SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 01: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-23 Ferrari leads Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 01, 2023 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Wet weather chaos and pit stop shuffle categorize F1 Sprint
Find out what happened in a wet weather Sprint Race for Formula 1 in Spielberg
The Austria Sprint saw Max Verstappen win ahead of his teammate and Haas miss out on their maiden podium.
A wet start
With rain still falling on the track almost every car chose to run the intermediate tyres, the exception being Valtteri Bottas, who opted for the medium tyres.
Realizing an apparent mistake on the formation lap, Bottas ducked into the pits before the start to put on the intermediate tyres.
At the green light, it was a close fight between the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez for the lead. Perez, from second, had the better start and grabbed the lead into Turn 1. The two fought through the first two corners, followed closely by Lando Norris, who qualified third in Sprint Qualifying earlier in the day.
At Turn 3 Verstappen struggled to slow down his car, forcing Perez wide and slowing Norris, who got swallowed by the rest of the pack. Verstappen took the lead and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg jumped from fourth to second in the order.
By the start of Lap 2 Verstappen led Hulkenberg and Perez ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll.
Haas holding on
With Hulkenberg and Haas both fighting for their first podium in Formula 1, it was a tense atmosphere as he attempted to hold the position from Perez.
Meanwhile, further down the pack other drivers were making headway. Lewis Hamilton, who failed to reach Q2 in the Sprint Qualifying, made his way up to 13th by Lap 2. His teammate George Russell fought hard with the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen for 11th place, the two trading positions more than once in the first few laps.
Russell won out over Magnussen on Lap 9, as Hamilton also closed in and overtook the Haas car a lap later.
By Lap 11, Perez had gotten within half a second of Hulkenberg, who seemingly wore out his tyres early on. By the following lap he was able to overtake the Haas for second place, putting Hulkenberg straight into the clutches of Sainz behind him.
All in all, Hulkenberg managed to hang on to a podium position for 13 laps before he was overtaken by Sainz and dropped down to fourth.
Pit stop shuffle
The track continued to dry out as the race wore on, and DRS was enabled on Lap 17. This call allowed Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll to breeze past Hulkenberg for fourth, while further down the field Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, and Charles Leclerc battled for the final point.
Russell and Oscar Piastri were the first drivers to pit for slicks, switching out the intermediate tyres for softs. Then Hulkenberg led a mad dash for the pits as all but nine drivers came in to get rid of the wet weather tyres.
In the final laps, it was a battle to see if the drivers who pitted had enough time to make up ground against the drivers still on intermediates. The highest-running driver on slicks was Hulkenberg, who was eighth before getting past Norris and Ocon on the final lap.
Out ahead it was Max Verstappen who took the win, still running on the intermediate tyres ahead of Perez and Sainz. The Aston Martin teammates, Stroll and Fernando Alonso, fought hard for fourth on the final few laps but Stroll held the position, leaving Alonso in fith.
Hulkenberg came home sixth after spending half of the race in the podium positions, ahead of Ocon and Russell who took the final points. Narrowly missing out were Norris and Hamilton, who finished ninth and tenth.
After this exciting and chaotic race, the 20 drivers will have to regroup for the main Grand Prix, which takes place tomorrow.
Full results from the F1 Sprint can be found here.
Feature Image Credit: Lars Baron – Getty Images
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