivers through to shootout three?

Leclerc was really having to fight for his place in the final shootout session, but he managed to put a time in good enough for P4. Down in P8, Perez managed to get through to shootout three, with both Haas’ succeeding and getting through to the final round.

During the session, Hulkenberg ran over his own tyre in his haste to get out of the pit box. The incident was reported to the stewards, with Haas under investigation for an unsafe release.

At the end of shootout two, Verstappen was back at the top of the timesheet with a 1:05.371. The Dutch driver was followed by Sainz, Ocon, Leclerc, and Norris.

Out in shootout two:
  • Albon
  • Gasly
  • Tsunoda
  • De Vries
  • Russell
Shootout three

Verstappen, Sainz, Ocon, Norris, Perez, Magnussen, Alonso, Stroll, Hulkenberg, and Leclerc had eight minutes to fight it out for pole position for the sprint race later today. The Dutch driver set the early pace with a 1:04.613, with Norris splitting the Red Bulls. Meanwhile, Leclerc only appeared out on track with less than five minutes to go.

Once all ten drivers had set their first times, it was Verstappen first followed by Norris, Perez, Sainz, and Leclerc. As the clock ticked down to zero, Alonso managed to split the Ferrari’s, with Hulkenberg improving to P4. While Perez jumped in front of Norris at the end to make it a Red Bull one-two for the sprint race. Hulkenberg managed to hold on to his P4, behind Norris, with his teammate down in P10. An incredible result for the Haas team.

Sainz and Leclerc line-up P5 and P6, ahead of Alonso, Stroll, Ocon, and Magnussen.

Feature Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter

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