Max Verstappen powered to a dominant Sprint win in changing conditions at the Red Bull Ring, beating team-mate Sergio Pérez to the flag by almost 21 seconds as Carlos Sainz took third place for Ferrari.
It could have been a different story as at the start of the 24-lap race, in wet conditions, it was Pérez who got away best, from P2 on the grid. He beat Verstappen to the punch into Turn 1 but in the tricky conditions the Mexican went too deep and that allowed Verstappen to recover and mount an attack on the run up the hill towards the second and third turns.
Pérez, slow out of Turn 1 moved across to the right to protect his line up the hill but Verstappen was already there and the Dutchman was forced onto the grass on the right. Seeing his team-mate in his mirrors the Mexican backed off and moved to the other side of the track as they approached Turn 3.
It meant Pérez took a wide line, and Verstappen again went for the inside of the corner. He ran out of grip, however, and as he slowed and corrected Pérez was forced off track. With both crawling through the corner, third-placed Lando Norris’ progress was halted and the McLaren driver dropped back.
The incident allowed Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg to slip through to P3 and as the field went into Turn 4 the German passed Pérez to take second place. Pérez slotted into third place ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll. Fernando Alonso was sixth ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon who had made a great start from P11 on the grid.
After the initial tussling, the order then began to settle and Verstappen began to quickly pull away from the rest of the field. By lap 8 he was a sol;ide 6.5 seconds clear of the slower Hülkenberg.
Pérez was pushing hard to find a way past the Haas driver, but with DRS disabled due to the conditions, he struggled to make a move on the German who did a good job of positioning his car on the slippery track.
On lap 12, however, Hülkenberg’s defence at last fell. Pérez got a good exit out of Turn 3 to put pressure on the Haas driver on the following straight. Hülkenberg defended again in Turn 4 but Checo reacted well and went to the outside to pass the German as they powered through Turn 4. Sainz was then able to close in and he passed the German on the following lap to take third place.
In the second half of the race the conditions began to quickly improve and on lap 18 George Russell gambled on a pit stop for slick tyres. The Mercedes driver’s choice paid off and he began setting purple sectors and that sparked others to imitate the switch, with Williams’ Alex Albon, Hülkenberg, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc all stopping for slicks rubber.
At the front, though, there was no incentive to give up track position and though the slick tyre runners were scything through the order, Verstappen continued to improve on his starting intermediates and after 24 laps he crossed the line a remarkable 21 seconds ahead of Pérez, with Sainz a further two seconds back in third place.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso also stuck with intermediates and they finished fourth and fifth respectively. Hülkenberg was the first of the slick tyre runners across the line, in P6, and he was followed by Alpine’s intermediate-shod Esteban Ocon and the final points scorer, Russell, who climbed to P8 on soft tyres.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix – Sprint
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 24 30’26.730
2 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 24 30’47.778 21.048
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 24 30’49.818 23.088
4 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 24 30’56.433 29.703
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 24 30’56.839 30.109
6 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 24 30’58.027 31.297
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine 24 31’03.332 36.602
8 George Russell Mercedes 24 31’03.341 36.611
9 Lando Norris McLaren 24 31’05.338 38.608
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 24 31’13.105 46.375
11 Oscar Piastri McLaren 24 31’16.537 49.807
12 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 24 31’17.519 50.789
13 Alexander Albon Williams 24 31’19.578 52.848
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 24 31’23.323 56.593
15 Pierre Gasly Alpine 24 31’24.382 57.652
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 24 31’31.552 1’04.822
17 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 24 31’32.347 1’05.617
18 Logan Sargeant Williams 24 31’32.789 1’06.059
19 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 31’37.555 1’10.825
20 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 24 31’43.165 1’16.435